Flight Delay Compensation
Flight delays occur for a variety of reasons and can cause a lot of stress and frustration. However, knowing your passenger rights, as established in EU regulation 261/2004, can protect you in case of a delay. In many cases, you may be entitled to flight delay compensation worth up to €600.
There are three basic conditions for eligibility:
- you experienced a delay of more than 3 hours
- you flew with an EU-based airline or departed from inside the European Union
- your flight delay was not caused by extraordinary circumstances.
Can I claim compensation for flight delay?
Yes, you can! And there's every reason to claim compensation for your delayed flight and the time lost at the airport.
How to claim flight delay compensation: The Basics
Unfortunately only 1 out of 8 travelers is aware of their passenger rights in case of a long delay, cancellation or denied boarding. Importantly, when a passenger has a disrupted flight, they may be entitled to compensation. Compensation eligibility has a few key components that we will try illustrate in this guide.
First of all, to be entitled to flight reimbursement, you need to have experienced a flight delay of over three hours.
The delay’s duration is defined as the difference between the actual and the expected time of arrival. It is not simply the delay before departure.
To clarify a little, imagine the following example. Your departure from Berlin was delayed by more than three hours. However, the flight crew managed to make up some of that delay during the flight. As a result you arrived at your final destination (e.g. Athens) 2:45h late.
You would not be eligible for compensation since you arrived in Athens with a delay of less than 3 hours. Unfortunately, spending more than three hours at the airport before take off does not automatically entitle you to compensation.
But imagine a slightly different scenario. You departed from Berlin with a delay of over 3 hours. The delay was not made up for and you arrived in Athens 3:05 hours behind schedule.
According to EU law, you could be eligible to claim compensation for your flight delay.
How much compensation can I claim?
The amount of your compensation will depend on the flight length.
If your flight was shorter than 1500 km, you could receive €250 in compensation from the airline.
You cannot always be aware of the distance between your departure and landing points. This is why it is important to have a useful rule of thumb you can rely on. A simpler way to look at it is to remember that flights shorter than 1500 km would usually take less than two hours.
The delay reimbursement rises to €400 for flights spanning between 1500 and 3500 km. In most cases these flights would last between two and four and a half hours.
Your compensation would further increase to €600 if your flight exceeded 3500 km. These long-haul services would normally take more than four and a half hours.
There are, however, two exceptions.
Firstly, compensation amounts are capped at €400 for intra-community flights. This means that if you departed from an EU airport and landed at an EU airport, the maximum compensation you can claim is €400. This holds even if the flight distance is over 3500 km.
For example, the distance between Athens, Greece and Ponta Delgada in the Azores is over 4000 km. However, both Athens and Ponta Delgada are in the EU and therefore, the appropriate compensation amount would be €400.
In addition, if your flight is over 3500 km but your delay was between 3 and 4 hours, your compensation could be reduced in half. In this case the amount of your refund would be €300.
The easiest way to determine the amount of your delay compensation is by using our compensation calculator. All you would need to do is enter your flight number and date. Our system will immediately inform you if you are eligible for compensation and the amount you can claim.
Flight Destination & Distance
All flights up to 1500 km
All EU flights over 1500 km
All non-EU flights between 1500 and 3500 km
All non-EU flights over 3500 km
Right to care: you could get free food and drinks while you wait
It is the airlines’ obligation to make the wait for your flight comfortable. This is known as a passenger’s “Right to Care”. In its most basic form, the airline is required to offer you food and drinks for the duration of your wait.
Airlines typically offer food vouchers which can be used within the airport. These would usually cover the most necessary purchases you may need to make.
According to EU Regulation 261/04, any meals and drinks you get must be “in a reasonable relation to the waiting time”. Your right to care only applies to reasonable amounts and costs.
For example, it is expected that you would need a meal if you experience a delay of 2 or 3 hours. But the right to care does not give license for binge eating.
It is also assumed that the costs of your purchases should also be within reason. It would probably be difficult to prove to a judge that ordering lobster at the airport restaurant was a necessary purchase. In these cases, it is best to follow your common sense.
Don’t worry if the voucher cannot cover all of your expenses. If you exceed its amount, the airline will have to cover your additional costs. Make sure you hold on to your receipts so you can prove your purchases later.
In fact, even if the airline never offers you a voucher, you can still make all of your necessary purchases. Again, remember that you will have to keep your receipts.
Receipts are the only accepted proof of purchase. This is why it is so important to hold on to them. Receipts will allow you to ask for a refund later. Unfortunately, bank statements are not accepted.
You are also entitled to accommodation when your flight delay forces you to spend the evening at the point of departure. If the hotel of your choice is at a distance from the airport, your carrier is also required to cover your transportation costs.
Sometimes your starting point will be your hometown and you will be able to spend the night at home. In these cases the airline should still cover your transport expenses.
Nevertheless, we would recommend leaving the airport only when your flight is cancelled, not delayed. Passengers who have suffered cancelled flights are usually given an alternate and a fixed departure time. A delayed flight, however, could start boarding at any time.
One-Click delay compensation - claiming made easy
SkyRefund makes it quick and easy for air passengers to enforce their rights and claim their delayed departure compensation.
All you need to do to is submit your flight details. Our compensation calculator will immediately inform you if you can claim compensation.
All that is left would be to sign our authorization form. It will allow SkyRefund’s legal experts to represent your best interests.
We will take all of the required steps to protect your rights and ensure that you receive your delayed or cancelled flight compensation. Our experts know how to deal with the administrative hurdles which otherwise prevent passengers from upholding their rights.
When you cannot claim flight delay compensation: Extraordinary Circumstances
According to EU Regulation 261/04, passengers cannot claim compensation if a flight delay was caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.
Therefore, claiming extraordinary circumstances can absolve an airline from its obligation to pay compensation to any passengers affected by a delay. It is also the reason why it can be very difficult for passengers to negotiate their compensation on their own.
There are, in fact, many situations in which it would be unreasonable to blame an airline for a delay.
Extraordinary circumstances (also known as force majeure events) include:
- Bad weather (snowstorms, windstorms, low visibility)
- Strikes of the airport personnel and union strikes
- Bird strikes
- Air traffic control restrictions (including runway closures)
- Political and civil unrest
To summarise, if avoiding the delay was not within the airline’s capabilities and responsibilities, you would not be eligible for compensation.
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell the difference between difficult and truly extraordinary circumstances.
Differences in weather conditions, for example, can be very subtle. Even weak crosswinds can prevent a flight from landing. Meanwhile, similar or stronger headwinds may not affect it much. Furthermore, some aircraft may be able to fly in certain weather conditions while others may not.
Avoidance of technical issues, however, is usually not considered beyond the airline’s capacities. Aircraft maintenance is the airline's obligation. Therefore, the carrier would not have fulfilled its responsibilities if a mechanical problem prevents a flight from departing on time.
So, if your flight was delayed due to technical issues, you could claim reimbursement.
Moreover, after a recent ruling of the European Court of Justice, not all strikes are seen as extraordinary circumstances. For example, strikes, caused by the restructuring of the airline- a wildcat strike- do not qualify anymore. Indeed, it is the management’s obligation to avoid changes which would cause employee strikes.
This is why if such a strike arises, it cannot be thought of as an extraordinary circumstance and there are grounds for getting flight delay compensation.
However, union and airport personnel strikes are beyond the airline’s capabilities to prevent. Since the carrier cannot reasonably be held accountable, these cases are treated as extraordinary.
You may have to remain at the airport for some time if there are prohibitive conditions. Fortunately, you have the right to care even in exceptional cases such as bad weather conditions. So, passengers who have suffered a delay longer than two hours have the right to food and refreshments from the airline.
Moreover, if due to extraordinary circumstances you have to spend the night, you could claim reimbursement for any accommodation costs.
Compensation Eligibility Checklist
Was your flight delayed by more than 3 hours?
Was it possible for the airline to avoid the delay?
Did you fly with a European airline or depart from European airport*?
Please note: EU Regulation 261/04, which establishes the requirements for flight delay compensation applies to all EU countries as well as to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Switzerland and Serbia.
Compensation for Missed Connections
Sometimes a delay in your inbound flight may cause you to miss your next connection. As with other cases of delay, you may be entitled to compensation of up to €600 for a missed connecting flight.
One very important condition, however, is that you arrived at your final destination more than three hours behind schedule.
Imagine, for instance, that you missed your connection because your previous flight was delayed by 40 minutes. As a result, you reached your final destination four hours late. In this case you could claim compensation as this scenario follows the 3-hour rule we mentioned above.
Now imagine you are given an early alternate flight and you arrive at your end destination two hours late. In this case, despite the disruption, you would not be eligible to claim airline delay compensation.
An additional requirement for compensation eligibility is that your tickets are under the same booking number. This way, the airline is obliged to take you to your end destination. If your tickets are on separate bookings or with different carriers, the airline will see your transit destination as your final one. Once it has taken you there, it will have fulfilled its obligations and responsibilities.
Unfortunately, low-cost airlines like easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air do not offer multi-flight trips under the same booking reference.
The good news is that the compensation amount will be determined by the distance between your initial and end destinations.
For example, imagine you booked a trip from Budapest to Chicago with a connection in Frankfurt. If the Budapest-Frankfurt flight is delayed and you miss your next flight, you can claim compensation for the entire Budapest-Chicago journey. In this case it would be 600 euro.
In all cases, if you miss your connection, the airline is required to provide you with an alternate flight. The only conditions that apply are the above-mentioned:
- the airline was responsible for the missed flight and
- your tickets were on the same booking.
How far back can I claim for delayed flights?
Depending on the airline’s origin, you may be able to claim flight delay compensation for flights as old 10 years. Regulation 261/04 does not provide an EU-wide limitation period. This is why the time limit in which you can claim varies from country to country as follows:
1 year- Poland, Belgium
2 years- Iceland, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland
2 years 4 months - Italy
3 years – Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden
5 years- Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Spain
6 years- Cyprus, Ireland, UK (5 years in Scotland)
10 years- Luxemburg
No Limit- Malta
FAQ about Claiming Compensation
If your flight fulfils the criteria we have listed above, you have a right to reimbursement from the airline.
Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive.
Q: What documents should I keep?
A: Keep your boarding pass and booking confirmation. Your boarding pass contains all of the information required to file a claim for compensation, including your booking reference. Don’t throw it away!
Also, keep all of your receipts. The airline is required to reimburse you for any additional expenses for the period of your delay. Receipts, however, are the only way of proving you paid for your purchases. It is essential that you keep them.
Q: I was on a business trip. Do I receive the compensation or my employer?
A: If you are on a business trip and your employer paid for your ticket, you could still claim compensation. In these cases the compensation should go to the passenger.
Q: We flew as a group? Do we share the compensation amount?
A: No. If you are flying as group and you experience a delay, each passenger will be entitled for their separate compensation.
Say you are group of 4 passengers and you were on a short flight, in which every passenger is entitled to 250 euros. As a group you will be able to claim 1000 euros, not 250.
Q: Any advice on what I should do upon arrival?
A: We recommend noting down the actual time of arrival. It is always displayed on the information screens inside the terminal.
Q: What if the delay forces me to stay overnight?
A: Ask for accommodation. If the delay forces you to depart the following day, you can ask for a room for the night. The airline should also pay for your transportation to and from the hotel.
Q: The airline offered me a refund of my ticket. Should I accept?
A:No. Refuse the refund.
Sometimes airlines offer passengers a full refund of their tickets. But if the passenger accepts, they would give up their right to compensation.
However, its amount could be much smaller than the flight delay compensation they would otherwise be entitled to. This would often be true for low-cost airlines like Ryanair, Transavia, easyJet or Eurowings.
Moreover, if the passenger accepts this offer, they would lose their right to an alternate flight. They would not be entitled to food and drinks from the airline either.
Nevertheless, you can still accept a voucher for food and drinks, if one is offered, without forgoing your rights.
Q: I was seated in a lower class than the one I purchased. Can I get a refund for my downgrade?
A: Yes. EU Regulation 261/04 is clear that the affected passenger can claim a refund for part of the price of their ticket. The distance of the flight (which affects the time you spent in a lower class) determines the refund amount.
If your flight was shorter than 1500 km, you can claim back 30% of the ticket price. You can claim back 50% of your ticket value if the flight was between 1500 km and 3500 km. As with flight delays, this is the most you can get if your flight departed and landed within the EU. Finally, if your flight exceeded 3500 km, you are eligible for 75% of the cost of your ticket.
Q: Can I claim delay compensation from any airline?
A: To receive compensation for your delay or cancellation, the operating airline needs to be registered in the EU, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Switzerland and Serbia.
Therefore, you could claim compensation from any of the following European airlines:
Aegean Airlines Air France
Air Serbia British Airways
Bulgaria Air easyJet
LOT Polish Airlines Lufthansa
Montenegro Airlines Olympic Air
TAP Air Portugal
The Regulation also applies to any airline whose flight departs from the above-mentioned countries. This means you could also get compensation from:
SkyRefund will help you receive your delayed flight compensation! Quick and easy!
Airlines often cite bad weather, technical issues or strikes as the reason for a flight delay. Standing up for yourself and enforcing your rights on your own can be a very frustrating and time-consuming process. Unfortunately, few passengers successfully claim compensation and it always involves a lot of hard work.
SkyRefund’s mission is to protect air passengers' rights. We will be happy to represent your interests with regards to your claim. To ensure that passengers receive their rightful compensation, we will take care of all of the administrative hassle. In addition, our experts will take all of the necessary legal steps to ensure you receive your compensation.
- conduct an in-depth investigation into the circumstances surrounding the flight delay
- maintain sustained communication with the airline and double-check any information coming in from them
- contact the airport and the local civil aviation authorities.
We are even ready to take your case to court if the airline denies your right to compensation.
SkyRefund's Additional Advice
- We would recommend that you stay at the gate and remain alert for any news on the information screens. Since the flight is already late, boarding may begin at any time.
- If your flight is set to depart from a different gate, approach the new gate as soon as possible. If you fail to board the plane, you would lose your right to compensation.
- Do not accept the refund! If you do, you would forgo your right to an alternate flight and to food and refreshments. You may still receive your compensation for the incurred delay. But you may lose the quickest option to get to your final destination.
- It is best to submit your claim as soon as possible. This would allow our team to build the strongest claim on your behalf.
Find out more about your passenger rights here.
Learn more about flight cancellations here.