EU Flight Delay Compensation | You Rights Under EU261

EU Flight Delay Compensation | You Rights Under EU261

Do you know how to make the most of EU flight delay compensation laws? Keep reading as you could be entitled to more compensation than you might think.

Flight delays/cancellations put a real downer on trips, and in most industries we expect compensation from such service failures. For many years however, airlines somehow got away with not compensating passengers for poor service. That all changed with the introduction of EC261 though. It put rules in place so that airlines had to give adequate compensating to passengers in the event of disruption.

There’s plenty of sites online providing extremely in-depth advice on the EU flight delay compensation rules and how to claim. However, if you don’t know your entitlement at the time, you won’t take full advantage of the compensation on offer. I’ll therefore explain when and what exactly you are entitled to, plus what evidence you’ll need to keep.

Why can I claim flight disruption compensation?

It’s all to do with a regulation in the EU law. The EU Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 exactly. This basically establishes some common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding, cancellation or long flight delays. Airlines aren’t going to overtly advertise your eligibility to make claims, as why would they. However, awareness of EC261 has grown after Ryanair cancelled a ton of flights  in 2017. 

What flights are eligible for EU flight delay compensation?

Compensation falls under different bandings, and all have their own forms/levels of compensation on offer. I’ll explain each band individually later, but for now make sure your flight is actually covered by EC261:

  • Flight is within the EU (regardless if it is an EU or non-EU airline).
  • Flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline.
  • Flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country (regardless if it is an EU or non-EU airline).

Flight delay - what is your entitlement

When take-off is delayed by at least two hours, the airline is compelled to take care of you. It is important to note that, in terms of compensation bands, the level of your delay is measured as the delay at arrival destination. It is therefore nothing to do with the delay in departure time. However, if you’ve surpassed a 2-hour delay at departure the “right to care” obligation kicks in and you can ask the airline staff for help. They may fail to deliver on this obligation but go ahead and make your own arrangements. You’ll be covered for remuneration later: just make sure you keep all your receipts for this.

Oh and keep in mind, this is not an opportunity for a free for all at the airline’s expense. Airlines are only required to refund “reasonable expenses”. Don’t get caught out by eating in expensive restaurants or checking into a premium hotel suite.

Flight delay - compensation breakdown

I’ve summarised below the different delay time bands, and what you are entitled to within each one of them.

Flight Delay > 2 hours

  1. Food and drink proportional to the delay.
  2. Access to phone calls and email to make arrangements (call family or cancel taxis etc).
  3. Accommodation and journey between airport and hotel.

Flight Delay > 3 hours

  1. Food and drink proportional to the delay.
  2. Access to phone calls and email to make arrangements (call family or cancel taxis etc).
  3. Accommodation and journey between airport and hotel.
  4. Plus compensation depending on distance and length of the delay (at destination not departure).

Flight Delay > 5 hours

  1. Food and drink proportional to the delay.
  2. Access to phone calls and email to make arrangements (call family or cancel taxis etc).
  3. Accommodation and journey between airport and hotel.
  4. Full refund (regardless if the delay was outwith the airlines control e.g. weather).
  5. Plus full refund of all flights by the airline on same booking.
  6. Free flight back to your airport of departure if you are part-way through your journey.
  7. Plus compensation depending on distance, which could be up to 600 euros.

In terms of compensation value, it not only depends on the time of the delay but also the distance of your flight. You can calculate flight distances by visiting Webflyer and then use the table below to calculate the value of your claim.

EU Flight Delay Compensation

*intra-community flights are flights within the EU

Flight cancellation - what is your entitlement

When notifying you of a flight cancellation the airline is obliged to give you a choice between the following two options:

  • A full refund of your flight and other flights operated by the same airline, under the same booking (whether onward flight or return flight). NB if you’re already part way through your journey, the airline must also provide you with a means back to your departure airport
  • An alternative flight to get you to your intended destination

Again, if the action of cancellation results in you experiencing a delay of at least 2-hours, then the airline must also respect your right to care. This means refreshments, communication, accommodation etc. If they don’t offer it, as before, make arrangements yourself and keep those receipts!

Flight cancellation - compensation breakdown

Flight cancelled < 7 days before departure

  1. Refund of flights or alternative flights.
  2. Plus compensation.

Flight cancelled < 14 days before departure (but > 7 days)

  1. Refund of flights or alternative flights.
  2. Plus compensation.

Flight cancelled > 14 days before departure

  1. Refund of flights or alternative flights.

For flight cancellations, compensation values depend on the departure and arrival times of your new flight in comparison to the scheduled arrival time of your original cancelled flight. As well as how far in advance you were notified of the cancellation. Like before, use Webflyer to calculate the distance of your flight. You can then refer to the tables below to calculate a value to use in your claim.

EU Flight Delay Compensation - Cancelled Flights < 7days
eu flight delay compensation - cancelled flights

How to make a claim for EU flight delay compensation

The first step is to get in touch with your airline using the detail on their website. You can only claim compensation from the actual airline that operated your flight, not the company that you originally booked with. Whether that’s a booking agent or another airline that happened to use one of its partner airlines for your flight.

When you write to the airline you are going to have to explain to them in detail what happened in terms of your disruption. Your compensation application should include:

  • A description of the problem.
  • How much money you are claiming for the flight disruption (we recommend setting out clear and easy to follow calculations).
  • A quote of the appropriate part of the EU Regulation 261/2004 (or EC 261).

If the airline responds agreeing to settle the claim: then great. Although, most passengers will initially be denied compensation and you’ll need to either counter their argument for not paying or escalate the matter to a National Enforcement Body (NEB) or an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.

There are some instances when the airline isn’t required to pay out (extraordinary circumstances). Be wary of the airline using similar but less severe scenarios to fool you into thinking you aren’t entitled to anything. Here a few clarifications on extraordinary events the airline may use:

  • Bad weather – means meteorological conditions where a flight can’t operate.
  • Air traffic control restrictions – ATC orders only, not the knock on of delay from the aircrafts pervious flight.
  • Strikes – there are lots of exemptions so do your research.

Here are a few extraordinary events that you will just have to take on the chin:

  • Medical emergencies – no compensation.
  • Bird strikes – no compensation
    Hidden manufacturing default – no compensation.
  • Security concerns – no compensation.

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