Flight Delay Compensation

Ever sat in an airport for hours with no idea when your plane is going to take off? Flight delay compensation is now legally available for EU regulated flights delayed for 3 hours or more. You could claim for delays you’ve suffered in the past.

This is great news for those of us who have had to sleep on airport seats, pacify tired children and suffer the sheer exhaustion a flight delay can bring. Of course none of us want our flight to be delayed, but at least we now know we can claim flight delay compensation if this happens.

In October 2012 the European Court of Justice ruled that anyone who has a ticket for an EU regulated flight and is delayed for 3 hours can claim compensation. You can also claim compensation for flight cancellations. The ruling is known as EU Regulation 261/2004.

What is an EU regulated flight?

This is any flight that departs from a country within the European Union, regardless of its destination. For example, if you are delayed for more than 3 hours in London whilst catching a flight to New York you have the right to claim flight delay compensation, even though your journey ends outside Europe and regardless of the airline you are flying with.

The legislation also covers flights from/to Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, even though these countries aren't in the EU.

What are the flight delay compensation rules?

The EU ruling has set the following rules for passengers being able to claim for delayed flights:

  • The flight is delayed for 3 hours or more.
  • The flight is delayed due to the fault of the airline (ie not due to bad weather, strikes or political unrest).
  • A passenger misses their connecting flight due to the delay.
  • The plane is diverted and a passenger arrives at their destination more than 3 hours later than scheduled.
  • If you are ‘bumped off’ your flight due to the airline overbooking. In effect your flight has been cancelled.


Note that in the case of ‘bumping off’ airlines usually ask some passengers first if they are prepared to miss their flight and re-book on another. If you voluntarily decide to take another flight the compensation you receive is between you and the airline and should be discussed with the airline when you agree to be bumped off. Instead of cash you may be offered an upgrade on an alternative flight, vouchers for another flight, or hotel accommodation.

How much flight delay compensation can I claim?

The flight reimbursements are based on distance and delay times, not the price of the flight. This means it could be possible to receive back more cash than you paid for your flight. The table below shows the flight delay compensation figures set by the European Court.

Up to 1,500km (932 miles) 2 hours+ £200
1,500+ km (flights within the EU only) 3 hours+ £310
3,500km+ ( 2,175 miles) (flights between an EU and non-EU airport), eg, London to New York Up to 4 hours £240
  4+ hours £470


This link will calculate the distance in air miles between airports:


the airline should offer you refreshments and a telephone line to make urgent calls. If the delay is over 4 hours and at night you are likely to be offered overnight accommodation. You will not have to pay for any of this.

When should an airline pay compensation?

You can claim flight delay compensation if the delay is the fault of the airline, as set out in the EU regulations. These are known as non-extraordinary circumstances.

The fault of the airline is considered to be:

  • Technical issues – when the airline has not maintained the aircraft to required standards.
  • Staff have worked over their number of flying hours and cannot fly, due to poor planning by the airline.
  • Staff are late so the aircraft misses its slot.
  • Safety issues due to the aircraft not being maintained correctly.
  • Administration problems – eg the airline has not obtained the correct documentation to fly.


The link below is a document listing what are considered to be extraordinary and non-extraordinary circumstances


How far back can I claim flight compensation?

You can claim as far back as 2005, although it is more difficult to claim for flights prior to 2009. However, this is no reason not to claim and you should claim for what you are entitled to.

Some airlines have tried to say there is a 2 year limit on claims. THIS IS NOT TRUE. You can claim flight compensation further back than 2 years ago and if an airline tells you this you should continue with your claim.

How do I seek flight delay compensation?

You must first claim for your delayed flight by following the relevant airline’s complaint procedure. Details of this should be found on the airline’s website, often under the customer service section.

Gather together any relevant documents relating to the flight, such as tickets, boarding passes, proof of the delay (photographs of the departures board if you have them).

Follow the flight delay claims process of the airline either by completing a form or writing a letter or email. In some cases you may have to telephone, but it is more likely you will have to put your complaint in writing.

Be clear about what you are asking for: compensation for a flight delay under EU Regulation 261/2004.

The airline should respond to you promptly with an answer. If an airline says your complaint is on hold do not accept this and contact them again. All complaints should be dealt with immediately. Airlines could previously put flight delay compensation claims on hold while the legislation was being agreed, but this is no longer the case.

The airline may offer you vouchers towards another flight. You don´t have to accept these and can ask for cash. The table above shows you what you are entitled to.

What to do if the airline rejects your claim

Don´t give up. You should now take your complaint to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). You should use the form from their website, which can be found at:


The CAA will deal with your complaint in a fair and unbiased manner and should help you receive what you are entitled to as compensation for your delayed flight.

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If you would like speak with a flight claims firm, complete the form above and we will get a regulated company to contact you.