Flight Cancellations – How To Claim Compensation

EU Regulation 261 cancelled flights rules include financial compensation of up to 600 Euros as well as the right to a refund or rerouting plus care and assistance.

What exactly you’re entitled to depends on the length of delay, notice of cancellation, and the distance of the flight.

Updated on October 17th, 2018

Unlike with delayed flights that are eligible for financial compensation and care and assistance, cancelled flights may require the airline to reroute you or refund you as well as pay flight cancellation compensation. These amounts vary depending on how early or late any replacement flight arrives compared to your original arrival time.

These cancelled flight compensation EU rules cover all flights departing from an EU airport, or any arriving into the EU on an EU airline and are part of EU regulation 261/2004.

Cancelled Flights – Your Rights

Flight cancellation rules provide more protection than just compensation. You are entitled to either an alternative flight at your earliest convenience, or a full refund on the ticket price if you choose not to travel.

You may also be entitled to compensation if the alternate flight arrival time is different by an hour or two (depending on the amount of notice of the cancellation and distance travelled).

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Can I Get A Refund For A Flight Cancellation?

When a flight cancellation means you are going to miss an event or a meeting and you decide it’s not worth travelling on the rearranged flight then you can request a full refund on the ticket price or a replacement flight on another day at your convenience, providing there are available seats.

If you had a connecting flight and are stuck part of the way through your journey, then you are entitled to be fully refunded or be returned to your original departure point. You can of course continue your travel on an alternative flight as above.

If you choose a full refund, then you can still lodge a flight cancellation claim for compensation. You will however waive your rights to recover any further costs you might incur. In this situation the airline must refund your money within seven days.

Right To Rerouting For Flight Cancellations

You can be rerouted free of charge on an alternate flight of your choosing – and this doesn’t have to be with the same airline, it just has to be under ‘comparable transport conditions’

The regulation states the rerouting should be done at your convenience and if there’s a flight with a different airline leaving sooner than anything your airline has available, you are within your rights to take that flight.

If you have to pay for an alternate flight because the airline won’t cover the cost up front, you can claim this cost back as part of your flight cancellation claim.

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Can I claim compensation for a flight cancellation?

You can claim compensation for flight cancellations providing the reason for the cancellation is not considered an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ by the courts.

The amount you can claim is set by the EU regulations and depends on how much notice you were given of the cancellation, the distance of the flight, and the difference between the original and actual arrival time (if you took a replacement flight).

If you have been notified of the cancellation between 7 and 14 days of the date of travel, then compensation is usually payable if the replacement flight departs more than 2 hours earlier or arrives more than four hours late.

If you were given less than 7 days’ notice, then compensation would be due if the replacement flight departs more than 1 hour early or arrives more than 2 hours later than the original schedule.

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How Much Compensation Can I Claim For A Cancelled Flight

The amount of compensation you can claim for a flight cancellation ranges from 125 Euros to 600 Euros depending on the following factors:

  • Number of days’ notice of cancellation
  • Distance of the flight
  • The actual arrival time

125 Euros may be due if you were notified within 7 days and the replacement flight departed more than an hour early. Or if you were notified between 7 and 14 days and the replacement flight departed more than 2 hours earlier than scheduled.

To qualify for the maximum 600 Euros flight cancellation compensation, you would need to meet the following criteria:

  • Flight cancelled within 14 days of travel
  • Flight distance is more than 3,500km
  • Replacement flight arrives more than 4 hours late

Most of the time flights are cancelled within 7 days of travelling. If this is the case, and you are given a replacement flight, the full list of claim amounts are as follows:

Flight Cancellation Compensation Amounts

Flights within 7 Days and Replacement Flight Offered

Flight DistanceLength Of DelayCompensation Amount
Up to 1,500kmReplacement flight departs more than 1 hour early€125
Up to 1,500kmReplacement flight arrives more than 2 hours late€250
1,500km to 3,500kmReplacement flight departs more than 1 hour early€200
1,500km to 3,500kmReplacement flight arrives 2-3 hours late€200
1,500km to 3,500kmReplacement flight arrives more than 3 hours late.€400
Over 1,500Km and between two EU StatesReplacement flight departs more than 1 hour early€200
Over 1,500Km and between two EU StatesReplacement flight arrives 2-3 hours late.€200
Over 1,500Km and between two EU StatesReplacement flight arrives more than 3 hours late€400
Over 3,500kmReplacement flight departs more than 1 hour early €300
Over 3,500kmReplacement flight arrives 2-4 hours late €300
 Over 3,500kmReplacement flight arrives more than 4 hours late €600

For flights cancelled between 7 and 14 days before you are due to travel the claim amounts are reduced and the delayed arrival time for the replacement flight can be longer before the airline has to pay out compensation.

Flight Cancellation Compensation Amounts

Flights Cancelled Within 7-14 Days and Replacement Flight Offered

Flight DistanceLength Of DelayCompensation Amount
Up to 1,500kmReplacement flight departs more than 2 hours early€125
Up to 1,500kmReplacement flight arrives more than 4 hours late€250
1,500km to 3,500kmReplacement flight departs more than 2 hours early€200
1,500km to 3,500kmReplacement flight arrives more than 4 hours late€400
Over 1,500Km and between two EU StatesReplacement flight departs more than 2 hours early€200
Over 1,500Km and between two EU StatesReplacement flight arrives more than 4 hours late.€400
Over 3,500kmReplacement flight departs more than 2 hours early€300
Over 3,500kmReplacement flight arrives more than 4 hours late€600

In the unlikely event the airline does not offer a replacement flight, you would be entitled to claim compensation based on the distance you were due to travel as follows:

Flight Cancellation Compensation Amounts

No replacement flight offered

Flight DistanceCompensation Amount
Up to 1,500km€250
1,500km-3,500km€400
Over 1,500km and between two EU States€400
Over 3,500km€600

Is My Flight Cancelled or Delayed?

Compensation amounts are different if the flight is delayed than if it has been cancelled and a replacement flight is offered.

For example, a short flight of less than 1,500km (London to Majorca for example) that is delayed on arrival by 2 hours would not qualify for any compensation.

However, if that flight was cancelled and a replacement flight arrived 2 hours late then the airline would have to pay 250 Euros under the flight cancellation compensation rules.

It’s important to know if your flight is cancelled or simply delayed, in order that you can recover the correct amount of compensation.

A cancelled flight is one that isn’t operated at all and you would usually be given a new flight number for the replacement flight. If you have just been delayed, you would travel on the same flight number as the airline would still operate that particular flight.

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  • The length of your delay
  • The cause of your delay
  • Legal validity of claim
  • How much you could claim

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Upgrading and Downgrading

When you have been rerouted as a result of a flight cancellation and the airline should place you in the same class cabin as your original ticket where possible.

If they have to upgrade you to fit you on a rerouted flight, they cannot ask for any additional payment from you.

If the airline has to downgrade you then they must refund part of the original ticket price within 7 days of the flight.

The refunds vary from 30% to 75% of the ticket price depending on the distance travelled and whether the flight was within the EU.

Refunds For Downgrading On Rerouted Flight

Flight DistanceRefund Amount
Less than 1,500km30% of the original ticket price
Any flight between two EU member states over 1,500km50% of the original ticket price
Flights between 1,500-3,500km50% of the original ticket price
Flights over 3,500km and not between two EU member states75% of the original ticket price

Care And Assistance for Flight Cancellations

If your flight has been cancelled and you choose the rerouting option rather than a refund, you would be entitled to ‘care and assistance’ from the airline.

In cases of extraordinary circumstances, the airline still has a duty to provide care and assistance during any delay or cancellation once the delay time threshold is exceeded.

The regulation states that airlines must provide the following:

  • two free phone calls, faxes or emails
  • free meals and refreshments relevant to the delay length
  • free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if delay runs overnight

If the airline does not provide the appropriate care and assistance you should keep copies of all receipts where you’ve incurred costs as a result of the delay – these can then be used to claim back from the airline at a later date.

All costs must be ‘reasonable’ – so no drinking in the champagne bar. However, if you have to stay overnight and the only rooms left near the airport are at a five-star hotel, it could be considered reasonable to stay there and claim that back. You should retain evidence of all other hotels in the area being booked up and always think what would be considered a reasonable expense.

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Can I Claim If The Flight Was Cancelled Due To Bad Weather?

Flight cancellations are often caused by bad weather. These problems are often eligible for compensation unless the weather conditions are extreme or ‘freak’.

If the flight you are departing on is cancelled because the weather in the location it was flying in from is bad, then you can almost certainly claim compensation. This is considered to be weather conditions affecting a previous rotation and should be eligible.

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If the weather conditions are so bad that the airport has to close, or Air Traffic Control restricts flight activity then this could be considered an extraordinary circumstance and unlikely to be eligible for compensation.

So as long as the bad weather is not considered a ‘freak’ weather event then you can still claim flight cancellation compensation. ‘Freak’ weather can include:

  • Volcanic ash clouds
  • Tsunami
  • Earthquake
  • Flooding

An event that might be normal weather in some places such as snow in Canada could also be considered freak if it happened in say Dubai for example.

You should be aware that your airline should offer you assistance in the event of a flight cancellation due to bad weather, even if the weather is classed as extraordinary.

Can I claim if the flight was cancelled due to Air Traffic Control Strikes?

If flights are cancelled or delayed because of Air Traffic Control (ATC) strikes, it is almost certainly considered an extraordinary circumstance and therefore not eligible for compensation.

Airlines would still owe passengers care and assistance in this type of situation while they are experiencing a delay, even though there is no compensation due.

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Can I claim if the flight was cancelled due to airline staff or crew shortages?

If your flight has been cancelled because there aren’t enough airline or crew staff to operate the flight, then this would be a claimable situation under EU 261/2004 and you would be able to recover up to 600 Euros per passenger.

Airline staff are only allowed to work a certain number of hours before taking a mandatory rest. It’s not uncommon for long delays caused by cancellations can lead to the crew going over their hours.

Other staff shortages can occur if crew or pilots are sick and cannot fly. The courts have ruled that staff falling sick or going on strike is an inherent part of running any business and as such it cannot be considered ‘extraordinary.’.

Can I claim if the flight was cancelled due to Airline Technical Defects?

Flight cancellations due to technical problems are one of the more common reasons for passengers being delayed. Technical problems are not extraordinary circumstances and are therefore eligible for compensation.

A technical issue would however be considered an extraordinary circumstance when it is caused by a hidden manufacturing defect that results in a mass recall of parts or grounding of aircraft.

If an airline tells you the cancellation was due to a hidden manufacturing defect it is important that you ask the airline to explain in more detail. Genuine manufacturing defects are very rare, and you would no doubt hear about such an event in the news.

If there was no mass recall of parts and your cancellation was due to general technical problems, then you should still be able to claim flight cancellation compensation.

Can I claim if the flight was cancelled due to airline staff strikes?

Airline staff strikes in the UK are only allowed when planned in advance. If the staff go on strike due to conditions relating to their employment (e.g. pay, holiday entitlement, working conditions etc) then they are not extraordinary circumstances and you would be entitled to compensation.

If the airline experiences staff strikes they also have to provide you with assistance if your flight is cancelled as a result.