Delayed Flight Compensation – What Are My Rights?

If your flight was delayed, then you could be owed flight delay compensation. EU Regulation 261/2004 requires airlines to look after their passengers in the event of a delay and this may also include a payment of financial compensation.

Updated on December 13th, 2018


It doesn’t matter if your flight was delayed because of bad weather, strikes, a fault with the plane or crew staff shortages, unless the events around the delay were extraordinary, you’re owed compensation from your airline for the delay.

We’ll go through what rights you have to claim compensation for delayed flights, based on the length of your delay and the circumstances surrounding it.

Delayed Flight Compensation and EU Regulation 261/2004

The EU Regulation 261/2004 protects passengers by offering them a series of rights and compensation for flight delays. It allows passengers to enforce a set of rights.

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Established in 2005 it originally dealt with cases of denied boarding due to overbooking and flight cancellations but was later amended to include long delays of more than three hours.

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Following a series of high profile cases in the UK and Europe, courts set binding rulings which meant you could claim back as far as 6 years in the UK and that delays caused by technical defects were also valid for compensation.

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Claim amounts are set by the regulation so are always awarded in Euros and range from 250 Euros to a maximum 600 Euros per passenger for longer delays on long haul flights.

This means if your flight was taking off from a UK airport, your rights as a passenger are protected by EU Regulation 261/2004. They’re also protected if you were landing in the UK, as long as you were flying with an EU airline.

The same rules apply anywhere in Europe, as well as in Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, who have all opted in to the regulation.

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It means that you can claim compensation if a qualifying flight is delayed more than three hours on arrival. How much compensation you’ll receive depends on a number of factors, including the length of time you were delayed, as well as the distance of your flight.

For example, if the distance of your flight was more than more than 3,500km and you were delayed arriving by four hours or more, you could be due as much as 600 Euros in flight delay compensation per passenger.

For shorter flights of under 1,500km and a delay on arrival of 3 hours, you could qualify for 250 Euros per passenger.

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You can work out the distance of your flight by putting your arrival and departure airlines into this handy tool.

Once you know the distance of your flight, you can use the table below to work out how much flight delay compensation you’re owed, or you can enter your details into our flight delay compensation calculator.

Examples Of Flights Covered By EU Reg 261

Departing FromArriving ToCan I Claim?
Airport inside EUAirport inside EUYes (Claimable for any airline)
Airport inside EUAirport outside EUYes (Claimable for any airline)
Airport outside EUAirport inside EUYes (If on an EU based airline)
Airport outside EUAirport outside EUNo

The longer you were delayed in reaching your destination, the more EU flight delay compensation you’ll be owed, but you must have been delayed in arriving at your destination by three hours or more.

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Our flight compensation checker is the most accurate on the web. It checks the following instantly.

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

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Flights Delays Over 2 Hours

If you were delayed 2 hours or more and were flying less than 1,500km, your airline has a number of responsibilities to you under the category of ‘care and assistance’. They must provide you with:

  • Two free emails, phone calls, or fax messages
  • Free food and drink in relation to the waiting time
  • Overnight accommodation if necessary and airport transfers

Flights Delays Over 3 Hours

If you were delayed for three hours or more and travelling up to 3,500km, the airline must provide you with care and assistance. They will also owe you compensation of between 250-400 Euros if the delay is more than 3 hours on arrival and there are no extraordinary circumstances involved.

Flights Delays Over 4 Hours

If your flight was delayed for more than four hours, then you are entitled to care and assistance however long the flight distance.

Delays in arrival of over four hours can result in compensation claims of the maximum 600 Euros per person for flights that were of a distance of more than 3,500km. This is as long as the delay was not caused by an extraordinary circumstance.

Flights Delays Over 5 Hours

If your flight is delayed by more than five hours, the airline needs to compensate you in the same way they would if your flight had been cancelled. You’ll be due a full refund, two phone calls, a reasonable about of food and drink, and hotel accommodation if you have to stay overnight, as well as transport to and from that accommodation.

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Can I Claim Compensation For a Flight Delay Due To Extraordinary Circumstances?

If your airline told you that your flight was delayed because of extraordinary circumstances, you should still look into making a claim. Extraordinary circumstances are the only way an airline can get out of paying compensation for delayed flights under EU Regulation 261/2004, so they’ll often try and claim that circumstances were extraordinary when they weren’t.

The phrase ‘extraordinary circumstances’ is open to interpretation and that’s the reason that legal disputes between passengers and airlines happen

The phrase ‘extraordinary circumstances’ is open to interpretation and that’s the reason that legal disputes between passengers and airlines happen and one of the main reasons passengers choose to use our services as we can challenge the airlines in court when they won’t pay out.

What Are Extraordinary Circumstances? Find Our Your Rights Under EU Reg 261

Airlines have previously argued that things like crew sickness is an extraordinary circumstance, or flights being struck by lightning, causing knock-on delays, are extraordinary circumstances, but our legal team have defeated the airlines in appeal cases on all those points.

We currently consider extraordinary circumstances as the following:

  • Bad weather affecting your flight that is ‘wholly exceptional’ or ‘freak
  • Acts of terrorism or sabotage
  • Political or civil unrest
  • Manufacturing defects with aircraft
  • Industrial action
  • Air traffic control strikes
  • Bird strikes

It doesn’t matter if the delay is the airline’s ‘fault’ or not. The regulation rules simply state that if the delay is caused by something ‘inherent’ (i.e. in the normal activity) in the operating of an airline or within their control then it would be eligible for compensation.

For example, it might not be the airline’s fault if a plane gets struck by lightning and is then delayed due to damage being repaired. However, the courts have ruled this is part and parcel of running an airline and shouldn’t therefore be extraordinary.

Get An Instant Decision On Your Flight

Our flight compensation checker is the most accurate on the web. It checks the following instantly.

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

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What do I do if my flight is delayed?

If your flight is delayed, it is more than likely you can make a flight delay claim for compensation, but there are certain things you can do to make sure claiming that compensation goes smoothly.

Hold on to your boarding pass

This will make finding the flight you were due to flier on a much simpler task. You can still make flight delay claims if you haven’t got this, but it will be much easier to do if you have it.

Ask the airline why your flight is delayed

Get as much detail as you can, as this will help you with your delayed flight claim. If you can, get the information in writing or record details on your phone.

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Make a note of the key details, such as your departure and arrival times

This will help you to get a better idea of how much compensation you’ll be entitled to. Your arrival time is the actual time your plane door opens in the gate, not the time that you land on the runway.

Make sure you ask for what you are entitled to

Under EU Regulation 261/2004, the airline should provide you with two phone calls or emails and a reasonable amount of free food and drink. Make sure you ask for this. They should also provide you with a hotel if the delay means you have to stay overnight, as well as transport to and from the accommodation.

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Do not accept anything on the day

If you accept travel vouchers, a refund or any other gifts beyond what the airline owes you as part of their duty of care, then this could affect a claim for compensation in the future. This includes accepting travel vouchers.

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Claiming directly can be time consuming and stressful. Airlines may choose to ignore your claims or say you don’t have a eligible claim when you do.

Save time and money over issuing against airlines yourself and choose us to handle the claim on your behalf.

Remember, you can ask for a refund

You do have the right to request a full refund if you decide the delay exceeds 5 hours and means your trip is no longer worth it. The airline will also have to reroute you to your original departure point at no cost to you if you missed a connecting flight due to the delay.

Claim back your expenses

Put your details into our flight delay compensation calculator to see if you’re entitled to compensation for your delayed flight.

You don’t need your flight number or boarding pass to check, you just need to know the date you were travelling, the departure and arrivals airport and the airline you were travelling with. We’ll do everything else for you.

We’ll even be able to tell you if your flight was delayed due to bad weather and if that weather was extraordinary, because we take weather readings at every airport across the globe every single hour, so we can tell you right away if you can claim.

My airline say I can’t make a claim

Some airlines may say the delay is not eligible for compensation even when you have a valid claim, because they try and apply a different interpretation to the law and don’t want to pay compensation.

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It’s always best to double check so put your flight details into our flights claim calculator and we’ll tell you in minutes if you’re due compensation for your flight delay.

We make thousands of flight claims every year for people who were told that they could not claim compensation from their airline.

Is arrival time the time the plane lands, or when the doors open?

Your arrival time is when your plane is at the gate and the doors open. This is important to determine, because if you’re close to the 3 or 4-hour threshold, the amount you can claim in compensation increases significantly, so airlines would try and argue that the time they landed the plane on the runway was the arrival time to save themselves a few minutes.

On September 4th, 2014 the highest court in Europe determined that the arrival time is the time at which the doors to the aircraft have opened their doors and passengers can resume their activities.

Does it matter what I paid for my ticket?

As long as the price you paid for your ticket was a price generally available to the public then you will still be able to claim flight delay compensation.

The amount you’ll be paid in compensation depends on the amount of time you were delayed, not how much you paid for your ticket.

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If you used your airmiles or you bought a cheaper ticket for your child, none of this matter. You’ll be awarded compensation per person based on the amount of time that you were delayed.

Children are also eligible for the compensation – there is no age restriction on how young a claimant can be as long as they paid a fare or a booking fee that was available to the general public.

Infants under the age of two who might not even have their own seat will also be able to claim compensation – as long as they paid something for travelling on the aircraft, such as a reduced ticket price or admin fee.

Anyone under the age of 18 will need an adult to claim on their behalf when using a no-win no-fee legal service – this is called a ‘litigation friend’.

Can I claim on my travel insurance for a delayed flight?

Some travel insurance policies offer compensation for delayed flights, but usually for flights that have been delayed for 12 hours or more. The amount they’ll offer you is likely to be low, and you may have to pay excess. In most instances, it is better to claim compensation through the airline. Don’t forget that you are legally entitled to this compensation through EU Regulation 261/2004. It is not a goodwill gesture, it is a legal requirement.

My airline said they cancelled my flight because of ‘freak’ bad weather

In order for an airline to claim that bad weather legitimately delayed a flight, the weather must be ‘freak’ or ‘wholly exceptional’.

Extraordinary weather could include sandstorms, volcanic ash clouds, severe fog, and snow.

Of course, you would expect snow if you were travelling to certain parts of Europe during the winter months, which is why the weather must be wholly exceptional or freak. It would be reasonable for your airline to refuse compensation for a delay to your flight to Jamaica if there was suddenly snow, because snow in Jamaica is wholly exceptional and freskish.

Flight Cancelled Due To Bad Weather? Find Our Your Rights Under EU Reg 261

If the previous flight was affected by ‘extraordinary’ bad weather and caused a delay to your flight, then these situations can often be claimable as the courts have said bad weather affecting a previous flight is an inherent part of running an airline and therefore not extraordinary.

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For example, if you were flying from Manchester to Malaga and the aircraft that was going to take you there was delayed coming in from a German airport that had been affected by very strong winds, the flight from Germany into Manchester may well be classed as an extraordinary circumstance, but you would be able to claim on your flight to Malaga if it arrived more than three hours late.

My airline said they delayed my flight because of a manufacturing defect with our airplane

If there is a genuine hidden manufacturing defect, then this would not be claimable. However, manufacturing defects are extremely rare, and they normally ground entire fleets.

For this to be a valid reason for a delay, the plane manufacturer, the airline or a ‘competent authority’ must have spotted a technical fault that affects all planes of the same model. It must have come from a defect that was made when the plane was being manufactured, and the airline must be grounding all planes it affects so that the defect can be fixed on all of them. This is extremely unlikely to happen.

My airline said they delayed my flight because of industrial action

Delays caused by Air Traffic Control strikes would be classed as an extraordinary circumstance. Strikes by airline staff are claimable if they’re caused by a dispute over working conditions.

What if the flight is late due to staff or crew sickness?

You can make a flight claim if the airline is short-staffed due to crew members who are late, or if the pilot or crew are sick and this means your flight is delayed, as the airline should have contingency plans in place for these occurrences.

There have been a number of court cases on the issue of crew sickness and they have gone in the favour of passengers. This means the airlines cannot use crew sickness or staff shortages as a reason for not paying compensation.

Even if a crew member is taken in during a flight and the plane has to be diverted causing a delay to your arrival, this would also be a claimable situation.