There is no doubt that being faced with a delayed or cancelled flight is universally unpopular and can seriously impact your travel plans, as well as your good mood. The main obstacle for most airline passengers is knowing whether or not they qualify for delayed flight compensation, so having some information on EU Regulation 261/2004 can help, but is not completely necessary.
If you are like most passengers, you may be confused regarding the possibility of obtaining flight delay compensation. If you aren’t sure of your rights, be sure to use a flight calculator, such as the one offered by Bott & Co Solicitors, a free tool that anyone can use easily to get a quick answer on whether or not your flight is claimable for compensation.
Understanding the Different Levels of Compensation
The duration of your delay and the mileage have a bearing on whether you are entitled to compensation, and how much money or what other assistance you might be offered by the airline.
As you would expect, there are some specific guidelines and laws which have been issued, which give you some degree of certainty as to what you should be able to claim. Compensation will depend on where you are flying from and where you are headed to, as well as the origination of the airline.
If you booked a flight that was scheduled to depart from Europe, without regard to the location of the airline, you are eligible. If you booked a flight that arrives in Europe and was provided by a European airline, there is a reasonable chance that you will have certain rights for compensation under EU laws, too.
Passengers have up to six years to claim compensation for flight delays. If makes no difference what your citizenship happens to be, or how you paid for your ticket.
Slight Delays: The Three or Four Hour Window
A delay of a few hours is irritating, especially if you have connections or made other specific onward-travel arrangements. For this reason, a delay over three hours may qualify you for compensation. The amount of compensation depends on how far the flight travels, as well.
Here is a breakdown of the current payment schedule:
- Passengers delayed over three hours on short flights of up to 1,499km can get €250 or £180.
- For flights between 1,500 and 3,500km delayed over three hours, the compensation is €400 or £280.
- For longer flights of 3,500km or more, passengers delayed between three and four hours will receive €300 or £210.
- Flights over 3,500km delayed more than four hours will compensate passengers with €600 or £420.
Most airlines make an effort to value your customs and try to look after you in circumstances like an unexpected delay, but if it is a flight that is governed by EU regulations, certain legal rights you have will compel the airline to offer you several specific things.
The airline must provide food and drink that is appropriate for that time of the day. They may provide you with a food and drink voucher, as well as give you a way to make phone calls and send emails, if you need to make contact with someone to update them about your amended travel plans.
Longer Delays and Cancellations: Food, Drink and Accommodations
Delays to your flight that are longer than three to four hours, could allow you to make a claim for further compensation in addition to the accommodations, food, and drink entitlement for a shorter delay.
If your flight is delayed overnight, your airline will offer you overnight accommodations and transportation to and from the hotel and airport, or if closer, they will offer you transportation home. If you are not given this assistance as a matter of course, ask the airline, or at least keep receipts of what you spend, so that you can claim your money back from them at a later date.
As you should expect, the airline is not going to pay for a suite and a sumptuous dinner, so you should expect to get reasonable expenses, that would fall into the budget accommodation and meals category, and you won’t get paid for any alcohol you consume, either.
If you unsure about any aspect of this compensation structure or feel that the circumstances might warrant a greater reward, get some expert legal advice on what you might be able to claim for.
Exceptions to the Rule
It is worth bearing in mind that you won’t get compensation if a flight is delayed due to circumstances that are beyond the control of the airline, such as:
- Weather problems
- Time necessary to de-ice the aircraft
- Industrial strikes
- Civil unrest or war
- Obscured manufacturer defects
- Security risks
- Restrictions by air traffic control
- Natural disasters
- On board medical emergencies
- Certain crew issues
If your airline cancels your flight; however, you should be entitled to a full or partial refund, depending on your specific circumstances. The airlines can offer you a replacement flight, so that you can get to your original chosen destination. The Civil Aviation Authority has published guidance on how to complain further if you are not happy with how the airline handled your situation.
Delays and cancellations are never going to make your day go better, but at least there are options when it comes to being compensated for your inconvenience. If you think you are eligible for compensation, make it simple by enlisting in the help of a flight compensation calculator to answer your eligibility questions quickly.
Steven Allen is a UK based business traveller with more than a decade of experience contributing articles to numerous travel sites. He has a keen interest in consumer rights and is always looking for ways to improve customer service for airline passengers.