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EU Flight Delay Compensation: Understanding Your Passenger Rights

EU Flight Delay Compensation: Understanding Your Passenger Rights

Anton Radchenko
Reviewed by a licensed lawyer.
Last Updated: April 11, 2024

Claim up to €600 for flight delays in Europe

Dealing with a flight delay in the EU can be an overwhelming experience often resulting in unexpected expenses. Can you relate? Around 9 million air passengers are affected by flight disruptions every year, but nearly 86% of them don’t realise they have rights that protect them. Because of this, an untold amount of money goes unclaimed every year! Find out how you can claim up to €600 in European flight delay compensation no matter your country of citizenship or residency.

 

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European Flight Delay Compensation: The Basics

European Regulation 261/2004 (EU261) is a set of rules that protect passengers travelling in one of the EU’s 27 member countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and 9 special states.

These rules require airlines to provide you with care and assistance as well as cash compensation depending on the specifics of your situation. You don’t have to be a citizen or resident of an EU country to be protected by these rules, but your flight has to:

  1. Depart from an EU airport or
  2. Be operated by an EU airline arriving in EU territory

Here is a simple table with the flights covered by EU rules that qualify for compensation:

Flight Itinerary

EU Airline

non-EU Airline

within EU

 Yes

 Yes

EU airport - non-EU airport

 Yes

 Yes

non-EU airport - EU airport

 Yes

 No

outside EU 

 Yes

 No

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2-Hour Flight Delays: Care & Assistance 

If you’ve met these requirements, then the first kind of EU delay compensation you can get is care and assistance. Here’s how it works:

If your flight is delayed and you are left waiting in the airport for 2 hours or more, then the airline is required to furnish you with the following:

  • Food
  • Drink
  • Access to communication
  • Hotel stay and transport (if your delay is so long that you have to wait overnight)

 

3-Hour Flight Delays: Cash Compensation 

Now, if you end up arriving at your final destination 3 or more hours after your originally scheduled arrival time, EU regulations state that you may be eligible to get cash compensation from the airline. However, the cause of your flight delay must be the airline’s fault - meaning that they could have prevented or avoided it somehow. If the airline can prove that the delayed flight was caused by something outside its control or by extraordinary circumstances, then you will NOT be eligible for cash compensation.

EU flight delay compensation time limit varies from country to country

In addition, you can only get compensated for the delay if you checked-in on time and if you submit your claim before the filing deadline, which is usually 3 years, but each country has its own statute of limitations.

Deadline

Country

10 months

Latvia

1 year

Belgium, Poland

2 years

Iceland, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland

2 years 2 months

Italy

3 years

Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic*, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany**, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden***

5 years

Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Spain

6 years

Cyprus, Ireland, UK (except Scotland)

10 years

Lithuania, Luxembourg

No limit

Malta

* Czech Republic: you must inform the airline that your flight was delayed within 6 months after the delay. Then your payment claim will be valid for 3 years.

** Germany: deadline expires on the last day of the third year. For example, you had a flight delay on 07/04/2021. The deadline to submit a claim for this flight expires on 31/12/2024.

*** Sweden: deadline is renewed at any time when a claim is made. So the deadline for any later claims would be 3 years from the time the last claim was filed.

Suppose that your flight by Lufthansa was delayed. The main office of the airline is Cologne (Germany). This means that the compensation time limit is 3 years.

The above table shows the deadline for whatever flight disruption you might have such as denied boarding and cancelled flights. This means you can get denied boarding compensation or cancelled flights compensation of up to €600 if applied within the deadline.

Some airlines hold up the procedure on purpose, waiting for the end of the deadline. So, we advise you to apply for your compensation immediately after your flight disruption. This way you will not miss the time limit.

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5-Hour Flight Delays

If your flight is delayed for 5 or more hours, then you can get:

  1. Care and assistance, and
  2. Eligibility for cash compensation, and
  3. A full ticket refund or a replacement flight to your original point of departure 
  4. If you choose a refund and to abandon the rest of your journey, then the airline must also pay you for the flights you have not made as well as the flights you have already taken that are now pointless.

EU Delay Compensation

Length of Delay

Compensation

2 hours or more

  • Complementary meals and refreshments
  • Access to communication

3 hours or more

  • Cash compensation up to €600 (if airline is to blame) 
  • Meals and refreshments
  • Access to communication

5 hours or more

  • Cash compensation up to €600 (if airline is to blame) 
  • Meals and refreshments 
  • Access to communication
  • Full ticket refund

EU Delayed Flight Cash Compensation: How Much Can You Claim?

As we mentioned above, if you are delayed by 3 hours or more, then you could be eligible for financial compensation as long as the airline can’t blame the flight disruption on severe weather, air traffic control, or other extraordinary circumstances.

To figure out exactly how much you can claim from the airline, you have to consider the total delay time as well as the distance of your flight, but in general, compensation can be anywhere from €250 and €600 per passenger that must be paid to you via cash, bank check, eTransfer, or to your credit card.

So, if your flight was delayed by at least 3 hours, then here’s how much compensation you could claim based on flight distance:

  • Short distance flights less than 1,500km (London to Berlin) - €250
  • Medium distance flights more than 1,500km (London to Lisbon) - €400
  • Long distance flight more than 3,500km (London to New York) - €600

Who is Ineligible for EU Cash Compensation 

If you've had a flight delay, remember that in order to be eligible for compensation, you must have checked-in and arrived at the gate on time. Typically, you must check in at least 45 minutes or so before your scheduled departure.

Also, if you are flying with free or discounted tickets that were only made available for a select few (like if you won a flight as an award), then you won’t be able to claim for flight delay compensation. However, you will still get the same care and assistance!

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Extraordinary Circumstances

In earlier sections, we said that the airline can avoid paying you cash compensation for flight delays when the cause of the delay was something beyond their control and due to extraordinary circumstances. But what are these situations?

This table illustrates what is and isn’t within the airline’s control.

When airlines are to blame for delays

Within the airlines’ control

(Yes, compensation)

Outside the airline’s control 

(No compensation)

Airline strikes

Air traffic control restrictions

Scheduling errors

Airport strike

Operational issues

Dangerous weather

Technical issues

Civil unrest

Staffing issues

*Manufacturer defect with plane

* Recently, airlines have been struggling with defects from new Boeing planes. When this or other manufacturer defects affect flights and cause delays, the airline doesn’t have to issue cash compensation because the cause of the delay was outside their control.

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EU Airline Delay Statistics

You might be wondering the likelihood of experiencing a flight delay while travelling in the EU. Statistics from Eurocontrol for 2023 show that even though the region experienced more flights overall, it has the same punctuality (71% on-time) as 2022.

Europcontrol’s Best and Worst On-Time Airlines

Most On-Time

Worst On-Time

Iberia (85%)

Air France (71%)

Widerøe (85%)

Turkish Airlines (64%)

Vueling (82%) 

Pegasus (62%)

Norwegian (81%)

TAP (61%)

Here at AirAdvisor, we have an abundance of data that we use to do our own analysis of airlines and airports. We recently put together our take on the Best European Airlines, and punctuality was a big part of the equation.

When it comes to punctuality, Ryanair in Ireland ranked #1 with an on-time performance rating of 85% in 2022 and 87% in 2023. Meanwhile, we found that TAP had the worst on-time performance ranking in the EU with only 58% of flights arriving on time in 2023, meaning that 2 out of 5 flights arrive late.

if you miss connecting flights you may be entitled to EC flight delay compensation

EU Flight Delay Compensation Compared to Other Areas

Each region or country has its own regulations for air passenger rights, so you might be wondering how EU compensation for flight delays stacks up against others. Here’s a table that will give you a better understanding of the differences.

Flight Delay Compensation Comparison

Country/Region

Cash Compensation

Canada

€85 to €680 per passenger

UK

€250 to €600 per passenger

EU

€250 to €600 per passenger

Turkey

€100 to €600 per passenger

US

None

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Steps to Take When Your Flight is Delayed

As soon as you learn about your flight delay, try to find out what caused it by asking airline staff. When you get some answers, keep a record of them because this will help you support your case later. If the airline tells you the delay was caused by staffing shortages but when you file your claim, they argue that it was because of weather, then you have proof to back up your argument.

Next, you’ll want to collect all relevant travel documents including your boarding pass, booking receipts, photos of information boards and screenshots of delay notifications. Also, when you arrive at your final destination, write down what time you actually landed compared to your scheduled arrival time. Providing this in your claim will also help strengthen your case. 

If your delay is more than 2 hours long and you haven’t been offered coupons for meals and refreshments, then request them from airline staff. Similarly, if your delay is overnight, feel free to request accommodation from the airline if they haven’t offered it to you.

If you end up having any out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the delay, keep your receipts so you can submit these along with your compensation claim for reimbursement.

Remember not to accept vouchers or sign anything unless you fully understand the nuances of what you’re accepting. Sometimes airlines will offer vouchers in lieu of a refund, but they tend to come with many restrictions and can also forfeit your right to cash compensation.

Lastly, get in touch with AirAdvisor! Our experienced legal team will prepare all necessary documents for the successful claim submission.

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How AirAdvisor Can Help 

We’ve helped more than 230,000 travellers with their EU flight compensation claims, and we make the process easy and stress-free!

Here’s what you do:

  1. Check if you are eligible for compensation by entering your flight information into our free flight delay compensation calculator.
  2. If eligible, file your claim with AirAdvisor, and our team will do the rest for you.
  3. Our team will examine your claim in more detail, gather all the necessary information, talk to the airline, build your case, and defend your passenger rights in court.

Why you can trust the airline compensation experts at AirAdvisor

  • At AirAdvisor, we’ve been defending air passenger rights since 2017
  • We’re rated 4.6 out of 5 (excellent) 
  • We work on a No-win, No-fee basis

Did you submit your claim on your own? No problem! You could still transfer it to our team, and we’ll get your compensation for you.

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All your data remains confidential.

Common Questions

Can you get EU flight compensation for missed connecting flights?

Yes! You can get connecting flight compensation for the delays at any point of the trip as long as your initial flight departs from an EU airport, or the final flight is operated by an EU airline, and you arrive at the final destination with a delay of more than three hours

Can you get compensation if your flight is delayed and then cancelled later? 

Yes! You will be offered the same compensation for care and assistance as you would be for delays based on the amount of time you have to wait at the airport. Then, you can still get cash compensation for your cancelled flight based on the amount of time you are delayed at your final destination and the distance of your flight.

Is there any chance of getting compensation if you know your flight was delayed because of extraordinary circumstances?

There’s always a chance, even though it might be a slim one. Try entering your flight details into the compensation checker to see if your flight is eligible.

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