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EU Cancelled Flight Compensation: Your Rights, How Much Can You Get

EU Cancelled Flight Compensation: Your Rights, How Much Can You Get

Joanna Teljeur
Written By Joanna Teljeur
Last Updated: May 09, 2024

You can claim up to €600 for cancelled flights

A cancelled flight might have upset your holiday plans, but as an EU passenger, you have some entitlements that can soothe the sting a bit. Not only that, but you can file a compensation claim a year or more after your cancelled flight incident. We’re going to unpack all of this and more in this article.

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Key Points

  1. Passengers in the EU can get up to €600 for cancelled flights.
  2. In addition to monetary compensation, passengers can also expect to get a refund, an alternate flight, and assistance at the airport.
  3. European Union air passenger rights protect any passenger flying from or within the EU or on a EU-based airline.

Who is Covered by EU Regulations

European Union air passenger rights regulations protect citizens and residents of the EU, but they also cover anyone travelling in the EU. They also extend their protections to some additional countries including:

Norway

Guadeloupe

Iceland

Saint Martin

Switzerland

Reunion

Azores

French Guiana

Madeira

Mayotta

Martinique

Canary Islands

So, if your flight has been cancelled, delayed, or overbooked and you were departing from an EU airport, flying within the EU on any airline, or flying with an EU airline, you will be covered by EU Regulation 261/2004. 

EU Flight Cancellation Rules

How ‘Cancelled Flight’ is Defined

According to the European Union 261 Regulations (EU/EC 261), a cancelled flight can be exactly what you think it is, but it can also mean a flight that had to the airport from which it departed or land somewhere other than your intended final destination. 

These situations do not happen that frequently, but when they do, they can be a result of dangerous weather in the flight path or a situation like air rage where a passenger has to be removed from the aircraft.

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What the EU Regulations Say About Cancelled Flights

The rules of EU 261 state that if your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to:

  • Monetary compensation
  • Information about your rights covered in EU 261
  • Care and assistance
  • A refund and a complimentary ticket back to your original point of departure or 
  • A rebooked flight to your final destination 

You are entitled to these choices whether or not the airline is responsible for the cancellation, however care and assistance and the amount of monetary compensation you could receive is based on additional factors like the distance of your flight and the length of the delay. Let’s take a closer look.

EU flag

Understanding Your EU Passenger Rights

So, if your flight was cancelled, and you decided not to continue on your journey, then you should be offered a full ticket refund.

Refunds 

If you choose this option then it will cover your cancelled flight ticket price, as well as the cost of any other tickets that couldn’t be used as a result of the cancellation or tickets you already used on the first leg of your trip that are now useless because of the cancelled flight. In addition to the refund, you should be given a flight back to your original departure point.

Example scenario

You are travelling from Amsterdam to Milan to attend a wedding. Your booking includes a stopover in Paris.

When you land in Paris, the airline tells you that your flight to Milan is cancelled. They offer an alternative flight, but it doesn’t depart until the next morning which means you will miss the wedding. So, now that your trip to Milan is unnecessary, the airline must refund all your tickets, including your Amsterdam to Paris flight. They must also give you a return ticket back to Amsterdam.

Alternative Flights

On the other hand, if you decide to accept an alternative flight, then the airline must offer you one of the following options:

  • A flight that arrives at your final destination with similar conditions and at the earliest opportunity or
  • A later flight of your choice to your final destination with similar conditions to your original flight (as long as seats are available) or
  • A comparable flight that leaves from another nearby airport. In this case, the airline also has to pay for your transportation to the other airport.
  • A refund between 30-75% of your original ticket price if you accept an alternate flight but given a seat in a lower class. (If you’re given a seat in a higher seating class, then you will not be required to pay for the price difference.)

Example scenario

Your cancelled flight was supposed to land at Paris Charles de Gaulle, but the airline offers you an alternate flight, and you accept it. But instead of going to Charlies de Gaulle, it will arrive at Orly instead. So, when you get to Orly, the airline must pay for your transportation to Charles de Gaulle or to another local destination of your choice.

Care and Assistance

You might also be owed care and assistance compensation in addition to a refund and/or an alternate flight. Complementary meals and phone calls are offered when you have to wait in the airport for at least 2 hours as a result of your cancelled flight. 

Wait Times for Receiving Airline Care & Assistance Compensation 

Travel Distance of Your Flight

All flights, less than 1,500 km

Flights within the EU flights, more than 1,500 km

Non-internal EU flights, 1,500-3,500 km

Non-internal EU flights, more than 3,500 km

Your Waiting Time in the Airport

2 or more hours

3 or more hours

3 or more hours

4 or more hours

Monetary Compensation

The amount of financial compensation you could receive is based on two things:

  1. When you were notified of the cancelled flight and 
  2. Whether the airline was responsible for the cancellation 

When You Were Notified of the Cancellation

If the airline told you about your cancelled flight more than 14 days before scheduled departure, and the airline is at fault, then you will not be eligible for monetary compensation.

  • If you were given less than 14 days’ notice and the airline is at fault, then you could be eligible for financial compensation.
  • If you were given less than 7 days’ notice and the airline is at fault, then your monetary compensation will be calculated based on the details of your alternate flight offered by the airline.
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PRO TIP: If your rebooked flight leaves within 1 hour of your original flight time and arrives within 2 hours of the original time, then you will not be eligible for monetary compensation.

When the Airline is at Fault

Monetary compensation depends on what caused the flight to be cancelled. If the airline cancelled your flight because of something within their control then you could get cash compensation in addition to a refund or rebooked flight

Conditions within the airline’s control include:

  • Partially filled plane - Sometimes a flight is cancelled because it is more cost-effective for the airline to cancel a flight than to fly with a plane that is only partially filled.  
  • No aircraft- If the aeroplane scheduled for your flight is unavailable, and no replacement can be found, then the airline will cancel the flight.
  • Mechanical & technical issues - If the scheduled aircraft has technical problems, and a replacement isn’t found in time, then the airline will cancel the flight.
  • No pilot - If a pilot is feeling unwell before a flight, or if they are unable to make it to the flight in time, and a replacement pilot can’t be found, then the airline will cancel the flight
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PRO TIP: Airlines are responsible for providing you with either a full ticket refund or an alternate flight to your destination even when they can be held accountable for the cancellation.

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How Much Compensation Can You Get for Cancelled Flights 

When your flight is cancelled, EU261 Regulations require airlines to offer you compensation between €125 - €600

The exact amount you receive depends on several factors:

  • The distance you would be travelling
  • Whether your flight was travelling into, out of, or within the EU261 covered countries
  • How long you were delayed at your final destination compared to your originally scheduled arrival time.

The following table will help you determine how much you could be compensated for each situation.

EU Cancelled Flight - Monetary Compensation

Flight Distance

More than 4 hour delay

3-4 hour delay

2-3 hour delay

Less than 2 hours delay

Didn’t arrive

Less than 1,500 km

€250

€250

€250

€125

€250

Flights between 1,500-3,500 km

€400

€400

€200

€200

€400

Flights over 3,500 km

€600

€300

€300

€300

€600

When You Are NOT Eligible for Monetary Compensation

Extraordinary Circumstances

These are situations outside the airline’s control. Some of these include severe weather, air traffic restriction, an airport strike, and civil unrest just to name a few.

Notification or 14+ Days 

If the airline notified you about the cancellation at least 14 days before departure then you won’t be eligible for financial compensation.

Private Ticket

If your ticket was purchased at a private discounted rate (unavailable to the general public) or if it was given to the passenger (i.e. pilots and flight attendants travel free of charge).

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Time Limits to Claim Flight Cancellation Compensation

If you’ve had a cancelled flight, and you want to file a compensation claim, you should begin the process sooner than later. Each covered EU country has their own deadlines for filing claims. Lithuania, for example, has a 10 year time limit, but Poland has only 1 year for filing cancelled flight compensation claims.

Cancelled Flight Compensation - Other Countries

Each country has their own air passenger rights regulations to protect you, so if your travel involves the U.S., Ireland, Canada, or the UK, you can check the appropriate links below to learn more.

EU airport when flight is cancelled

What to Do if Your Flight is Cancelled at the Airport

If you’re already at the airport when your flight is cancelled, then take the following steps:

  1. First, find out what caused the cancellation and get written proof of this. 
  2. Collect all the documentation you have for your flight like tickets and boarding passes.
  3. Take photos or app screenshots of the cancellation notice so you can use this to support your cancellation claim.
  4. Ask the airline for another flight or a refund, care and assistance, or hotel stay (if your replacement flight leaves the following day).
  5. If you decide to accept a rebooking, then make sure to write down the actual time you arrived at your final destination.
  6. If you have any out-of-pocket expenses, keep the receipts
  7. If the airline offers you a travel voucher, be careful about accepting it because it may forfeit your right to monetary compensation.

AirAdvisor Can Help You Get Up To 600 EUR for Flight Cancellations

Feeling overwhelmed? Most people do. Air passenger rights regulations can be unforgivingly complex as is the claims process. Over 250,000 passengers felt the same way and chose AirAdvisor to file their flight cancellation claims for them. Here’s why:

  • We have a 98% success rate! 
  • We’re seasoned experts
  • We’ve been fighting for passenger rights since 2017
  • Our services are available to passengers in 58 countries and growing
  • If English isn’t your first language, no worries. We provide our legal services in 13 different languages to better accommodate you.
  • We fight for your passenger rights for any kind of flight disruption including denied boarding compensation, flight delay compensation, missed connections, in addition to flight cancellations.
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People Also Ask

Are US citizens protected by EU cancelled flight regulations?

Yes, anyone is protected by EU 261 as long as their flight is with an EU carrier or departing from a EU airport.

If you have different airlines operating different legs of your journey, which one should pay you compensation?

The airline that operated the cancelled flight is the one responsible for compensation payouts.

If your flight is cancelled, does the airline pay for a hotel?

If your flight is cancelled and your rebooked flight leaves the following day then the airline is responsible for hotel accommodation as well as transportation to and from the airport.

Can you get cancelled flight compensation if you cancelled the flight?

Unfortunately, you can only get compensation from the airline when they have cancelled the flight. You could still get a refund if you cancel your flight but it depends on the ticket terms and how soon you cancelled.

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