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Flight Delay Compensation Explained

Flight Delay Compensation Explained

Anton Radchenko
Reviewed by a licensed lawyer.
Last Updated: June 07, 2024

Experiencing a flight delay is not only stressful, but it can also lead to unexpected out-of-pocket expenses. Alarmingly, almost 82% of air passengers do not file a claim for flight delay compensation because they simply don't know where to start. This is where we come in to help.

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At AirAdvisor, we’ve claimed over £42 million in flight compensation, and we remain the fastest-growing service company protecting air passenger rights. Since 2017, our team of legal experts has been the trusted partner for over 250,000 consumers, helping them win the flight compensation they rightly deserve. If you’ve had a flight delay, enter your details below to see how much compensation you could be eligible to receive.

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This guide is based on the work expertise from a team of more than 20 people over the past 7 years who worked countless hours to produce this practical material. We diligently analysed regulations and relevant court practices in the UK and EU countries and simplified all this information for you so you will know how to claim flight delay compensation, how to deal with airline rejections, understand your air passenger rights and eligibility criteria, and many other important details.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Under the rules of EU 261/UK 261, you may be entitled to compensation if your flight is delayed by at least 3 hours.
  • EU 261 is known in the UK as UK 261 and ensures the same passenger rights as the EU law, only the amounts are given in pounds.
  • Compensation amounts vary from £220 (€250) to £520 (€600) based on flight distance.
  • Airlines aren't required to pay compensation if the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances beyond their control.
  • It's important to submit a well-supported claim, including all necessary documents, or your claim could be denied.
  • Airlines must respond to claims within 30 days, but many wait until the last possible day to deny a claim, or they ignore claims that come directly from passengers.
  • AirAdvisor offers the lowest prices, so an average family can save up to €120 when compared to other services. We kept our historic success fees low, so you can get more from airlines.
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What is Flight Delay Compensation?

Delayed flight compensation is a monetary payment that some airlines are required to pay passengers following a lengthy delay. Ultimately, it's a way to hold airlines accountable for any avoidable disruptions they cause. The compensation amount you could receive is determined by various factors, including the length of the delay, the distance of the flight, and the region from which the flight departed.

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What Are the Regulations for Flight Delays

In the European Union, the EU Regulation 261/2004, commonly referred to as EU261, dictates your air passenger rights when your plane is delayed, cancelled, or overbooked.

Similarly, in the UK, the Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, commonly known as UK 261, applies. This is a direct incorporation of the EU261 regulation into UK law, following Brexit.

Family near the plane

These regulations outline the conditions under which you’re entitled to compensation in Europe and the UK (amongst other forms of compensation, such as cancelled flight compensation), the amounts payable, and the responsibilities of the airlines.

Other regions, such as the United States and Canada, have their own sets of regulations and laws pertaining to flight delays and passenger rights, which we’ll explore later.

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UK Law: Key Points

As mentioned, UK261 was introduced after the UK's exit from the EU. It mirrors EU261 by ensuring that passenger rights remain intact. So, like EU261, UK261 covers flights departing from the UK on any airline, or flights arriving in the UK and operated by a UK airline.

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Fact: Your nationality doesn’t affect your rights to claim compensation under UK261 and EU261.

Other key points to note regarding UK261 include:

  • UK261 covers flights departing from the UK, or arriving in the UK when operated by a UK airline.
  • If you experience a delay of 3 hours or more, you're eligible for compensation.
  • You are entitled to care in the form of food, drink, and accommodation (for overnight delays) if your flight is delayed for 2 or more hours.
  • Airlines are responsible for providing you with UK flight delay compensation unless the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances.
  • You have up to 6 years to file your delayed flight compensation claim.

In certain situations, a flight may fall under the jurisdiction of both UK261 and EC261 regulations, giving you the option to pursue a claim through the UK legal system or through the respective EU country's system.

Itinerary

EU Airline

UK Airline

Non-EU/ Non-UK Airline

Departure from the UK/EU with Arrival in the UK/EU

Covered

Covered

Covered

Departure from the UK/EU with Arrival outside the UK/EU

Covered

Covered

Covered

Departure from OUTSIDE the UK/EU with Arrival in the UK/EU

Covered

Covered

Not Covered

Departure from OUTSIDE the UK/EU with Arrival OUTSIDE the UK/EU

Not Covered

Not Covered

Not Covered

For instance, consider a delay on a Wizz Air flight from Milan to Manchester. Some UK-based legal practitioners may recommend initiating claims within the UK as a strategy to secure more business locally. However, this approach might not always be in your best interest because some EU member states have court practices that are more favourable to passengers compared to those in the UK.

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Expert Insight: Many airlines resist paying claims without a thorough legal process, making the selection of the right court crucial. The decision depends on various factors and can be more easily handled by an airline compensation expert like AirAdvisor.

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EU 261/2004 Regulation - What Flights are Covered?

Delayed flight eligibility, under EU 261, is determined by whether the following requirements have been met.

1. Geographical Coverage

  • Your flight departs from an EU country (including Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and 9 territories).
  • Your flight departs from outside the EU and arrives in the EU on an EU carrier.

2. Airlines

  • Any flight operated by an EU-based airline, regardless of the point of departure or arrival.
  • Flights operated by a non-EU-based airline, only when they depart from an EU airport.

3. Nationality / Residency

4. Exception

  • Flights from outside the EU with a non-EU airline aren't covered by EU law.

What Flights are Covered under UK/EU 261

Other key points of EU261 include:

  • Eligibility: You're eligible for cash compensation if your flight is delayed for at least 3 hours.
  • Responsibility: Airlines must compensate you for a disrupted flight unless the delay is out of their control.
  • Statute of Limitations: In EU countries, the claim period is determined by each country individually. Generally speaking, the claim period is 3 years, though, there can be instances in which it’s only 1 year.
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Global Regulations: Montreal Convention

For international flights not governed by EU 261 or UK 261, the Montreal Convention serves as the key legal reference and has been adopted by 136 countries including the US. It provides universal guidelines for international air travel, including an avenue for reclaiming passengers’ out-of-pocket expenses (like hotel stays and rebooked flights) incurred from flight disruptions, as well as lost and damaged baggage protections.

Unlike EU 261 or UK 261, the Montreal Convention doesn't offer fixed compensation amounts, potentially making it more challenging to ascertain and enforce payout figures. However, it does stipulate a 2-year window from the date of arrival for initiating claims. While it encompasses a vast network of countries, passengers might find it beneficial to claim under EU 261 or UK 261 where applicable, as these regulations may present more favourable terms.

Comparison table of flight delay rights around the world

Below, you can review a table outlining the various amounts of compensation you may be entitled to around the world:

Comparison table of flight delay rights around the world

How Much Compensation Can You Get for a Flight Delay?

The amount of compensation you're entitled to varies depending on several factors: How long you’re delayed, the distance you’re travelling, and the location of your airport or airline.

Flight Delay Compensation Amounts

Delayed Flight Compensation UK/EU

Flight Delay at Final Destination

Travel Distance of Your Flight

all flights, less than 1,500km

ex. London – Berlin

all internal UK/EU flights, more than 1,500km

ex. London – Lisbon

all non-internal UK/EU flights, 1,500-3,500km

ex. London – New York

all non-internal EU flights, more than 3,500km

ex. London – Dubai

Less than 3 hours

no compensation

3 hours or more

£220 (€250)

£350 (€400)

£350 (€400)

£520 (€600)*

Never arrived

* We are always aiming for the maximum amount of compensation for you no matter for how many hours your flight was delayed.

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PRO TIP: Currency exchange rates may affect the exact amount of compensation you receive. For flights between the EU and the UK, you can choose to file your claim in either location. Just determine which option offers the higher amount for your specific situation.

US/Global

In the United States and globally, the Montreal Convention applies to flight disruptions, but it doesn’t have fixed compensation amounts for flight delays. Instead, you can claim up to 5,346 Special Drawing Rights (approximately €6,690 or $7,000) for damages incurred due to a flight delay.

It's important to note, however, that you must prove that the airline was at fault for the delay and that you incurred damages as a result.

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How Long Does Your Flight Have to Be Delayed to Claim Compensation?

The length of time that your flight is delayed along with the distance of your trip will both play a role in determining whether you’re eligible for compensation.

UK/EU: Under both EU 261 and UK 261, you’re entitled to compensation if your flight arrives at its final destination 3 or more hours later than scheduled, except in the case of 'extraordinary circumstances', which are situations beyond the airline's control.

passenger waiting in line to talk to airport staff after flight delay is announced

If your flight is delayed by at least 2 hours, then you are entitled to care from the carrier in the form of food, refreshments, and accommodation.

Travel Distance of Your Flight

All flights, less than 1,500km

All internal EU flights, more than 1,500km

All non-internal EU flights, 1,500-3,500km

All non-internal EU flights, more than 3,500km

Your Waiting Time in the Airport

2 hours or more

3 hours or more

3 hours or more

4 hours or more

US/Global: The Montreal Convention doesn’t establish how long the delay must be before you’re entitled to compensation. Instead, you must prove that you incurred damages as a result of the delay and that the airline was at fault.

Flight delays are calculated based on the difference between the scheduled arrival time and the actual arrival time, which is marked when the aeroplane doors open at the final destination.

To strengthen any flight compensation claim, you should meticulously document the delay by keeping your boarding pass, noting the actual arrival time, and retaining any communication or receipts pertaining to the delay.

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Extraordinary Circumstances for Flight Delays

'Extraordinary circumstances' are unforeseen events beyond an airline's control. When a flight is delayed because of extraordinary circumstances, then the airline is not required to compensate you. Examples of extraordinary circumstances can include:

  • Dangerous weather
  • Air traffic control restrictions
  • Airport strikes (but not airline employees strikes, which are controllable events)
  • Political unrest
  • General safety or security concerns (an airline cannot refer to an aircraft malfunction as a safety reason)

No matter what an airline does to prevent delays, circumstances like the ones listed above can be impossible to avoid. By contrast, some circumstances are within the airline’s control, so when a flight is delayed because of any of the following reasons, then the carrier would have to pay compensation.

  • Technical faults
  • Crew scheduling issues
  • Flight scheduling issues
  • Airline strikes
  • Airline operational issues

Airlines are required to prove that they took all possible measures to prevent the delay, even in cases where extraordinary circumstances were present.

Extraordinary Circumstances for Flight Delays

At AirAdvisor, we often see situations where airlines use these reasons as an excuse to avoid payments, so if your flight was disrupted because of what the airline calls extraordinary circumstances, you should still check your eligibility for compensation.

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How to Claim Flight Delay Compensation

How to File Compensation Claim

Here are the steps to take if your plane has been delayed as well as other information you’ll need including:

  • The documents required to make a claim.
  • Estimated time frame for receiving your compensation.
  • What tools are available to assist you throughout the process.

What to Do if Your Flight Was Disrupted

What to Do if Your Flight Was Disrupted

As soon as you find out that your flight is delayed, take the following steps:

  1. Ask the airline why the flight was delayed.
  2. Hold on to your boarding pass and other travel documents, such as your booking confirmation. All flight details and documents are crucial for the compensation process.
  3. To support your compensation claim, note the originally scheduled arrival time and gather tangible evidence of the delay. You can do this by taking a photo of your boarding pass and taking photos of the departure board or any official delay announcements from the airline.
  4. If you’re delayed by 2 hours or more, ask the airline agents to provide you with complimentary meals and refreshments.
  5. If the delay exceeds 5 hours, you can request a refund for the flight if it's no longer suitable for you.
  6. If the flight delay lasts until the next day, ask for accommodation and transportation.
  7. Keep track of all receipts for additional expenses you had to make while waiting for the postponed flight. This would include food and drink (non-alcoholic), and, in some cases, a hotel, taxi fares, etc., unless provided by the airline.
  8. Don't sign any waivers as you may lose your right to compensation for your delayed flight. Also, note the small print before you accept a voucher. It usually states that the carrier no longer has to compensate you because you’ve agreed to the terms of the voucher. Also, be aware that vouchers tend to have lots of restrictions and black-out dates with short expiry periods.
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Documents You Need to File the Flight Delay Claim

Documents You Need to File the Flight Delay Claim

Securing compensation for a flight delay involves several steps, and having the necessary documents at your disposal is crucial. When you file a claim with AirAdvisor, we’ll ask you to complete a set of specific documents to ensure the process is carried out efficiently and effectively:

  1. Booking Confirmation: This document contains vital details about your flight, including the booking reference number or PNR, flight number, and the names of the passengers on the booking.
  2. Boarding Pass: This is the most fundamental document that you’ll need. It serves as proof that you were a passenger on the flight in question.
  3. Flight Delay Confirmation: This can be a photo of the departure or arrival board showing the delay or a screenshot of an announcement from the airline confirming the delay.
  4. Receipts: If you incurred additional expenses due to the delay, such as meals, hotel accommodation, or transportation, keep the receipts. While airlines frequently deny such claims when made by passengers directly, the AirAdvisor team routinely recovers these additional costs from airlines.

Remember, simply sending a flight delay compensation letter won't be enough in most cases. It's essential to submit formal documents and to complete the process accurately to increase your chances of success. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Over 250,000 found themselves in a similar situation and trusted AirAdvisor to handle the claims process for them.

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Compensation Claims: How Long Does It Take to Get Your Money

How Long Does It Take to Get Your Money

The processing times for delayed flight compensation claims can differ from one airline to another. Regulations require airlines to respond within 30 days, but most carriers will reply late or ignore claims submitted by passengers directly (without representation by a third party or a lawyer).

The whole process can take up to 3 months, but AirAdvisor can expedite the process for you. If the airline is uncooperative, then our experts  can help you take them to court, however, this process can take up to a year.

It's worth noting that when you handle the claim on your own, airlines will often procrastinate until the last day to reject your claim. They do this because they bank on the fact that most passengers are unaware of their rights. 

If you want to increase your chances of a successful claim, choose AirAdvisor to help you with the process. We streamline the compensation claim process, offering a step-by-step guide to ensure that no important details are missed.

After your claim is submitted, our expert team handles all the necessary steps to secure your compensation, offering a no-win, no-fee guarantee. While there are other basic tools available for early claim preparation, AirAdvisor offers a comprehensive, hassle-free solution.

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Tips on Flight Compensation Claims: Expert Advice

Navigating the claims process for disrupted flights can be complex, but with some expert advice, it might be easier to handle. Here are a couple of key tips to keep in mind:

Stick to Cash and Avoid Airline Vouchers

When seeking compensation for a postponed flight, we recommend that you opt for cash rather than accepting airline vouchers. Vouchers may come with restrictions and expiry dates, whereas cash compensation offers more flexibility and can be used at your discretion.

Approximately 84% of travel vouchers expire unused.

a screenshot of an airline title about flight refundsa screenshot of an airline title about flight vouchers

What Can I Claim for a Delayed Flight: Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Apart from compensation for the delay, you can also claim out-of-pocket expenses. Just remember to keep all your receipts so you can use them to back up your claim.

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Why AirAdvisor?

Here's why partnering with AirAdvisor is a smart choice:

  1. Expertise and Experience: With a track record of managing over 250,000 cases over the last 7 years and a customer satisfaction rating of 4.6 out of 5 from more than 15,391 verified reviews, our expertise and commitment to our clients are unquestionable.
  2. Lowest Pricing: The average family can save up to €120 or more by switching to AirAdvisor from other more expensive providers. We are the lowest-cost service provider in the market, ensuring you get the maximum compensation without hefty fees.
  3. Risk-Free Service: Our service is based on a no-win, no-fee basis. This means that if we don’t secure your compensation, you don’t owe us a thing. Our commission is withheld from the airline payout.
  4. Hassle-Free Process: Once you file a claim with AirAdvisor, we take over all the hard work. From case preparation to filing your lawsuit in court, our team handles everything, saving you from the headaches of dealing with airlines.
  5. Increased Chances of Success: Airlines are more likely to pay compensation when AirAdvisor steps in because they are aware of our successful collection efforts (98% success rate).
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People Also Ask 

What is flight delay compensation?

Airlines are required to compensate air passengers for the inconvenience (aka lost time) up to £520 (€600), which is set in EU Regulation 261 and depends on the distance of your flight. The UK has adopted the same rules in addition to the right to recover any out-of-pocket expenses.

What happens if your plane is delayed?

If your flight is delayed by 3 hours, you might be eligible for compensation up to £520 (€600) depending on the reason for the delay.

What are your rights if your flight is delayed?

If your plane is delayed, you have the right to care (meals, refreshments, accommodation) and may be eligible for monetary compensation.

What makes a flight eligible for a flight delay claim?

You can file a compensation claim if the delay is at least 3 hours, it's the airline's fault, and the flight is within the EU/UK or operated by an EU/UK airline, or any airline flight departing from the UK/EU.

Can you claim for flight delays caused by bad weather?

No, under UK 261 and EU 261, you generally cannot claim compensation for delays caused by bad weather as it is considered an 'extraordinary circumstance' beyond the airline's control. However, you’re entitled to care and assistance during the delay, which may include meals, refreshments, and accommodation if necessary.

How long does the flight need to be delayed to get compensation?

The flight must be delayed by at least 3 hours upon arrival at your final destination.

When do you get compensation for delays, and when do you not?

You get compensation for flight delays over 3 hours that are the airline's fault. You don’t get compensation for delays because of extraordinary circumstances like severely bad weather.

Can you get delayed flight compensation outside of Europe?

Yes, as long as your flight departed from the EU/UK (with any airline), or if you flew with an EU/UK-based airline.

How much compensation are you entitled to for a delayed flight?

UK and EU law provides three levels of compensation: £120/€250, £350/€400 or £520/€600, depending on the distance of your entire flight journey no matter the cost of your ticket.

UK flight delay compensation: How to claim?

To claim flight compensation in the UK, you can submit a claim to the airline, including flight details, length of delay, and any expenses incurred. For the best chance at a successful claim, consider letting AirAdvisor handle the claims process for you.

How is a compensation amount calculated?

A flight delay is calculated based on the difference between the scheduled arrival time and the actual arrival time at your final destination.

What happens if you miss a connecting flight? Can you claim compensation?

If you miss a connecting flight because of a delay in the first leg of your trip and arrive at your final destination 3 or more hours later than you should’ve, you may be eligible for missed connection compensation.

When can you claim compensation for a delayed flight?

You can bring a claim shortly upon arrival at your final destination. The time limit to bring a claim is determined by the country where your airline is based. If you fly to/from the UK, it is 6 years and most EU countries have approx 2-3 years to bring a claim.

Are infants entitled to compensation for flight delay?

As a general rule - no, unless you purchased an extra seat for your baby. But in a recent case, a UK judge ruled in favour of a 6-month-old infant who flew without a paid seat. So, it pays to file a claim with AirAdvisor.

Can you Claim Flight Compensation on behalf of a child?

Yes, children have the same passenger rights as adults. So make sure to include your entire family when you claim compensation from an airline.

Can you claim compensation for a 1-hour flight delay?

No, the minimum delay needs to be 3 hours or more.

Can you claim compensation for a 2-hour flight disruption?

If your flight is delayed by 2 hours, you won’t be eligible for cash compensation, but you can request care from the airline in the form of food, drink, and accommodation.

Can you claim money back if you had extra costs due to a flight delay?

Generally yes. The law permits the recovery of these kinds of extra costs, as long as they are reasonable (e.g., food, taxi, hotel in case of overnight delay) and you have receipts to substantiate your claim.

Where do you claim flight delay compensation?

Most airlines’ websites have a section called “Complaints”, “Compensation Claims”, or “EU261”. You can file a complaint directly with an airline, and upload your documents and receipts, but it might take 1-2 months just to hear back from the airline.

Do you need insurance to make a claim for flight delay?

No, you can make a claim for compensation under UK 261 or EU 261 and also make a claim under your insurance policy. These are totally different claims. However, you should file a claim with your insurance company right away, as they typically have a short cut-off time.

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