If your flight is delayed you may be entitled to compensation under EU rules. Find out more, and whether you may qualify for back-dated compensation...
Delayed flights aren't just an inconvenience or annoyance - they can scupper holidays plans or spoil a whole weekend away.
Many flight delays are short, but if you find yourself stranded for an extended period you could be eligible to claim compensation.
The European Union's (EU) Denied Boarding Regulation provides protection if you're flying with an EU-based airline, or a non-EU based airline flying from an EU airport.
The regulation states that the airline has an obligation to offer you assistance if your flight delay is expected to go on beyond a certain point.
If you're travelling with a non-EU based airline from a non-EU destination, the airline doesn't have the same duty to look after you.
In such a case, check the airline's condition of carriage to see what compensation you're entitled to.
Under the Denied Booking Regulation, what you're entitled to depends on the length of the flight delay and the length of your flight.
You can also choose not to travel and get a refund of your ticket cost if the delay lasts for five hours or more (but the flight is not cancelled).
This right to compensation was upheld by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 23 October, 2012, following a challenge to an earlier ruling.
The decision stated that the Denied Booking Regulation must be interpreted as giving passengers the right to compensation for delays of three hours or more.
In the first test case since the 2012 ECJ decision,† Stoke-on-Trent county court ruled that Thomas Cook had to pay compensation to passengers who, in 2009, had experienced a 22-hour delay caused by a mechanical fault.
But there are a few important qualifiers to this ruling:
The rules of the Denied Boarding Regulation apply - compensation is only available for a flight leaving an EU airport, or an EU airline arriving at an EU airport. These can be scheduled, chartered or part of a package holiday.
You can claim for compensation on any flights dating back to February 2005. However, in the UK, if you have to take an airline to court to get the cash, you can only go back six years.
Compensation for delays is only due on flights arriving three hours or more late. Note that if the delay is due to flight cancellation, compensation should be available.
You're only entitled to compensation if the delay was something within the airline's control. Under-booking and not having the aircraft in place should fall into this category.
Extraordinary circumstances are situations beyond the control of the airline, for example, security risk, political instability or severe weather that makes flying dangerous. Strikes are also usually included in this category.
Technical problems can be 'extraordinary circumstances', but where the problem should have been picked up by routine maintenance you should expect compensation.
It's worth challenging your airline if you don't agree that there were extraordinary circumstances, for example if you're told that you can't fly due to severe weather, but other flights are departing.
For flights with connections, the time that counts is the one you arrived at your final destination.
So, for example, if your first flight arrives two hours late and you miss your connection meaning that you arrive four hours late at your final destination, the four hours is the crucial figure.
Gather any evidence you have, including proof you were on the flight, such as receipts, email confirmation or boarding pass
Note that if you book your connecting flight separately from your original flight then you can only claim based on the delay to each individual flight.
This is not a refund on a ticket price - the amount you are due is fixed in euros and dependent on the length of flight and length of delay.
Some airlines will offer compensation in vouchers, but you don't have to accept this; EU laws state that you have a right to cash. The compensation is per person, so if you were travelling as a family of four, quadruple the amount.
|Flight length||Arrival delay||Compensation|
|Up to 1,500km (932 miles)||Three hours plus||€250|
|Any flight within the EU over 1,500km (932 miles) or any other flight between 1,500km-3,500km (2,175 miles)||Three hours plus||€400|
|More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)||From three-to-four hours||€300|
|More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)||Four hours plus||€600|
Gather any evidence you have, including proof you were on the flight, such as receipts, email confirmation or boarding pass. So long as you know the flight number and length of the delay, the airline should have passenger logs.
Write to the airline quoting 'EC Regulation 261/2004', listing your delay and request for compensation for each person in your party.
If the airline has gone under you'll need to contact the administrators and claim as a creditor, which may prove difficult. However, if you paid using a credit card and the flight cost over £100, then the card company is also liable.
If your claim is rejected for reasons you disagree with, then you can contact the Civil Aviation Authority† and ask whether it believes you are entitled to compensation.