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Flight delay compensation

If your flight’s delayed or cancelled you might be entitled to compensation under EU rules. But only if it was due to something within the airline’s control.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 13 April 2021  | 4 min read

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If you’re flying with an EU-based airline, or flying from an EU airport, The European Union’s (EU) Denied Boarding Regulation means you’ll be given assistance by your airline if you’re stranded at the airport. These rights continued after the UK left the EU in January 2021.

The airline has to help you if your fight is cancelled or delayed beyond a certain time. And this means you don’t have to claim on your travel insurance.

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.

If that’s the case, check the airline’s conditions of carriage instead to see what compensation you’re entitled to.

Key points

  • Under certain circumstances, your airline is obligated to help you if your flight is delayed or cancelled
  • You’re only entitled to compensation if the delay or cancellation was something within the airline’s control
  • The compensation you can get depends on how long the flight was delayed for and your journey

When Denied Boarding Regulation applies

You need to meet the following criteria:

  • Have a confirmed booking
  • Check-in on time or at least 45 minutes before your flight was scheduled to depart
  • Depart from an EU airport, or from a non-EU airport and flying to an EU airport on a ‘community carrier’ (an airline with its headquarters and main place of business within the EU)

The regulation includes all European discount and no-frills airline.


What you’re entitled to

You’ll be offered care and assistance, including:

  • Food and drink
  • Access to phone calls and emails
  • Accommodation and transport between the airport and hotel if you’re delayed overnight

Carriers must pay special attention to the needs of disabled passengers and unaccompanied children.

You can choose not to travel and get a full refund of your ticket cost if the delay lasts for five hours or more (but the flight isn’t cancelled).


Compensation for a delayed flight

You might be able to claim compensation as well as getting assistance at the airport.

How much compensation you get depends on how late the flight is and the distance you’re travelling.

Your flight must be more than three hours late for EU regulations to apply.

Flight length Arrival delay Compensation (based on April 2021 exchange rate)[1]
Short haul - a flight under 932 miles (for example, London to Venice) Three hours or more £216 (250 euro)
Medium haul - a flight that's between 932 and 2,174 miles (for example, London to Athens) Three hours or more £346 (400 euros)
Long haul - a flight that is over 2,174 miles (for example, London to New York) Three to four hours £260  (300 euros
Long haul Four hours or more £519 (600 euros)

Compensation for a cancelled flight

If your flight’s cancelled altogether, you’ll be given the choice to either get a refund for all parts of the flight ticket you haven’t used, or choose an alternative flight (which includes care and assistance while you wait).

You might be able to claim compensation for the cancellation too. It depends on how much notice you had and the distance of your flight. Compensation ranges from £108 to £519, depending on whether its a short, medium or long-haul flight.[1]


Flight compensation exclusions

You can’t claim compensation if the delay or cancellation was due to something outside the airline’s control, for example:

  • Bad weather (thunderstorms, heavy rain, thick fog, snow, high gusts of wind)
  • Air sector strikes (the country’s air control personnel striking)
  • Political circumstances (terror attacks, political unrest, security risks)
  • Natural disasters (volcanic eruption, hurricane)
  • Bird strike (collision between plane and a bird or other foreign object)
  • An unruly or ill passenger
  • Delays caused by airport staff (long queues for security checks)

[1]Civil Aviation Authority figures April 2021. Sterling figures are based on a 13 April 2021 exchange rate of 1.16 euros = £1 and rounded to the nearest pound.

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