Claiming money back for EU delayed or cancelled flights
The holiday season is coming, and of course we wish you a pleasant trip, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan and you may find yourself stuck at the airport, with a flight that is firmly on the ground and not going anywhere.
In such situations, you may be able to get your money back, or at least a coupon so you can get some lunch. So, before you fly, brush up on your rights.
Do EU air passenger rights apply to you?
Firstly, make sure that EU air passenger rights apply to you. They are stipulated under the EU regulation 261 / 2004. These apply if:
- Your flight is within the EU with an EU or non-EU airline
- Your flight arrives in the EU AND is with an EU airline
- Your flight takes off from an EU country to a non-EU country and is with an EU or non-EU airline
Please note that outbound and return flights are considered two separate flights, even if you booked them under one reservation.
You must also have checked in on time to receive these rights. If the check-in time is not specified on your boarding pass or otherwise, you must have checked in at least 45 minutes before the departure of the flight. These rights are also not applicable to passengers who are travelling on a tariff not available to the public.
Your flight must be delayed three hours or more to be eligible to claim compensation or your money back. The three-hour delay rule applies to the time of your arrival, this is when the plane is parked and the gate is open - not the moment you touch down.
The rules apply, now what?
So, now that you’ve established whether the rules apply, it’s time to look at which category you fall under, namely whether your flight is delayed or cancelled. For each case, different procedures and rules will apply. Of course, there are some cases in which exceptions to the regulations apply and you will receive no compensation.
Exceptions to the regulation
Airlines will only pay you compensation if the circumstances, which cause your delay etc., are their responsibility. In the case of extraordinary circumstances, no compensation will be paid.
Examples of extraordinary circumstances include severe weather – one we often hear is “strong winds”, strikes and radar failure. Circumstances such as “technical difficulties” and “operational circumstances” do not count as extraordinary circumstances and cannot be used as reasons to avoid paying out compensation.
What happens if your flight is delayed?
If your flight is delayed, the first thing you are entitled to is care services. These services are offered regardless of whether the cause of the delay is due to extraordinary circumstances or not.
Care services must be provided after two hours for flight distances in the EU of up to 1.500km and after three hours for flights travelling further than 1.500km. These services include food and drink; two phone calls, emails or faxes and accommodation and transport – if you have to stay overnight.
Flight delay compensation
If your flight is delayed for three or more hours, you may be eligible for compensation, provided EU passenger rights apply to you. The amount of compensation depends on the flight distance and the length of your delay.
|Length of Delay||
|3-4 hours||4+ hours||Never arrived||
|250 euros||250 euros||250 euros||1.500km or less|
|400 euros||400 euros||400 euros||EU 1.500km+|
|400 euros||400 euros||400 euros||Non-internal EU 1.500-3.500km|
|300 euros||600 euros||600 euros||
Non-internal EU 3.500km+
If your flight is delayed for more than five hours, you can choose to abandon your travel. In this case, the airline should refund you either the price of part or all of your ticket within seven days of the date of departure. You are also entitled to a return flight to your first point of departure, if necessary. This does not affect your right to claim compensation for loss of time.
Abandoning your travel
When should you file a claim?
If you have a delay and you wish to file a claim, do so as soon as possible. Your right to compensation under the EU regulation does eventually expire. Time limits vary based on where the headquarters of the airline is or which court has jurisdiction when it comes to cases involving the airline. Each EU Member State has different time limits.
What happens if your flight is cancelled?
If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to the same benefits as when your flight is delayed, provided you have to wait at the airport for alternative transport.
Refund or alternative transport
Following a cancelled flight, you can choose between a refund of your ticket or opt for replacement transportation organised by the airline. You are entitled to a replacement journey regardless of the circumstances that caused your flight cancellation and your right to compensation is not affected.
Replacement transportation does not have to be in the form of a plane; a bus, train or rental car may be provided.
Discontinuing your travel
As with a delay, you are entitled to abandon your travel and receive a refund of your ticket. You may also be eligible for compensation.
Notification in advance
If your flight is cancelled and the airline notifies you at least 14 days in advance, you are not eligible for compensation. If you are notified in less than 14 days, you may also not be eligible for compensation if the airline re-routes you on an alternative flight. This, of course, depends on a few variables.
- If you are notified between 14 and 7 days in advance that your flight is cancelled and your alternative flight departs no more than two hours before the original flight and arrives within less than four hours of the original flight.
- If you are notified less than seven days in advance that your flight has been cancelled and your alternative flight departs no more than one hour before the original flight and arrives within less than two hours of the original flight.
Flight cancellation compensation
Whether you are entitled to compensation depends on a few things, namely the flight distance, and the length of delay if you are re-routed. If an airline offers alternative transport, the compensation offered may be reduced by 50% if said transport arrives within a reasonable time of the original flight.
|Length of delay (alternative vs. original flight)||Distance|
|Less than 2 hours||2-3 hours||3-4 hours||4+ hours||Never arrived||
|125 euros||250 euros||250 euros||250 euros||250 euros||1.500km or less|
|200 euros||200 euros||400 euros||400 euros||400 euros||EU 1.500km+|
|200 euros||200 euros||400 euros||400 euros||400 euros||Non-internal EU 1.500-3.500km|
|300 euros||300 euros||300 euros||600 euros||600 euros||Non-internal EU 3.500km+|
As with a delay, there is a time limit to claiming compensation. This depends on the national legislation of the EU Member State in question.
Whilst we don’t wish a delay or cancellation on anyone, we do hope that this article will help you out if you do encounter such problems. All that’s left to say is happy holidays and safe travelling!