If your flight experiences a delay it is crucial to be aware of your rights regardless of whether you are reading this at the airport or if the delay occurred weeks ago.

Flight delay compensation is determined based on the length of the delay (or when your flight was cancelled) and the distance of your flight.

The compensation rewarded can be in the form of a cash payment or vouchers to help cover the cost of food and refreshments at the airport.

In the event that the delay exceeds three hours and is determined to be the fault of the airline you might be eligible to receive compensation of up to £520.

During long delays or overnight waits, airlines may provide free refreshments and hotel stays as additional benefits.

For flights delayed by two hours non monetary compensation is typically available in the form of vouchers.

Our flight delay compensation guide explores the criteria for EU regulated flights and some situations that qualify for compensation, while also shedding light on extraordinary circumstances where airlines may not be held accountable for delays.

We’ll also walk you through the process of claiming compensation for delays and cancellations by outlining the information required when submitting a claim and offering tips on challenging an airline’s decision.

What qualifies for flight delay compensation?

Under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2004 your rights as an air passenger are safeguarded.

If your flight is cancelled, if you are denied boarding, or if you arrive at your destination with a delay of at least 3 hours you have the right to seek monetary compensation in accordance with regulation 261/400.

To be considered your flight must have been scheduled to fly within the last 6 years (5 in Scotland) and:

  • Originated from the UK or any country in the EU, Iceland, Norway, or Switzerland.
  • Similarly if your flight arrived in the UK and was operated by a UK or EU airline or if it arrived in the EU and was operated by a UK airline you may also be entitled to compensation.

If none of the above applies you should contact the airline directly to enquire what compensation may be available (which will be at the airlines discretion).

What doesn’t qualify for flight delay compensation?

This is important because flight compensation is only possible in some cases.

Flight delay compensation hinges on extraordinary circumstances which are situations beyond the airline’s control and exempt them from paying compensation to passengers.

Extraordinary circumstances include:

  • Severe weather conditions.
  • Long airport security ques.
  • Political instability.
  • Air traffic control restrictions.
  • Sabotage or terrorism threats.
  • Lightning strikes.
  • Bird strikes.

Delays caused by airline faults like technical issues or crew shortages do not fall under this category and may qualify for compensation.

How is a flight delay calculated for compensation?

Arriving at your destination is the key factor rather than your departure time and determined when at least one of the plane doors is opened on your arrival.

As an example if your flight takes off 3 hours late but officially lands 2 hours and 55 minutes late you will not be eligible for compensation.

You become eligible for monetary compensation if your flight arrives three hours or more after its scheduled arrival time.

How many hours does a flight have to be delayed to get compensation?

To qualify for some compensation the minimum length of time a flight has to be delayed by is two hours.

  • Less than 1,500km: delayed by 2 hours.
  • Between 1,500km and 3,500km: delayed by 3 hours.
  • More than 3,500km: delayed by 4 hours.

How much money is flight compensation worth?

The monetary value of flight compensation is determined by the flight’s distance along with the number of number of hours delayed.

  • 3 hours delay or more: Less than 1,500km £220.
  • 3 hours delay or more: Between 1,500km and 3,500km £350.
  • 4 hours delay or more: More than 3,500km £520.
  • Less than 4 hours delay: More than 3,500km £260.

Flight compensation for delays of 2 hours

Did you know that airlines are required to provide free refreshments at airports during delays of two hours?

If a short haul or long haul flight is delayed by at least two hours passengers are entitled to free refreshments and communication assistance provided by the airline.

This means you can enjoy a complimentary meal and drinks appropriate for the waiting time.

Plus you get access to phone calls or emails to help with making any necessary arrangements.

Flight compensation for delays of 3 hours

In order to receive compensation for a flight delay under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation there is a specific threshold to keep in mind – 3 hours.

Once your flight is delayed by a minimum of 3 hours you become eligible to claim up to £520 worth of compensation per person.

The value of compensation is calculated using the flight delay on arrival and flight distance.

For flight delays of three hours plus you are entitled to the free refreshments and communication benefits in combination with any compensation.

Flight compensation for delays of 5 hours

For flights delayed by 5 hours you are under no obligation to take the flight.

If you choose not to board the flight the airline is legally obligated to provide you with the following:

  • A complete refund for the flight.
  • A complete refund for any other flights from the same airline that are part of the same booking, such as onward or return flights.
  • If you are in the middle of a journey they must arrange a flight back to the airport where you initially departed from.

The refund should be issued within 7 days of the scheduled flight date. It is important to contact an airline representative as soon as you have made the decision not to take the flight.

On the other hand if you do decide to board the flight there may be an opportunity to claim compensation of up to £520.

And if a delay results in an overnight stay airlines should cover accommodation costs and transportation between the airport and hotel.

What can you expect if your flight is delayed by 1 hour?

If your flight is delayed by less than 2 hours you are not generally entitled to any compensation or benefits from the airline.

This is understandable because delays are a common occurrence at airports and are often necessary for the safety of passengers.

Can I get flight delay compensation for a cancelled flight?

If the airline is at fault for the cancellation and two conditions are met you will typically have the right to receive compensation.

  1. First if the replacement flight causes a delay of 2 or more hours in your arrival.
  2. Second if the cancellation occurs within 14 days prior to the scheduled departure.

The amount of compensation you are entitled to receive depends on two factors.

  1. Firstly the timing of the flight cancellation.
  2. Secondly the distance covered by the flight.

Additionally the departure and arrival times of the rescheduled flight also play a role in determining the compensation amount.

Denied boarding compensation

Being denied boarding can happen typically when airlines overbook flights or use a smaller aircraft than originally planned.

In cases of being denied boarding the 261/2004 legislation grants compensation in situations where the airline is unable to accommodate you due to limited space on the plane stating:

“If boarding is denied to passengers against their will, the operating air carrier shall immediately compensate them in accordance with Article 7 and assist them in accordance with Articles 8 and 9.”

If you are denied boarding from a flight due to overbooking according to UK/EU regulations you have the right to receive compensation which entitles you to either a refund or a replacement flight.

Depending on the timing of the alternative flight offered to you, you may also be eligible for compensation (even if you choose a full refund option) as the overbooking was the airline’s responsibility.

The value of flight compensation payable ranges from £110 to £520 and is worked out using the number of hours a flight is delayed for and the flights distance in kilometres.

Occasionally there are certain circumstances in which denied boarding is considered reasonable like concerns related to health, safety, security, or insufficient travel documentation (for example it’s reasonable for an airline to refuse boarding if a passenger lacks a valid passport).

Does it matter which airline I fly with?

The airline you fly with shouldn’t affect your eligibility for flight delay compensation. So if you’re using Jet2, Easyjet or Tui if you experience a delay it’s worth checking what compensation you might be entitled to claim back.

How do I find out my flights distance?

As part of your flight delay claim you might need to figure out the distance of your flight which without some help can be a difficult calculation to work out.

To help save time you can use an online calculator to assist in working out your flight route and distance.

How to claim flight delay compensation

Many airlines have established protocols for handling flight delay claims which if available should be followed.

This may involve sending a letter to a specific address or completing a standard claim form.

To find out how the airline you used wants to receive a claim for compensation you should initially consult the airline’s website for instructions or contact them directly.

In some cases airlines now include a clause in their terms and conditions that requires passengers to first reach out to the airline directly when filing a claim.

This allows the airline to address the claim directly before involving third parties to assist with the claim process.

If no standard procedure is available the most efficient initial contact method may be email or you can send a letter through the post.

What evidence do I need to include in a flight delay compensation claim?

To make the flight delay claims process as smooth as possible you should make sure to provide the airline with as much information as possible.

Essential Information for your flight delay compensation includes:

  • Your complete contact details, including your address, email, and phone number.
  • Full details of all passengers, including their names and addresses.
  • Your booking reference and travel dates.
  • The flight number, departure airport, and destination airport.
  • Provide details on where the disruption occurred.
  • Include information about the length of any delays.
  • Remember to mention the names of any staff members you spoke to.
  • Copies of any relevant receipts if you are claiming expenses.
  • Copies of all tickets, boarding cards, and booking confirmations.

Some ideas for evidence include using passport stamps, airport receipts, airline communication and mobile phone records.

To claim reasonable expenses like meals, refreshments, phone calls, and accommodation during a long delay or cancellation it’s recommended to keep receipts as proof for reimbursement by the airline.

In the event that any issues arise regarding your claim you should keep a record of every communication you send. This will serve as a valuable reference in case of any complications.

Challenging the airline’s flight compensation decision

For unsuccessful flight delay compensation claims you can gather additional evidence and consider seeking advice from a consumer rights organisation like the Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you find yourself with an unresolved complaint it’s important to know that there is an option to escalate the complaint through an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) maintains a list of approved ADR scheme providers and the airlines they cover.

It is worth noting that the assistance provided by the Civil Aviation Authority is limited to flight cancellations or delays that occur within the UK or involve a UK based airline.

Regardless of whether you decide to utilize a CAA-approved ADR scheme you still retain the right to take legal action against the airline through the small claims court if you believe you compensation is being unfairly denied.

Flight delay compensation claim companies

Be wary of third party claims companies and consider going directly to the airline or a specialist solicitor instead.

Risks of third party claims companies: They can charge high commission rates, lack transparency in fees and may use aggressive tactics which can make the process more stressful.

Consider alternatives: Make a claim directly through the airline’s website or hire a reputable solicitor specialising in travel law for assistance.


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