Read on to discover what you’re due, how to claim it and which airlines you can expect to pay out.
If you have suffered a flight delay in the last six years, you may be entitled to flight delay compensation. Up to 600 Euros could be due to you thanks to EU law – depending on the details of the delay you experienced.
Plus: we’ve written a flight delay compensation letter you can cut and paste to make your application.
The basics of flight delay compensation
If you’ve been on a flight that departed from Europe or was with a European airline, you might have rights under EU law if your flight is delayed or cancelled.
For the EU law to apply, one or both of the following must apply:
- Your flight departed from the UK, European Union (EU), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland;
- You’re flying with a UK or EU airline to somewhere in the UK, EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.
If you don’t think you’re entitled because your flight departed from outside of Europe with a non-European airline, you may still be able to claim. It all depends on the airline’s own terms and conditions. Contact them to find out.
If you do think you qualify, keep reading to see how much compensation you might receive.
If your flight is delayed for under 2 hours
You are not entitled to any compensation. Your airline may choose to give you a voucher for free food or drink, but they don’t have to under EU law.
Flight delay 2-3 hours
After a two hour delay you have the legal right to food and drink. The airline should give you a voucher to use inside the airport. If they don’t, keep receipts for food and drink you buy and try to claim the expenses back later.
You are also entitled to have access to phone calls and emails, accommodation if you’re delayed overnight, and free journeys between the airport and the hotel.
Airlines will only pay for ‘reasonable’ expenses – you won’t get refunded for alcohol, costly meals or high-end hotels.
Flight delay 3 hours+
You already have a legal right to food and drink, phone calls and accommodation – see above.
You’re also entitled to get compensation. BUT only if the delay is the airline’s responsibility.
If for example the airline cancels the flight because they have a technical problem or because they could not fill the plane, that’s their responsibility.
If the delay is caused by bad weather or industrial action by staff, you won’t qualify.
The amount you’re entitled to depends on the distance of the flight and length of the delay. See our chart below.
Flight delay 5 hours+
First of all, you don’t have to take the flight if it’s delayed for 5 hours or more – and it doesn’t matter whose fault the delay is.
If you don’t take the flight
The airline legally has to give you:
- A full refund for the flight
- A full refund for other flights from the airline that you won’t use in the same booking (an onward or return flight)
- Food and drink
- Access to phone calls and emails
- Hotel if you’re delayed overnight
- Free transfer between the airport and the hotel
Talk to someone from the airline as soon as you decide you don’t want to take the flight.
If you do take the flight
You can claim up to €600 in compensation IF the delay is the airline’s responsibility (eg technical fault). You won’t get compensation if the delay was caused by bad weather.
The compensation amounts are shown in the chart above.
If your flight is cancelled
You have the legal right to either a full refund – including other flights from the airline that you won’t use in the same booking such as onward or return flights – or a replacement flight to get you to your destination.
The amount of compensation you’re entitled to depends on when the flight was cancelled, the distance of the flight and the departure and arrival times of the rescheduled flight.
If your flight is cancelled less than 7 days before departure:
If your flight is cancelled between 7 and 14 days before departure:
How to claim flight delay compensation
The process for claiming flight delay compensation is directly through the airline.
You can write a letter (we’ve provided an example of the kind of letter you should write below – just fill in the specific details of your flight) but first check the airline’s preferred procedure. Many have their own online claims forms. Try a web search for ‘flight delay Easyjet’ (for example) and you’ll see they ask you to complete a claim form.
You can also claim for the delay on your travel insurance, however payouts are usually quite low and often require a delay over 12 hours. Instead use your insurance to cover you for other expenses incurred as a result of the delay – depending on your policy.
Example compensation claim letter
[Send this to the correct complaints email address for the airline you travelled with, after filling in your particular details in the brackets below]
Booking ref: [INSERT HERE]
Flight no: [INSERT HERE]
Departure date: [INSERT HERE]
Departure time (scheduled): [INSERT HERE]
Passenger names: [INSERT HERE]
I am writing to claim delayed flight compensation under EU Denied Boarding Regulation 261/2004.
The details of my flight delay are as follows: [EXPLAIN THE NATURE THE THE DELAY YOU ARE CLAIMING FOR, INCLUDING THE NUMBER OF HOURS DELAYED AND THE AIRPORT FLYING FROM].
Given the nature of the delay experienced I believe I am entitled to compensation of [INSERT EURO AMOUNT].
As a UK citizen I look forward to receiving the compensation amount in sterling equivalent within the next 14 days.
[INSERT FULL NAME]
Using a third party claims company
You could choose to file your claim using a ‘no win, no fee’ legal firm. These firms will take a commission from your winnings, but they know the ins-and-outs and may save you some headaches.
Best payers, worst payers
According to consumer research conducted by MoneySavingExpert, some airlines are more willing to pay flight delay compensation than others.
Because of numerous ongoing court cases related to flight delays, a tactic employed by many airlines in certain circumstances is to put the claim ‘on hold’ while they await judge’s decisions.
Of 6,000+ passengers who made a flight delay compensation claim with Thomson, only 9% won without quibble. 5% won after appeal and 62% had their claim put on hold. The remainder lost with or without appeal.
Of 3,500 Easyjet passengers making a flight delay compensation claim, 20% won without quibble. 5% won after appeal and 60% were put on hold.
Tightfisted RyanAir has only paid out immediately on 5% of 2,000+ claims. 4% were won on appeal and 65% were suspended.
BA have paid up straight away in 35% of 3,600+ cases. 4% won on appeal and 46% were told to wait.
Of 6,100+ flight delay compensation claims to Thomas Cook, 19% won. 6% won on appeal. 55% were delayed.
Did you know you can claim back to 2011?
If you were delayed on a flight some time ago and you can’t remember the details, use FlightStats to check. You are entitled to claim for any qualifying delay that has occurred in the last six years.
What to do if the airline doesn’t pay out
The airline has 8 weeks to resolve the claim. If they refuse to pay out or they don’t respond, you can complain to the Civil Aviation Authority and they will look at your case. They can take 10 weeks to examine the claim. The CAA provide an online form to register your case.
If the airline still refuses to pay out, consider taking them to the small claims court.
Credit to Citizen’s Advice for research included in this article.