How to Claim Compensation for a Canceled or Delayed Flight

You show up at the airport on time, ready to take you flight for your holidays or your business trip. You've been proactive and even checked-in online in order to skip the line and head straight to security. You left from work a little early to get to the airport a couple of hours prior to the flight.

None of that matters, because your flight is delayed. Or worse: canceled.

I've been there, trust me, I know how much it sucks. Chances are, thousands of passengers worldwide are stuck with a disturbed flight just like you.

That's why the EU Regulation 261/2004 is here for. As an air passenger, you have rights (that you probably don't even know about). Even though airlines don't advertise it, you can claim up to 600€ in the case of a canceled or delayed flight.

If you want to know how to claim compensation for a canceled or delayed flight, read on!

I'm at the Airport and My Flight is Delayed or Cancelled: What Do I Do?

1. Keep all your travel documents

Keep your boarding pass and e-ticket safe. These documents are often required by the airline at the moment of your claim, or at least providing them will speed up the process. You don't want to throw them away in an excess of rage!

2. Inquire about the reason for the delay

As detailed below, not every delay is equal: while some will guarantee your right to compensation, others will unfortunately not grant you this privilege. Write down what the airline's staff tells you, and if possible, get a written statement from them.

3. Ask the airline for a meal and refreshment

Not only does the EU Regulation provides for a financial compensation, it also states that in the case of a flight cancellation or long delay, the airline must enforce your right to care. They are supposed to offer you a meal and a refreshment (usually in the form of a voucher).
In addition, they have to give you access to a phone call or reimburse you the cost if you have to call by your own means.

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4. Wait at the airport or require the airline to provide you with a hotel and taxi

Depending on the length of the delay, you may choose to stay at the airport or not. Know that in the case of a delay superior to 5 hours, the airline is required to provide you with a hotel and a taxi to go there and come back to the airport.
If they are too busy to make the booking, do it yourself and make sure to follow the next point.

If your flight was canceled, ask the airline to rebook you on another flight. Do so by phone if you didn't manage to get first in line at the counter, it will be faster. Again, if you are rebooked on a flight in 5 hours or more (or not rebooked at all), ask for a hotel and a taxi.

5. Keep your receipts

Although they have to provide you with a hotel and taxi, airlines are allowed to ask for your receipts as proof before refunding you for the extra cost of your trip. Make sure to keep everything and don't throw them away.

Pro Tip: Make a digital copy in case you lose them. You can use apps such as CamScanner. This great app lets you transform your receipts in PDFs simply by taking a picture of them.

6. Do not accept any offer

I repeat: do not accept any offer from the airline. Or, more precisely, any offer that doesn't match what the EU Regulation 261/2004 prescribes. See below to check which amount of money you are entitled to.

7. Check out the time of arrival at your final destination

That is a first step to determine whether you are eligible for a compensation or not and which amount you can claim. Write it down and if possible, get a note from the airline acknowledging the long delay or cancellation.

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8. Verify if you're eligible for compensation

The easiest and fastest way for you to do so is to check our Compensation Calculator. In just a few clicks and a couple of minutes, you'll know if you have a chance with your claim and what amount you can hope for!

When Am I Available For Compensation?

The EU Regulation 261/2004 describes in which casesyou can claim compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight.

To put it simply, whenever the airline can be held accountable for the delay or cancellation and you arrive at your final destination at least 3 hours after the scheduled time, you are eligible for a compensation. That means that despite what the airline may tell you, a technical issue makes you eligible for a compensation.

The flight must be part of one of the following scenarios:

  • It departed from a country within the EU and arrived within the EU no matter which airline operated the flight
  • It departed from a country within the EU and arrived out of the EU no matter which airline operated the flight
  • It departed from a country out of the EU, arrived within the EU and was operated by a European airline

By EU, the Regulation means the 28 EU countries, with Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion Island, Mayotte, Saint-Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands along with Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Examples:

  • Paris - London with Air France: Eligible
  • London - New York with British Airways: Eligible
  • London - New York with American Airlines: Eligible
  • New York - London with British Airways: Eligible
  • New York - London with American Airlines: Not eligible
  • Moscow - Beijing: Not eligible

The Exceptions: Extraordinary Circumstances

However, it is true that the airline cannot always be held accountable. In such cases, although you suffered from the disturbance of your flight, the airline is not obliged to pay you anything. Extraordinary circumstances include:

  • Bad weather: When meteorological conditions prevent the operation of the flight.

Now, there is bad weather and bad weather. The experts at CLaimCompass decode weather reports to make sure that when the airline justifies the delay or cancellation with this excuse, it's actually the case.

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  • Air Traffic Control restrictions: Sometimes, the runway is too busy, or another flight is delayed, affecting the other flights. The air traffic controllers therefore order the airline to delay or cancel their flight.

Note however that the decision HAS TO come from the air traffic controllers, and not be arbitrarily made by the airline. If the airline tells you that the delay is due to the late arrival of the aircraft's previous flight, you can still be entitled to compensation. This situation is called "knock-on effect" and it's not an extraordinary circumstance.

  • Strike: When the airport or air control staff goes on strike, the airline cannot be held responsible. The same goes for a non-planned strike from the airline staff.

However, if the airline was advised of its staff's strike action beforehand, The Civil Aviation Authority states that "strikes by airline staff do not count as an extraordinary circumstance".

  • Medical emergency: When a passenger or a crew member gets sick on board and the plane has to be diverted, the delay doesn't entitle you to compensation.

  • Bird strike: In the case of a collision between a bird and the aircraft resulting in damages on the latter, the airline is exempt from responsibility.

Keep in mind that the airline bears what is called the "burden of proof". It means that when they want to discharge themselves of all responsibility, they have to provide a proof of extraordinary circumstances.

  • Hidden manufacturing defect: It's very rare, but manufacturing issues with the aircraft sometimes happen and are out of the airline's control. It means that there is a defect with the plane. However, a problem the "blue hydrolic pump" of the aircraft's toilets isn't considered as such, although an airline tried to convince us it was...

  • Security concern: Unfortunately, airports are sometimes the targets of security threats, disturbing the normal operations of activities. These include fire at the airport and terror attack for instance.

How Much Am I Entitled to?

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Delayed flight

If you arrive at your final destination 3 hours or more after what was initially planned, you can claim:

  • 250€ for flights less than 1.500 km
  • 400€ for flights between 1.500 and 3.500 km
  • 600€ for flight more than 3.500 km

Cancelled flight

In addition to the extraordinary circumstances that I detailed above, there are a few more situations where you won't be entitled to compensation:

  • You have been informed of the cancellation at least 2 weeks prior to your departure
  • You have been informed between 2 weeks and 7 days prior to your departure and have been offered re-routing, allowing you to depart no more than 2 hours before the scheduled departure time and to reach your final destination less than 4 hours after the scheduled arrival time
  • You have been informed of the cancellation less than 7 days before the scheduled departure and have been offered re-routing, allowing you to depart no more than 1 hour before the scheduled departure time and to reach your final destination less than 2 hours after the scheduled arrival time

If you're not in any of these situations, here's what you can hope for:

  • 250€ for flights less than 1.500 km (125€ if you arrive at your final destination with less than hours 2 of delay)
  • 400€ for flights between 1.500 and 3.500 km (200€ if you arrive at your final destination with less than 3 hours of delay)
  • 600€ for flight more than 3.500 km (300€ if you arrive at your final destination with less than 4 hours of delay)

Intra-community flights

Even if they are longer than 3.500 km, flights between the same territory make you eligible for 400€ maximum. A typical example is a flight from Paris to La Reunion.

But the Airline Offered Me Vouchers

It's up to you to accept them or not, but know that the Regulation states that the compensation should be paid in cash. If you choose to accept the vouchers, make sure that the amount is at least equal to the cash amount you are legally entitled to.

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Connecting Flights

To be eligible,

  • the delay at destination must be at least 3 hours, and
  • all flights must have been made under the same booking number.

For example, let's imagine a flight from London (LHR) to San Francisco (SFO) with a connection in New York (JFK).
If the flight LHR - JFK was delayed, causing you to miss your connection to SFO, you are entitled to compensation only if both flights had the same booking number (if you didn't buy two separate tickets).

Codeshare Flights

As detailed above, the airline's nationaly matters to decide whether you're entitled to compensation or not. Codeshares are flights operated by an airline in the name of another. You can usually see it on your booking reservation or boarding pass.

It is always the operating airline that matters: for example if your New York-London codeshare flight with a British Airways flight number (BAxxxx) was actually operated by American Airlines, you are not entitled to compensation.

It happened to me before!

You just learned that you have rights when your flight was delayed or cancelled and missed the opportunity a few years ago? No worries, the law is retroactive, which means that you may still be eligible to compensation.

The amount of time after which you can still claim varies from one country to another. It's called the statute of limitations. Here are a few exemples:

  • Italy, Iceland, Croatia: 2 years
  • Germany, Austria, Finland: 3 years
  • France, Spain, Bulgaria: 5 years
  • UK: 6 years

Right to Care

I mentioned it above: if your flight is delayed or canceled, ask the airline for food, refreshment, and a phone call. If the delay is superior to 5 hours, you can also ask to stay at the hotel and a taxi to get there and come back.

So how do I claim compensation?

Do-it-yourself

You can contact the airline's customer support and claim compensation on your own.

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A word of advice though: make sure you're determined and that you know your rights. Airlines might attempt to offer you with what they will try to present as a "gift" in the form of a voucher or an amount lower than what the law states. They may also exempt themselves from responsibilities with excuses that are not extraordinary circumstances.
If this happens to you, make sure your rights are enforced as they should be. You can also seek help from the authorities of your country and to court.

This option lets you get the full amount of your compensation, but the process can be long and complicated, there's is a good chance that you will be ignored or won't get what you deserve, and you will be liable for the expenses if you have to go to court.

Let ClaimCompass take care of it, sit back and relax

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The alternative is to let us do everything. We exerce our expertise in European Aviation Law to enforce your rights as a passenger. We prepare and file the claim in your name, communicate with the airline, check the details of the canceled or delayed flight and represent you should your claim end up in court.

For a 25% commission that we receive only if you get your compensation, we take care of everything without any payment or administrative fees and cover the legal cost if your claim goes to court. In the unlikely event that we don't obtain your compensation, you don't owe us a thing.

Check if you're eligible now

Where to begin?

If you claim by yourself, write to the airline's customer support: precise your flight number, the day of the flight and quote the appropriate passage from the EU Regulation. Wait until you get a reply. The airline may require some additional information and documents: ID copy, boarding pass, receipts, etc.

If you let us claim in your name, it gets really easy and stress-free for you:

  • Fill out our Compensation Calculator with the details of your flight.
  • You receive an email confirming that you have submitted your claim
  • Netflix and chill, go to the beach, sit back and relax... you get the idea: we take care of the rest, we'll update you by email when there are any news on your case

Turn your bad experience in something positive

As a frequent flyer, I've already had my fair share or delayed and canceled flight. Getting a compensation for it does help to sweeten to pill, so feel free to reach out if you need help!

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See you around traveler!

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