How to claim compensation in case of a delayed or cancelled flight?

Imagine you show up at the airport only to find out that your flight has been delayed by several hours. But you took the time to check the schedule, left work early to be at the airport a couple of hours ahead of the flight, you even checked-in online, right? Right. None of that matters, because unless you know your rights, chances are you’ll just be stuck with the inconvenience of a flight delay and everything that comes with it. That is a scenario, which affects millions of passengers annually and for that reason, the EU Parliament passed Regulation 261/2004 to outline in detail passengers’ rights to claim compensation. In the following few lines, you’ll find out how to claim your 250 to 600EUR compensation.

Am I entitled to compensation?

In order to be entitled to compensation, the following conditions must be met:

1. Origin of the flight

The flight must have left from a city within the E.U. (incl. Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) or to have left from a city outside of the E.U. but landed within the E.U. and operated by an airline headquartered within the E.U. For example:

  • Flight from Toronto to Munich with Lufthansa: YES
  • Flight from Munich to Toronto with Air Canada: YES
  • Flight from Toronto to Munich with Air Canada: NO

2. The airline must be at fault

If your flight has been delayed because of a volcano or fire at the airport, for instance, then the latter are considered “extraordinary circumstances” and the airline cannot be held liable. However, “technical difficulty” does not qualify as an “extraordinary circumstance”, even if the airline is trying to convince you otherwise.

3. Length of the delay

How long after the scheduled time did you arrive? If you arrived at your final destination three or more hours late, then you should be entitled to compensation.

How do I file my claim?

Do-it-yourself

Of course nothing prevents you from contacting the airline directly and trying to claim your compensation yourself. If you choose to go along this path, make sure you’re determined, patient, and most of all – you know your passenger rights. Airlines often attempt to offer different alternatives instead of paying the predetermined by law amount. The latter might vary from a pre-paid credit card to be used in particular stores, to a travel credit to be used under certain conditions. When the airline refuses to comply, your next step is to bring matters to the regulatory authorities of your state and to court.

Use an intermediary

Your other alternative in claiming compensation is to seek the help of a professional intermediary. ClaimCompass for instance, takes upon itself all the details in enforcing the Regulation: preparing and filing a legal claim, communicating with the airline, verifying the details around the delay, as well as legal representation in the event that your claim ends up in court.

Do-it-yourself vs. Using an intermediary: pros and cons

Do-it-yourself

Pros:
  • Saving the commission fee (rates vary: while ClaimCompass charges a flat 25%, some other companies charge 29% + an administration fee).
Cons:
  • You have to prepare your claim yourself
  • The process can be complicated and very time-consuming
  • There’s a good chance your claim might get ignored, or you receive an offer for less than what you may be entitled to by law
  • If your claim ends up in court, you will be fully liable for all legal expenses

Via an intermediary, such as ClaimCompass

Pros:
  • Highly simplified process with minimal involvement on your part
  • No advance payment
  • You are also not liable for any fees in the unlikely event that your claim is not resolved in your favor (i.e. "no win, no fee")
  • No admin fees (most intermediaries will charge a one-time admin fee)
  • Free access to legal experts specialized in the field of European law
Cons:
  • A one-time commission fee of 25%, which is deducted at the time of paying out your compensation

Where do I start?

If you have decided to act “solo”, then the first step would be to get a hold of the airline’s customer service. Write a detailed letter quoting the appropriate section of the Regulation, send it via fax or email, and wait for a response. Be ready to provide all the pertinent information (booking/reference number, the date and flight number, the reasons for the delay, etc).

If you have chosen to file your claim via ClaimCompass, then the process comes down to the following few steps:

  • Fill out the Compensation Calculator to find out how much you’re entitled to receive. You will need: your booking and flight numbers, the details of your delay: the time when your flight left and when it landed
  • Enter your email address and create a password – this will allow you to have access to your claim and verify its status at any time
  • Once your claim is submitted, you will receive a confirmation email

Your airline ticket represents a contract between you and the operating airline. If this contract has been violated, know that the law may be on your side!