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Flight delay compensation: everything you need to know

Flight delay compensation: everything you need to know
Image source: Getty Images

Flight delays and cancellations are not unusual, though they can be incredibly frustrating. But are you aware that you may be entitled to compensation if a flight you’re booked on is delayed?

Here’s everything you need to know about flight delay compensation including how to claim it.

When am I entitled to compensation?

First of all, under EU regulation 261/2004, you are entitled to compensation if your flight arrives at your destination more than three hours late and the airline is at fault (e.g. overbooking the flight or a technical problem with the plane).

If your flight is cancelled and you accept a replacement flight that delays your arrival by two or more hours, you are also entitled to compensation.

If the delay is due to something outside the airline’s control, like bad weather or air traffic control strikes, you are not likely to get compensation.

Also note that you can only get compensation under EU law if your flight:

  • Left from an airport in the UK, an EU country, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland, or was with a European airline with a final destination in one of these countries.
  • Left from eligible French islands, the Canary Islands, Madeira, Saint-Martin and the Azores, or was with a European airline that landed on any of these islands.

How much flight delay compensation can I get?

Well, this depends on several factors including:

Here is a brief summary of how much compensation you could get:

Arrival delay Flight distance Compensation
Three hours or more Less than 1,500km €250
  1,500km to 3,500km €400
  More than 1,500km and within the EU €400
Three to four hours More than 3,500km, between an EU and a non-EU airport €300
Four hours or more More than 3,500km, between an EU and a non-EU airport €600

The compensation rules and rates for flight cancellations are different to those for delays. You can find out more about them on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website.

How do I claim flight delay compensation?

To receive compensation, you have to contact the airline that operated the flight. 

Different airlines have different claim procedures. Some process claims online while some handle claims by post. You can also initiate contact by email for further information about the process.

However the airline processes your flight delay compensation claim, it will let you explain what happened in full. So, in your claim you should include:

  • A description of everything that went wrong with your flight
  • Copies of your tickets and any receipts
  • The amount you’re claiming (as per the rates above)
  • Relevant quotes from EU Regulation 261/2004

The airline will analyse your claim and if it is deemed valid, they will get back to to confirm the compensation you are due or an explanation of why they have denied it.

What can I do if my claim is denied?

If you deem the airline’s response unsatisfactory, you can raise a complaint with the CAA. They will look at your case and, if necessary, contact the airline directly to resolve your claim.

Should the CAA fail to help, you can still go to the small claims court as a last resort.

If you’re not sure how to go about writing a claim letter, there are resources available to help you.

Which has a platform that will create a compensation claim letter for you. All you have to do is fill in your contact details and information about your flight.

Alternatively, you can make your claim through an official claims company or a lawyer. But keep in mind that both will ask for either an upfront fee or a hefty cut of any compensation awarded. 

What other rights do I have?

If you’re stuck at the airport awaiting an EU-regulated flight (including a replacement flight), the airline has a duty to take care of you by providing you with:

  • Free refreshments and snacks
  • Access to email and phone facilities
  • Accommodation (for overnight delays)

If the airline doesn’t provide these things, keep the receipts as a record of the money you’ve spent and ask for a refund in your compensation claim.

Note, however, that the eligibility for this help is dependent on the length of your delay. Here’s how long the delay has to be for you to be eligible:

Flight distance

Minimum delay

Less than 1,500km

2 hours

Over 1,500km but within the EU

3 hours

1,500 to 3,500km and between an EU and a non-EU country

3 hours

More than 3,500km and between an EU and a non-EU country

4 hours


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