If your flight has been cancelled or delayed you have the right to compensation under European law.
Under EU Rules 261/2004, airlines must pay compensation for cancelled or heavily delayed flights, but how much you’re entitled to depends on the flight you booked and the amount of time you’ve been delayed by.
The flight must have departed from an EU airport, operating by any airline, or it must be arriving into an EU airport and be operated by an EU airline. The ‘EU airport’ also includes the following countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
It also needs to have been at least three hours late arriving at your destination to be eligible for compensation.
The amounts available start from €250 for flights of less than 1,500km long which are delayed by at least three hours and go up to €600 for flights of more than 3,500 km between an EU and non-EU airport, delayed by at least four hours.
What exactly are my rights?
Airlines must compensate passengers if their flight is cancelled or heavily delayed.
They must also offer you meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation as appropriate whilst you wait for a rearranged flight.
There are no time or monetary limits on the provision of this assistance but if your airline does not provide assistance, then keep your spending to a minimum, and make sure you get receipts and claim reimbursement from your airline when you get home.
How to claim compensation for a delayed flight?
Passengers can claim by telling the airline their flight number, names of passengers and the reason for the delay.
If the claim is rejected, but you believe it’s valid, you can escalate it to companies specializing in obtaining compensations (e.g. Flightclaim, Airhelp), which have attorneys employed and who is capable of doing so.
How to claim compensation for a cancelled flight?
If a flight is cancelled you should be offered an alternative flight with the same airline to your destination either on the day or the day after, if there is room, or a full refund for the flight you booked.
But if neither of these are possible you should be given the option of a flight with a different airlane to your destination, if there is space.
If you were given more than 14 days’ notice about the cancellation, you will only be entitled to a new flight or a refund for your original flight. But if you were given 14 or less days’ notice, you might be able to claim compensation on top of a refund or alternative flight.
The amount of compensation differs depending on when you were told about the cancellation, the length of the flight and how long you had to wait for a new flight.
The cancellation also needs to have been something which could have been avoided by the airline so you won’t be able to claim for reasons such as crew strike or extreme weather conditions.
To apply for compensation, which can be from €125 to €600, contact the airline directly and outline what has happened and why you are entitled to it. If your airline turns down your claim, you can escalate it to companies specializing in obtaining compensation.
It is very important to have available all your travel documents and flight information.
How far back can you claim?
Below you will find a list of claim’s time limit applied in different countries. This will allow you to find out if you can still complain, even though your flight has been delayed / cancelled years ago:
- 1 year: Belgium
- 2 years: Croatia, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Netherlands
- 3 years: Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, Romania
- 5 years: Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Scotland, Spain
- 6 years: Cyprus, Ireland, Great Britain (England, Wales, Nothern Ireland)
- 10 years: Czech Republic, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Sweden
- no time limit: Poland
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