The Ultimate Guide To Claiming EU Flight Delay Compensation
Every frequent traveler has experienced at least one long flight delay, which may have caused him or her serious trouble and inconvenience.
To some, a delayed or cancelled flight may mean less hours of vacating, but to others it may be missing an important meeting, an event you were looking forward to or even the last hours in life of a loved one.
In order to protect travelers and respect their rights, the European Union has established the EU Regulation 261/2004. The regulation specifies what airlines should do in order to ensure that a person receives all the attention and care in case of a delayed, cancelled, overbooked or downgraded flight and other similar cases.
If you have been in such a situation, this article will help you to figure out easily if you qualify to ask for compensation. If yes, how much the airline owes you and how you can claim compensation.
EU Regulation on Denied Boarding, Cancelled, Delayed Flights
The EU Regulation 261/2004 establishes minimum rights for passengers when they are denied boarding against their will, their flight is cancelled, or their flight is delayed.
Passengers whose flight is delayed should be offered with food and drinks. If the flight is delayed overnight, the passenger should be offered accommodation as well.
Every passenger has the right to claim compensation if the air carrier did not inform them on time for the delay.
Which Flights Fall Under the EU Regulation?
As the EU Regulation applies only to flights that are in one way or another connected to the EU, only the passengers of the following flights can make a compensation claim:
- The flight is within the EU and is operated by either an EU or a non-EU airline.
- The flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline.
- The flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or a non-EU airline.
Who Is Entitled to Flight Delay Compensation?
Every person whose flight, which falls under the EU Regulation, was delayed for more than three hours has the right to claim compensation.
If your flight has recently been delayed, you will have the right to ask the air carrier for the compensation if you have a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned and one of the following applies to you:
- You presented yourself for check-in, at the time indicated in advance and in writing by the air carrier, the tour operator or an authorized travel agent (if no time is indicated not later than 45 minutes before the published departure time)
- You were transferred by an air carrier or tour operator from the flight for which they held a reservation to another flight, irrespective of the reason.
How Much Can I Claim in Compensation for my Delayed Flight?
The compensation for a flight delay ranges between €250 and €600 per passenger. How much you will be compensated depends on the distance of the journey, as follows:
- €250 for flights shorter than 1500 km.
- €400 for flights between 1500 km and 3500 km. If your flight took off and arrived in the EU, this is the amount of compensation even for flights over 3500 km.
- €600 for distances over 3500 km. If the delay lasts between three and four hours, your reimbursement could be reduced in half in this case.
Note that the reimbursement shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with your signed agreement, in travel vouchers and/or other services.
How to Make a Compensation Claim for a Delayed Flight?
If you believe that, you are entitled to a flight delay compensation you will need to claim it. No one will compensate you, if you do not ask for it. You have several options on how to make a compensation claim, depending on how you see it reasonable.
Following we have explained each of these options, and at what stage of your claim you should consider using each.
Complain to the Airline
This is the first step everyone must take. You cannot jump to the second, third or last option without trying out this one. If complaining to the airline does not work out, then you can try any of the others.
In order to complain to the airline responsible for your long flight delay, flight cancelation or downgrading, you should fill in the “AIR PASSENGER RIGHTS-EU COMPLAINT FORM”.
The form should be completed in capital letters. It contains the following questions, all of which you must answer:
- Your name and surname (if you yourself are filing the complaint).
- Your home address, postcode, city and country.
- Your e-mail and telephone number.
- The name of the other passengers you are filing a complaint together.
The form gives you the definition of ‘long delay’, ‘cancellation’, ‘denied boarding’ and ‘downgrading. You will have to tick the one that applies to you.
You also have four YES or NO questions:
- If you hold a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned.
- If you presented yourself at the check-in desk at the latest at the time indicated by the airline (or if no time was indicated: not later than 45 minutes before the published departure time of the flight).
- If you presented yourself at the boarding gate before the time indicated on the boarding card
- If your airline provided you with information on your rights.
After you complete the form, you will need to print it and sign it. You can send it to the airline by mail, but you are highly recommended to scan it and email it. In both cases, keep a copy of the complaint form for yourself. In case the air carrier refuses to take your complaint into account, you’ll need the form for further steps.
Complain to National Authorities
Once you submit the complaint form to the airline, you should wait for their reply. If they fail to get back to you within two months, or you are not satisfied with their reply, you can move on to the next phase of the flight compensation claim.
In such a case, you should send your complaint to the National Enforcement Body in the Member State where the incident took place. Email them the complaint you sent to the airline previously, and explain what happened: the airline did not respond, or you believe their response is unjust.
The national authority will then provide you with a non-binding legal opinion on how to proceed with your claim.
Note that in case the incident happened at an airport of departure outside the EU, you should contact the national enforcement body in the Member State of flight destination.
Alternative Dispute Resolution Entities (ADR) / Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) for EU Nationals
After the air carrier fails to respond to you, or you are not satisfied with their response, if you are an EU national you have other options on how to proceed with your complaint.
You can try to resolve your dispute through:
- Alternative Dispute Resolution entity (ADR). You can use neutral out-of-court bodies such as conciliators, mediators, arbitrators, and the ombudsman or complaints boards. They will look into your case, and propose a solution, or even impose one if you and the airline fail to agree.
- Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform, if you bought your ticket online. You can submit your complaint through the EU online dispute resolution site, which is free of charge, and they will work on your dispute.
Going to Court – European Small Claims Procedure
If none of the above works for you, or you want to go to the court immediately after the airline refuses to compensate you, you can do so by using the European Small Claims procedure.
You can submit the compensation claim at a competent court at:
- The place of arrival or departure for flights between EU countries (operated by one airline), or
- before the courts in the country where the airline is registered.
To complete the Small Claims Procedure you should fill in form A and add any documents that can support your claim, as receipts or invoices.
Once the court receives your claim, they will assess it. If any necessary information is missing, they will ask you to complete form B.
For the European Small Claims procedure, you will need to pay a court fee. The fee will be reimbursed if your case is successful.
The airline has the right not to compensate you, if the delay was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’. Extraordinary circumstance for flight delay include:
- Bad weather (i.e.: snowstorms, windstorms, low visibility).
- Strikes of the airport personnel and union strikes.
- Bird strikes.
- Air traffic control restrictions (including runway closures).
- Political and civil unrest.
Yet, while some air carriers may list technical problems as a reason for not compensating you, they are not considered extraordinary circumstances, as the maintenance of the plane is airline’s obligation. Therefore, the carrier would not have fulfilled its responsibilities if a mechanical problem prevents a flight from departing on time.
Airline’s Obligations Towards You
The airline has several obligations towards you in case of a delayed flights, and they should fully respect that. It includes providing you with:
- The right to be informed on why the flight is delayed and when you are excepted to take off.
- Food and beverages.
- Access to phone calls and emails.
- Accommodation if you’re delayed overnight – and journeys between the airport and the hotel
When is the best time to submit my delay compensation claim?
File a compensation claim as soon as you can. If possible, contact the airline on the same day of the delay. The earlier, the better.
How far back can I claim for delayed flights?
The EU countries have different rules on how far one can claim compensation, as the regulation does not provide an EU-wide limitation period.
The time limit, in which you can claim compensation depending on the origin of the airline, is as follows:
- 1 year – Belgium and Poland
- 2 years – Croatia, Iceland Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland
- 2 years 4 months – Italy
- 3 years – Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden
- 5 years – Bulgaria France, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, Scotland
- 6 years – Cyprus, Ireland, UK (except Scotland)
- 10 years – Luxembourg
- No limit – Malta
Can the airline turn down my flight delay compensation claim?
Yes, the airline can turn down your claim. In particular, if the flight has been delayed due to extraordinary circumstances. If you believe your claim has been unjustly rejected, then you can continue with any of the other procedures explained above.
Can I get flight delay compensation for my baby?
It depends. The EU regulation clearly states that all passengers are entitled to compensation in case of a flight delayed more than three hours. However, it also explains that passengers traveling free of charge are not entitled to ask for such compensation.
As some airlines permit parents to take babies with them free of charge, if this is your case, then you cannot claim compensation for your baby. If you paid for your baby’s seat, even if it was a reduced price, you can then ask for compensation.
My flight left on time, but we reached the destination over 3 hours late. Does that classify as a flight delay?
Yes, that classifies as a flight delay. According to the EU, when calculating the delay, the time the destination country was reached should be taken into account.
We left the departure country 3 hours late, but reached the destination country less than 3 hours late. Can I claim compensation?
You cannot claim compensation if you reached the destination country less than three hours late, even if you left the departure country more than three hours late. Note that it is the arrival time that matters and not departure.
Some airlines always give themselves several minutes more than needed when calculating the arrival time. Therefore, it totally makes sense that you can leave late but arrive on time, in many cases.
My air carrier placed me in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased. Am I entitled to compensation?
Yes, you are. Within seven days, the airline is obliged to reimburse you with 30 % of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1500 kilometer’s or less.
50% of the price of the ticket should be reimbursed for all intra-community flights of more than 1500 kilometers. Exempt are flights between the European territory of the Member States and the French overseas departments, as for such flights 75 % of the price of the ticket should be reimbursed.
In addition, 75 % of the price of the ticket should be reimbursed for all flights not falling under the first two cases.
Do I have any rights if miss a connecting flight?
Yes, if you miss a connecting flight as a part of a single reservation, due to a delay of 3 or more hours, you can claim financial compensation.
We were traveling as a group, and our flight got delayed. Should we ask for compensation one for all, or one for each member?
You should ask for compensations for each member of the group.
Tips for Passengers of Delayed Flights (EU Regulated)
If you are waiting for your flight and the airline staff tells you the flight may be delayed, you should start paying attention immediately. Even though the delay may be only 20 minutes or less, it is always better to be attentive.
Here are some ultimate tips for passengers of delayed flights, regulated by the EU law on air passengers:
- Ask the airline staff about the reason of the delay and write it down. You have every right to know why the delay is taking place.
- Keep track of the time, and how long your flight is being delayed.
- Ask the airline to respect your right to care.
- Ask for food and drinks.
- Ask for accommodation if you are told you will be delayed overnight. You can also stay at the airport if you choose to do so.
- Ask for a taxi to take you to your accommodation.
- Ask how long the delay may last. If you are told that the wait will end soon, and it does not, ask again. The EU regulation on air passengers grants you the right to be informed in such cases. Remind the airline staff of that.
- Note the time your flight takes off.
- Note the time of arrival at your final destination.