How to claim flight delay compensation

Woman waiting at an airport with her suitcase

Flight been delayed or cancelled? Well, you might be able to claim back compensation. To help you work out what you’re entitled to, we’ve quickly run through what the rules are and how to get your money back.

Which flights are eligible for compensation?

The first step to working out if you’re entitled to flight delay or cancellation compensation is figuring out if your flight is covered under UK law. Your flight will be covered if you’re:

  • Departing the UK
  • Arriving in the UK with a UK or EU carrier
  • Arriving in the EU with a UK carrier

You can also claim for an EU flight even if you’re not an EU citizen. The EU261 law for flight compensation will still cover you if you’re:

  • Departing an EU country
  • Arriving in an EU country with an EU carrier

What are the rules?

For your flight delay to be eligible for compensation, the reason for the delay has to be something that was in the airline’s control. This includes factors like:

  • Technical problems that are caused by something routine
  • Sickness or strikes by airline staff
  • Crew or pilot arriving late
  • Flight cancelled due to not selling enough seats

Delays caused by factors out of the airline’s control are not covered. These include:

  • Bad weather
  • Political problems
  • Industrial action by air traffic controllers or airport staff
  • Security or safety issues
  • Air traffic management decisions
  • “Out of the ordinary” technical problems

How much can I claim?

How much you’re eligible to claim back depends on both the length of your flight and the duration of your delay. Your flight will need to have delayed your arrival by at least three hours for you to be eligible.

Compensation for flight delays

  • Flights up to 1,500 km with 3+ hours delay to arrival: £210
  • Flights from 1,500 km to 3,500 km with 3+ hours delay to arrival: £340
  • Flights over 3,500 km with 3 to 4 hours delay to arrival: £250
  • Flights over 3,500 km with 4+ hours delay to arrival: £500

If your flight was cancelled, you have a legal right to one of the following:

  • A full refund – including any other return or onward flights from the same airline that you now won’t use
  • Or replacement flight to get you to your destination
  • A return flight to your original airport if you’re part way through your journey and don’t want a replacement flight

If your replacement flight then causes a delay to your arrival, you may also be entitled to compensation.

Compensation if your flight was cancelled less than 7 days before departure

Flights up to 1,500km

  • Departure at least 1 hour earlier than booked flight: £110
  • Arrival up to 2 hours later than booked flight: £110
  • Arrival 2+ hours later than booked flight: £220

Flights from 1,500km to 3,500km

  • Departure at least 1 hour earlier than booked flight: £175
  • Arrival up to 3 hours later than booked flight: £175
  • Arrival 3+ hours later than booked flight: £350

Flights over 3,500km

  • Departure at least 1 hour earlier than booked flight: £260
  • Arrival up to 4 hours later than booked flight: £260
  • Arrival 4+ hours later than booked flight: £520

Compensation if your flight was cancelled between 7 and 14 days before departure

Flights up to 1,500km

  • Departure at least 2 hours earlier than booked flight: £110
  • Arrival up to 2 hours later than booked flight: £110
  • Departure 2+ hours earlier than booked flight: £220
  • Arrival 2+ hours later than booked flight: £220
  • Arrival 4+ hours later than booked flight: £220

Flights from 1,500km to 3,500km

  • Departure at least 2 hours earlier than booked flight: £175
  • Arrival up to 3 hours later than booked flight: £175
  • Departure 2+ hours earlier than booked flight: £350
  • Arrival 3 to 4 hours later than booked flight: £350
  • Arrival 4+ hours later than booked flight: £350

Flights over 3,500km

  • Departure at least 2 hours earlier than booked flight: £260
  • Arrival up to 4 hours later than booked flight: £260
  • Arrival 4+ hours later than booked flight: £520

How do I claim flight delay compensation?

To claim compensation, you’ll need to contact the airline you’re travelling with (even if you booked through a different airline). Most airlines have compensation claim forms on their website where you can register your claim. You’ll need your flight details handy to fill out the form.

If not, you can also get in touch with the airline’s customer services. If you don’t know where to start, there are free template letters online that you can use as a guide. You can claim back for delays up to six years ago.

While you’re at the airport and during your travels, make sure you hold onto any evidence of your flight delay. This includes your plane ticket and any receipts of costs you incurred because of the hold up. You can often add photos of these to your claim to support it.

What you’re entitled to if you’re stuck at the airport

Stuck at the airport and waiting for a UK or EU regulated flight? Here’s a quick run through of what you’re entitled to:

  • You should be given food and drink – if you’re delayed more than two hours on a short-haul flight, more than three hours on a medium-haul flight or more than four hours on a long-haul flight, you are entitled to food and drink or food and drink vouchers. If the airline is unable to provide this, keep the receipts of any food or non-alcoholic drinks you buy as you may be able to claim back the cost.
  • You’re entitled to accommodation if the delay is overnight – if your delay is overnight, your airline must provide you with a hotel and pay for the transport to and from it.
  • You’re entitled to ‘means of communication’ – the airline should reimburse you for any calls you need to make.
  • You should be told what’s going on – you can ask at the check-in desk or boarding gate; however you could also contact customer services via webchat. Keep an eye on your inbox for the email address that you used to book your flight as well as you may be sent an update.

Although travel delays can be pretty frustrating, getting some of your money back can help take the edge off.

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