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Air passenger rights: Compensation for flight delays

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Compensation and flight delay rights
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Compensation and flight delay rights

If you’re unlucky enough to suffer a delayed flight, the good news is you may be due €250 up to €600 in compensation from the offending airline. In line with EU regulations, if the airline itself is responsible for the disruption, and you’ve been delayed for 3 or more hours, the minimum entitlement is €250 per passenger.

Use our online calculator to check whether you are entitled to flight delay compensation and then get Flightright to enforce your claim at the touch of a button.

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Key Points about “Compensation and flight delay rights”

  • Passengers may be entitled to compensation for flight delays.
  • Qualifying delays must be over 3 hours.
  • Compensation may be available under EU law.
  • Delay must not be caused by extraordinary circumstances.
  • Airline is responsible for providing assistance during delay.
  • Passengers have up to 3 years to file for compensation.
  • Compensation amount varies based on distance and delay time.

You had a flight delay or a flight cancellation? Check your rights now and increase your chances of compensation

What are my rights when a flight is delayed?

  • You are entitled to compensation after 3 or more hours of delay
  • Compensation ranges between €250 and €600
  • Food and drinks should be provided by the airline after a 2 hours delay
  • Hotel accommodation if your flight is delayed overnight
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What should I do if my flight is delayed?

  • Get the airline to provide you with a confirmation of the cause of the delay
  • Collect relevant documents, such as receipts and vouchers
  • Help yourself to the complimentary food and drinks at the airport
  • Use our compensation calculator to claim your compensation

When do I receive flight delay compensation?

Based on the European Regulation No. 261/2004, passenger compensation for flight delays is calculated based on the distance of the flight. All flights that are delayed 3 or over 3 hours, and qualify under the current regulation, are entitled to full compensation. Here is an explanation of the compensation plan, calculated based on flight distance:

  • Short distance flight delays – up to 1500km – Passengers are due €250 compensation
  • Medium distance flight delays – between 1500km and 3500km – Passengers are due €400 compensation
  • Long distance flight delays – over 3500km – Passengers are due €600 compensation

Note: The cost of the ticket has no relevance to the total amount of compensation, and as such you will be able to claim on flights with low-cost airlines. It is also possible to claim on flights as far back as 6 years. However, for your claim to be eligible for compensation, the flight must depart within the EU or, if it lands in the EU the airline must have its headquarters in the EU.

Compensation for flight delay: You are entitled to

Short distance up to 1500 kmMedium distance up to 3500 kmLong distance from 3500 km
e.g. London – Edinburghe.g. London – Athense.g. London – Tokyo

What counts as arrival time?

It is important to remember that delays are calculated based on the time of arrival, and not the time of departure. But, what exactly defines a flight’s “arrival time”?

In September 2014, the European Court of Justice (case) defined “arrival time” as the moment when the aircraft reaches its final destination and at least one of its doors opens. This is based on the assumption that this is the moment the passengers are permitted to disembark.

What if I am delayed as a business traveller?

If you suffered a flight delay as a business traveller it will be you who receives the compensation, not your employer. Likewise, if you’re travelling as a state official, the regulation deems it that you’ll be the one entitled to recompense from the airline. It is the person who suffered the inconvenience of being delayed that receives the compensation – not whoever paid for the ticket. This stands regardless of the price of the ticket.

Even if the airline provides you with vouchers for drinks and meals you are still eligible to the full compensation amount

How do I apply for compensation if my flight is delayed?

The first thing to do is to confirm that you are actually eligible for compensation. This is often not a simple process: getting access to flight databases, comparing your situation with other similar cases, checking whether your case applies under European Regulation No. 261/2004 etc. In fact, for an individual without the legal expertise or the required technology, this can prove quite complicated.

However, the straightforward alternative is to apply for your compensation with Flightright. To do that, simply enter your flight details into our free compensation calculator, establish that you’re entitled to a claim against the airline and then leave the rest to us. The Flightright tool analyses hundreds of thousands of flights, has access to a multitude of meteorological date, and is able to verify whether the submitted case applies under EU law in just a few minutes. Check your compensation eligibility for free:

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If you qualify for compensation for your flight delay, you can immediately instruct us to begin asserting your rights. Our network of European experts and our international experience allow us to negotiate on an equal footing with airlines. We do not hesitate to take the matter to court where necessary. In 98% of cases where legal proceedings were required, our clients won their case. Regardless of the outcome, we assume all the financial risk. If we fail to succeed with your case, for whatever reason, we are the only ones to bear the costs. When we do win, we take a fee of 20-30% (+ VAT) of the amount recovered. This protects you, as the customer, from any expense and lost investment.

What makes it so difficult for me to assert my rights myself?

Many airlines neglect to inform their passengers of their rights in the event of delayed flights. A common tactic is to ignore their customers completely. Alternatively, they offer passengers cheap vouchers that do not come close to the amount they are actually entitled to, and then get them to sign a declaration in which they end up waiving all other rights against the airline. The airline takes the risk that affected passengers will not really understand their rights, or will get frustrated with repeated attempts to enforce them. This is something that Flightright refuses to accept. We help passengers enforce their rights and allow them to finally have their voices heard.


Which passenger rights do I have at the airport when my flight is delayed?

If you’ve experienced a lengthy delay at departure you’re entitled to more than your potential compensation, regardless of whether the airline is responsible for the delay or not. Below, you can see your entitlements based on the length of the delay and the distance of your flight:

  • Short distance – up to 1500km: departure delayed over 2 hours – free drinks and food, and 2 telephone calls, emails or faxes
  • Medium distance – between 1500 and 3500km: departure delayed over 3 hours – free drinks and food, and 2 telephone calls, emails or faxes
  • Long-haul – More than 3500km: departure delayed over 4 hours – free drinks and food, and 2 telephone calls, emails or faxes

What if my flight is delayed for more than 5 hours?

If your flight is delayed for more than 5 hours, you can opt out of your flight and the airline will be obliged to refund you the price of your ticket. Alternatively, you have the right to ask the airline to arrange the quickest possible alternative form of transportation. The airline may also transfer you back to your original departure point, for example, if you have missed a business meeting due to a missed connecting flight, you entitled to getting a transfer back to your original departure point.

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What if my flight is delayed until the following day?

If the departure is postponed until the following day, you can take advantage of a night’s accommodation and return transportation from the airport. Usually, airlines organise the overnight stay and transfers themselves, and inform you of the planned arrangements. Before you decide to book something yourself, it is always best to check directly with the airline. Also make sure that you get a written confirmation of all communication if the airline offers to reimburse for accommodation you found yourself.

What are “extraordinary circumstances” in cases of flight delay?

Sometimes a flight delay or cancellation will not qualify for compensation as the reasons behind the disruption were deemed to be “extraordinary circumstances”. They are factors beyond the airline’s responsibilities or control. These circumstances include:

  • Airport and airspace closures
  • Political instability
  • Unavoidable security risks
  • Strikes
  • Birds flying into the engine
  • Bad weather conditions

There are exceptions to the rule – for example if it is shown that the airline could have avoided the problem by taking reasonable measures, it will be liable for the delay of the aircraft. An instance of this would be if the airline cited bad weather conditions, and what actually happened was they failed to ensure that there were sufficient supplies of de-icer before the onset of winter. In this case they may be deemed responsible for the delay – especially if flights operated by other airlines were able to depart on time.

If the airline states that the disruption is caused by an extraordinary circumstance, this does not automatically exempt the airline from paying compensation. According to the ECJ ruling of 11 June 2020 (Case C-74/19), airlines must prove that they took all possible measures to re-route affected passengers at the earliest opportunity. The airline must demonstrate that it was not possible to rebook individual passengers onto a faster connection. In doing so, airlines must prove that they examined the possibility of rebooking passengers not only onto their own flights, but also the flights of other airlines. This includes both direct and indirect connections. If an alternative means of transportation, such as bus, train or taxi, could get a passenger to their destination faster, this must also be taken into account.

Are you affected by the Lufthansa strike? You may be entitled to up to €600 in compensation. Find more about the Lufthansa strike here.

Have you experienced a flight delay?

How to protect my rights on a future flight?

You have planned a flight trip in the future and want to be sure you won’t miss any compensation payments in advance? No problem. You can enter your flights in advance in our compensation calculator and we will inform you if you are entitled to compensation.

Checklist: Your rights in case of flight delay

  • You might be entitled to compensation from €250 to €600 if you arrive at your destination 3 or more than 3 hours later than planned.
  • From 2 hours on waiting at the airport you are also entitled to refreshments and snacks


  • You have checked in for your flight on time (generally no less than 45 minutes before departure).
  • You encountered these problems on a flight operated no more than 6 years ago.
  • The airline is responsible for the delay (e.g. technical fault or sick crew).
  • The flight took off in the EU (from any airline) or landed in the EU (provided that the airline is headquartered in the EU).
  • You can claim compensation even if you have travelled with a tour package or had a business trip
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Recent flight delays

Are you currently affected by a flight delay and strike or bad weather conditions are not the cause? Find your delayed flight in our table, check your entitlement for compensation in our claimcheck and let Flightright enforce your claim for you.


Have you experienced a flight delay?

With more than 10 years of experience, Flightright helps you enforce your right to compensation.

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