Flight Delay Com­pens­a­tion

An airplane wing
Catrin, UK Solicitor
07/06/2024 ● 3 minutes
Flight delays can be in­cred­ibly frus­trat­ing, but know­ing your rights to com­pens­a­tion can ease the burden. This guide covers your eli­gib­il­ity for com­pens­a­tion, the types of com­pens­a­tion avail­able, and the steps to claim it, help­ing you nav­ig­ate any flight delays smoothly.

Flight delays are an all-too-common in­con­veni­ence for trav­el­lers. Whet­h­er it’s a tech­nical issue or an op­er­a­tion­al prob­lem, delays can dis­rupt your plans and be down­right frus­trat­ing.

For­tu­nately, under EU Reg­u­la­tion 261/2004 you might be en­titled to com­pens­a­tion if your flight was delayed over a cer­tain amount of time.

Eli­gib­il­ity Cri­ter­ia for Flight Delay Com­pens­a­tion

To qual­i­fy for flight delay com­pens­a­tion, your flight must be delayed by over 3 hours. The delay is meas­ured by the time you arrive at your final des­tin­a­tion, not the time the flight takes off.

So, if your flight ar­rives more than 3 hours after the sched­uled ar­riv­al time, you may be eli­gible for com­pens­a­tion.

UK Law Post Brexit

In pre­par­a­tion for life after Brexit, some minor changes have been made to the word­ing of EU261 as it ap­plies in the UK.

The changes were im­ple­men­ted by the Air Pas­sen­ger Rights and Air Travel Or­gan­isers’ Li­censing (Amend­ment) (EU Exit) Reg­u­la­tions 2019, com­monly re­fer­red to as “UK261”.

One of the changes is the re­place­ment of the Euro value of the com­pens­a­tion amoun­ts with new Ster­ling amoun­ts.

Com­pens­a­tion Under UK261

The amount of com­pens­a­tion you can claim under UK261 de­pends on the dis­tance of your flight:

Flight Dis­tanceCom­pens­a­tion Amount
Up to 1,500 kmUp to £220
1,500 km-3,500 kmUp to £350
Over 3,500 kmUp to £520

Com­pens­a­tion is only avail­able if the delay is the air­line’s fault. This in­cludes tech­nical issues with the plane, or prob­lems with the crew.

However, if the delay is caused by ex­traordin­ary cir­cum­stances beyond the air­line’s con­trol, such as ex­treme weath­er, polit­ical unrest, or air traffic con­trol strikes, you might not be eli­gible for com­pens­a­tion.

Scope of UK261

UK261 ap­plies to:

  • Pas­sen­gers de­parting from a UK air­port.
  • Pas­sen­gers de­parting from a non-UK air­port to:
    • A UK air­port, if the air­line is an EU/EEA or UK car­rier.
    • An EU/EEA air­port, if the air­line is a UK car­rier.

This means that pas­sen­gers enjoy the same cov­er­age between the UK and EU re­gimes as they did before Brexit.

Types of Com­pens­a­tion Avail­able

Under UK261, de­pend­ing on the dis­tance of your flight and the dur­a­tion of the delay, you can re­ceive mon­et­ary com­pens­a­tion ran­ging from £220 to £520. This is de­signed to cover the in­con­veni­ence and any ad­di­tion­al costs you incur due to the delay.

During a delay, air­lines are re­quired to provide you with meals and re­fresh­ments. The longer the delay, the more you should re­ceive. These usu­ally come in the form of vouch­ers for food and drinks at the air­port.

If your flight is delayed overnight, the air­line has to provide you with ac­com­mod­a­tion. They should also ar­range your trans­port­a­tion between the air­port and the hotel. Make sure to keep all re­ceipts and doc­u­ments provided by the air­line, as these will help you with your claim later on.

If your flight is sig­ni­fic­antly delayed, you might have the option to rebook on an­oth­er flight or choose a dif­fer­ent mode of transport. The air­line should offer you the choice between a refund or re-routing to your final des­tin­a­tion as soon as pos­sible.

Pro­cess for Claim­ing Com­pens­a­tion

To claim com­pens­a­tion for a delayed flight, follow these steps:

  1. Doc­u­ment the Delay: Gather and keep all ne­ces­sary doc­u­ment­a­tion, such as your boarding passes, flight tick­ets, and any delay con­firm­a­tion provided by the air­line. These doc­u­ments will sup­port your claim and provide proof of the delay.
  2. Make Con­tact: Con­tact the air­line's cus­tom­er ser­vice de­part­ment. Check their web­site for spe­cif­ic con­tact de­tails and pro­ced­ures for filing a com­pens­a­tion claim. Some air­lines have ded­ic­ated forms or online pro­cesses to make this easier.
  3. Filing a Claim: Com­plete the com­pens­a­tion claim form provided by the air­line. Be sure to in­clude all rel­ev­ant in­form­a­tion, such as your flight number, date of travel, and the nature of the delay. Attach copies of your sup­porting doc­u­ments, such as boarding passes and delay con­firm­a­tion.

Common Chal­lenges and Dis­putes

Air­lines may some­times deny com­pens­a­tion claims for vari­ous reas­ons, such as claim­ing the delay was due to ex­traordin­ary cir­cum­stances or that you don’t have enough evid­ence. To counter these deni­als, provide as much de­tailed doc­u­ment­a­tion as pos­sible and ref­er­ence rel­ev­ant reg­u­la­tions that sup­port your claim.

If the com­pens­a­tion of­fered is not suf­fi­cient, you can take fur­ther steps. Po­litely but firmly re­quest a de­tailed ex­plan­a­tion of how the com­pens­a­tion was cal­cu­lated and why it falls short. If ne­ces­sary, es­cal­ate the claim by con­tact­ing avi­ation au­thor­it­ies, such as the Civil Avi­ation Au­thor­ity (CAA) in the UK.

Flight Delay Rights

An­oth­er common chal­lenge is un­der­stand­ing which reg­u­la­tions apply as this varies de­pend­ing on where the air­line is based and where you were flying from.

EU261 claims can still be made against UK car­ri­ers, but only in EU Member States.

On some routes, both the UK and EU reg­u­la­tions will apply, al­low­ing pas­sen­gers to choose which regime they prefer to use.

If your flight de­parted from the EU or the UK, or if you were flying on an EU or UK-based air­line, you’re en­titled to com­pens­a­tion if your flight is delayed by more than 3 hours, provided the delay wasn't caused by ex­traordin­ary cir­cum­stances.

This means that if you were flying with an air­line like Easyjet, Ry­anair or BA, you may be en­titled to flight delay com­pens­a­tion in the cor­rect cir­cum­stances.

Flight Delay Com­pens­a­tion in the Rest of the World

For flights out­side the EU or UK, com­pens­a­tion rights can vary. Many coun­tries have their own reg­u­la­tions, but they may not be as com­pre­hens­ive.

Not­able Court Cases

Recent court rul­ings have cla­ri­fied that tech­nical issues, unless ex­traordin­ary, do not exempt air­lines from paying com­pens­a­tion. This has strengthened pas­sen­gers' abil­ity to claim com­pens­a­tion for delayed flights.

If the air­line doesn’t re­spond or dis­putes your claim, you can follow up or es­cal­ate the issue to a na­tion­al en­force­ment body or an Al­tern­at­ive Dis­pute Res­ol­u­tion or­gan­isa­tion like CEDR Ar­bit­ra­tion.

Know­ing your rights and how to claim delayed flight com­pens­a­tion can ease the stress of travel dis­rup­tions. Stay in­formed, doc­u­ment delays, and follow the proper steps to ensure you re­ceive the com­pens­a­tion you're en­titled to.

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