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What are your rights if your flight is delayed?

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Written by Martin Lane, Managing Editor

2 January 2019

If you have been left stranded at the airport, you could claim compensation from the airline. Here are your rights if your flight is delayed.

What are your rights?

If you experience long delays flying within the EU, the Denied Boarding Regulation means that you have the right to assistance and possibly compensation.

The rules apply to delays on flights from airports within the EU, no matter which airline you fly with, or your final destination.

They also apply to all other flights on European airlines that land at an EU airport, for example a flight from New York to Heathrow with British Airways.

While delays caused by extraordinary circumstances may not be covered by your airline, they might be covered by your travel insurance so check your policy documents.

What counts as an extraordinary circumstance?

This is typically an event which is out of your airline's control, like extreme weather, bird strikes, political unrest, or staff strikes.

The rules do not define extraordinary circumstances, so it is down to your airline to explain why your delay was out of their control if they reject your claim.

If you are not satisfied with your airline's explanation, you can escalate your claim with the regulator.

What about flights outside the EU?

The same rules do not apply if you were on a flight outside of the EU.

You should check the terms and conditions of your flight with the airline, as you may still be able to make a complaint.

What if your flight is delayed?

If you are delayed by more than two hours, you have the right to:

  • Food and drink

  • Be given access to phone calls and emails

  • Accommodation if you are delayed overnight, including transport from the airport

You can claim vouchers for these things from the airport but if you have to pay for them yourself, keep the receipts and claim back the costs from the airline at a later date.

You can check your rights while you travel by downloading the European Commission's app Your Passenger Rights.

Did you know?

Delays are measured from the time you were expected to land.

Your arrival time is when the airplane doors are opened, not when you land on the runway.

What if your flight is cancelled?

If your flight is cancelled less than 14 days before you are due to fly, you may be entitled to compensation.

You are entitled to assistance, including the choice between:

  • A full refund of the cost of your ticket

  • An alternative flight to your final destination at the earliest opportunity

  • An alternative flight at a later date of your choosing, subject to availability

If you choose an alternative flight to your final destination at the earliest opportunity, you are also entitled to:

  • Food and drink during your wait

  • Hotel accommodation where a stay of one or more nights is necessary

  • Two phone calls or emails

What about compensation?

If your flight lands more than three hours after the arrival time on your ticket, you could be entitled to compensation of up to €600.

Airlines must offer assistance until they can get you to your destination, but your right to compensation only applies if the cause of the delay is within the airline's control.

Your right to compensation will be calculated based on the length of time your flight is delayed, and the distance you were due to travel:

DelayDistanceCompensation
3 hours +Less than 1,500 km€250
3 hours +More than 1,500 km*€400
3 hours +1,500 - 3,500 km€400
3-4 hoursMore than 3,500 km€300
4 hours +More than 3,500 km€600

*For flights within the EU only.

You can check the distance of your flight on the WebFlyer website.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website also has more information about what compensation you could claim if your flight is delayed or cancelled.

How far back can you claim?

EU Regulation states this should be based on individual laws in respective EU countries.

The time limit in the UK is six years, so you should not expect delayed flight claims that are older than this to be honoured.

How can you claim compensation?

If you think you are entitled to compensation for delayed or cancelled flights, you can claim by contacting the airline.

You can make a separate claim for each member of your party who experienced a delay of more than three hours.

Avoid claims management companies, as they take a cut of your claim if it is successful.

Submitting a request for compensation to your airline is easy, and regulatory and ombudsman services can also help if your claims is initially rejected.

Contact the airline

Your first step should be to contact the airline, who may give you a claims form if you contact them by phone or visit their website:

AirlineClaim processCustomer service number
British AirwaysComplete online form0344 493 0787
EasyJetComplete online form0330 365 5000
Jet2Via contact centre0333 300 0042
RyanAirComplete online form0330 100 7838
TUIComplete online form0203 451 2688
VirginComplete online form0344 209 7777

Make your official complaint in writing, so you can keep a record of any correspondence between you and the airline.

To speed up your claim, give the airline as much detail as possible, including:

  • Your contact details

  • Full details of all passengers travelling with you

  • Your booking reference

  • Dates and times of your travel

  • Your flight number, departure and destination airports

  • Distance travelled

  • Details of how and where the delay happened

  • Length of the delay

  • Names of staff you spoke with

  • Copies of receipts for any necessary purchases*

  • A copy of your boarding pass, ticket, or booking confirmation

*For example, food, drink, or temporary accommodation. Your airline is unlikely to pay for alcohol or expensive restaurants and hotels.

What if your claim is rejected?

If your airline rejects your claim or you do not get a response within eight weeks, you can escalate your complaint with the UK regulator the CAA.

You can do this by going to the CAA website and completing their online claim form.

Dispute resolution services

If the CAA is unable to help with your claim, you may be able to contact one of two ombudsman services:

  1. The Airline Dispute Resolution Service (ADR)

  2. The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)

Both have the power to order your airline to pay you compensation if you have a valid claim, but you may have to pay a fee of up to £25 if your claim is unsuccessful.

Check if your airline is a member of an ombudsman like the ADR or CEDR, because they can only order airlines who are subscribed to pay compensation for delayed flights.

Find out more about delayed flights compensation on the Citizens Advice website

No matter if you are travelling far afield or planning a long trip, you can find the right cover for your travels by comparing our best travel insurance deals.

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