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EU flight delay compensation claims and advice

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EU flight delay compensation: Your legal rights

General travel law
Air Passengers’ rights are enshrined in European Law, EC Regulation 261/2004 and the Montreal Convention.

The Montreal Convention governs liability issues in international civil aviation. It applies to both freight and passenger traffic. The aim of the Montreal Convention is to modernise the legal requirements for air carriage. The Montreal Convention deals primarily with the liability of the contractual and/or the actual carrier for damage caused during a flight to persons, baggage or cargo. The Montreal Convention has been in force since 2004 in the European Community and since 2005 in Switzerland.

The Air Passenger Rights Regulation for the European Union was passed by the European Parliament on 11th February 2004. Full details of the regulation can be found here: Commission Regulation (EC) Ranked # 261/2004.The Regulations established common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or for long delays of flights.

The EU Regulation 261/2004 stipulates that the airline operating the flight must provide assistance and flight delay compensation for their passengers when it comes to flight following problems:

Passenger rights
The European Union (EU) Passenger Rights Regulation governs the rights of passengers in the EU in the event of denied boarding, long delays (over 3 hours), missed connecting flight due to delays and of flight cancellation.

EU Regulation 261/2004 sets out exactly what benefits and compensation airlines have to provide to their passengers when one of the following problems occur:

  • Flight delay
  • Cancelled flight
  • Flight overbooking
  • Missed connecting flight

Scope of passenger rights Regulation
The Air Passenger Rights Regulation applies to all flights starting within the EU, regardless of the operating airline’s country of origin. In addition, any flight landing in the EU and originating from outside the EU is governed by the Regulations if the airline’s headquarters are in the EU.
On occasion you may book with one airline, but fly with an associated one. The airline you book with will always be the one who is held accountable.

Compensation for a flight delays and connecting flight delays
If a flight is delayed by more than three hours at its final destination i.e. the last booked arrival airport, the passenger is entitled to compensation. The amount of compensation depends on the distance flown and the length of the delay. A table showing specific amounts of available compensation can be found on the How it Works page of this website.

Compensation for a Cancelled Flights
If the booked flight is cancelled by the airline then the passenger is entitled to airline compensation. The compensation, as with a delay, depends on the booked flight route and the length of the delay. A table showing specific amounts of available compensation can be found on the How it Works page of this website.

Airline compensation is not available if the passenger has been notified 14 days before the flight date of the flight cancellation. If the airline communicates the cancellation to the passenger’s travel agent or the on-line ticket vendor then this is sufficient. If the airline notifies the passenger of the cancellation less than 14 days before the flight, the passenger is only entitled to compensation if the flight times have changed considerably.

No compensation in 'extraordinary circumstances'
The Regulations state that compensation will not apply if the airline can prove without doubt that 'extraordinary circumstances' have caused the delay or cancellation. 

Allowable 'extraordinary circumstances' could be:

  • Closure of an Airport
  • Bad Weather
  • Staff strikes
  • Bird strike
  • Hidden manufacturing defect
  • Lightning strike

Even if such 'extraordinary circumstances' have been present, the airline must still prove that the delay could not have been avoided by taking reasonable steps to prevent it.

Technical Problems with aircraft do not count as 'extraordinary circumstances'
Technical defects or problems such as those listed below, do not count as 'extraordinary circumstances'.

  • Lack of de-icing
  • Collision of airport vehicles with the aircraft
  • Damaged baggage conveyor system at an airport
  • Illness or injury of a crew member
  • Staff rotation problems

Airlines will often try to avoid paying delayed flight compensation by stating one of the reasons above. However, we will use information obtained from detailed flight databases containing weather and air traffic information to examine each case and will ensure that passengers who are legally entitled to airline compensation get the money they deserve.

Right to substitute transportation and ticket reimbursement
If a flight is delayed by more than 5 hours, a passenger is entitled to a refund of the cost of their ticket within 7 days. In addition, the passenger is entitled to be transported to their originally booked destination airport by train, taxi or rental car.

Where flights are cancelled or overbooked, or if a delay causes the passenger to miss a connecting flight, the rights to reimbursement and substitute transportation also apply.

Right to assistance at the airport

If your flight is delayed by the amounts below, then you are entitled to claim additional assistance at the airport:

  • 2 hours for flights less than 1,500 km distance
  • 3 hours for all internal EU flights of more than 1,500 km and for all other flights between 1500 km and 3500 km
  • 4 hours for flights over 3500 km

The assistance provided should include sufficient food and drink, phone calls, Internet access and the use of toilet facilities. In the case of flights that are delayed for more than 8 hours, the airline must provide appropriate accommodation (hotel) or must reimburse any reasonable accommodation costs incurred by the passenger.

These rights also apply in the event of a cancelled flight, a flight overbooking or a connecting flight delay.

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