Having your flight delayed abruptly is awful to experience. The good news, however, is that you may be entitled to compensation. This information is based on the EU Regulation (EC) 261/2004. This European regulation requires airlines to compensate air passengers for long flight delays. You are entitled to compensation ranging from €250 – €600 per person when your flight has been delayed for at least 3 hours. In the following sections you can learn more about your air passenger rights and what to do in case of a delayed flight.
Which flights are covered under the EC 261/2004?
In order to claim compensation for a delayed flight, you must comply with a number of conditions based on the EC 261/2004. For example:
- The flight is within the EU and the operator can be an EU or non-EU airline;
- The flight departs from an EU country to a non-EU country and the operator can be an EU or non-EU airline;
- The flight departs from outside the EU to an EU country and the operator is an EU airline.
To summarize, all flights departing from the EU and all flights departing out of the EU operated by an EU airline are covered under this regulation. This regulation covers 28 EU countries and also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
In addition, the right to file a claim for your delayed flight is also limited in time. The time limit to submit a claim depends on the country of the operating airline. A claim against a UK airline is valid up to 6 years back while for the Belgian airlines a claim is only valid for 1 year. In the table below, you can find a full list showing the time limit per country.
|3 years||Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany,
Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden
|2 years||Iceland, Latvia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia ,Switzerland|
|1 year||Belgium, Poland|
|5 years||France, Hungary, Greece, Spain|
|6 years||Croatia, Ireland, United Kingdom|
|No limitation period||Malta|
The right to receiving a compensation for a delayed flight
The amount of compensation you’re entitled to depends on a couple of factors, including how long your flight has been delayed and the distance of your flight. The table below summarizes the amount which you can claim.
|Flight Distance||Length of Delay||€|
|< 1.500km||0 – 3 hours||no compensation|
|3 – 4 hours||€250|
|Between 1,500 and 3,500km||0 – 3 hours||no compensation|
|3 – 4 hours||€400|
|> 3.500km||0 – 3 hours||no compensation|
|3 – 4 hours||€300|
How is a Flight Delay Calculated?
Flight delay is based on the time you arrive at your final destination. So, even if your flight takes off late, the airline may still be able to make up time in the air.
But let’s define the term ‘arrival time’.
Arrival time is the moment at which the aircraft has reached its final destination and one of its doors is open.This is based on the assumption that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft.
Flights delayed by 2 or more hours
When the departure of your flight is delayed by at least two hours, the airline is obliged to take care of you. The so called ‘right to care’ requires an airline to provide the following regardless of the delay’s cause:
- Meals and refreshments;
- Telephone calls and/or e-mail;
- Hotel accommodation and transport to and from the hotel, if you are delayed overnight.
Airlines often issue meal vouchers to meet their duty of care. If these are not provided, it is important to keep the receipts you get when buying meals or refreshments in order to ask for a refund afterwards. Any cost incurred must be reasonable in relation to the waiting time. A visit to a 5-star restaurant, for example, will be difficult to justify. Alcoholic beverages are not refundable.
NOTE: Airlines have the obligation to inform all passengers about their rights and the meaning of the EC 261. This means that every airline has display information on the passenger’s rights.
Flights delayed by 3 or more hours
When the departure of your flight is delayed by at least three hours, then the airline is also obliged to provide the above. In addition, if you are delayed by more than three hours at your final destination, then you are entitled to a financial compensation as well. It is about when you arrive at your final destination, not when you depart. The financial compensation is calculated based on the duration and distance of the flight. We speak of a delay when the actual arrival time at the final destination is later than the scheduled arrival time. The arrival time is defined as the moment when an aircraft has landed at the final destination and a door opens.
Flights delayed by 5 or more hours
With a delay of at least 5 hours you also have the right to care as described before. In addition to that, you have the right to decide whether or not you take the flight. This is regardless of whether the airline is at fault or not. You can either wait for your plane to depart or you can ask for a full refund of the ticket and a return flight to the first departure point (when you are part-way through the trip). If you choose for latter option, then you are not entitled to a financial compensation. If you decide to wait and take the plane, only then you are entitled to a financial compensation up to €600 based on the schema above.
Example: You depart from the Athens Airport with a delay of 3 hours and 20 minutes. As a result, you arrive 2 hours and 40 minutes later than expected at the final destination. In this example, you are not entitled to compensation, because the delay was less than 3 hours.
What are Extraordinary Circumstances
A flight compensation only applies when the airline can be held accountable. Based on the EC 261/2004, the operating airline is not liable for delays caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’. These are circumstances that could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. To put it simply, the delay is out of their control. The airline is not responsible and the air passenger has no right to compensation. Think of:
- Adverse Weather Conditions
- Air Traffic Control Restrictions
- Strikes (unrelated to airline)
- Bird Strikes
- Safety and/or Security Risks
- Medical Emergency
- Hidden manufacturing defects
However, it is good to know that airlines have been guilty of using extraordinary circumstances as an excuse to justify a flight delay. Keep in mind that the airline has to provide proof (“burden of proof”) when they use extraordinary circumstances as a reason to discharge themselves from all responsibility. For example, a strike by airline staff is not considered extraordinary circumstance nor do ‘bad weather conditions’ always justify a delay. In addition, technical problems that are not related to manufacturing defects are not considered extraordinary circumstances.
Claim your delayed flight with Claim24
Claim24 is here to protect your air passenger rights and claim a flight compensation from the airline. We file the claim on behalf of the passenger, get in touch with the airline, and take care of everything using our legal and aviation expertise. No payments upfront, no payment if we lose, and no financial risk – we work on a ‘no win, no fee basis’. When we win, we take a 24% commission fee from the total compensation amount (incl. VAT).
Interested? Use our free claim form to find out if you are entitled to a flight compensation for your delayed flight!