We all know the feeling. You’re sitting at the airport gate, waiting to board the plane, when suddenly a voice on the PA announces that your flight is delayed. For some, the scenario is different, but the hassle stays the same. Flight delays are always trouble, and the least you can do is get flight delay compensation that’ll make your wait more comfortable.
With the change in laws and regulations governing air traffic, more and more people every day are getting the right to file flight delay claims and receive claim compensation for their discomfort.
How do you know if you’re eligible for flight compensation?
1. Flight compensation: the European Union
When it comes to air travel, flight compensation depends on your country of travel. For example, in the EU, you’ll take a look at European Union Legislation 261/2004. It’s the regulation that defines the rules and compensation for passengers traveling to, from, or within the EU.
EU regulations only apply if:
- Your flight is within the EU and it’s operated by an EU or non-EU airline
- Your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline
- Your flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or a non-EU airline
So as long as you're traveling within the EU or departing from EU, you can get flight delay compensation even if you're traveling with a foreign airline.
Keep in mind that the EU passenger rights won’t apply if your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by a non-EU airline, or if you’ve already received flight compensation from a non-EU country.
2. What are my flight delay or cancellation compensation options?
If your flight has been delayed, you’re entitled to assistance, and benefits or compensation.
You can choose between:
- Rerouting: This means that the airline will do their best to find the next suitable flight.
Be careful with rerouting as it may mean that you’ll travel significantly longer than originally intended.
- Reimbursement: If your flight has been delayed, you are entitled to a refund, if all the laws apply.
- Re-booking: You also have the option of re-booking your trip entirely at a different time/date.
3. Do I get compensated if my flight is late?
If you arrive to your destination more than 3 hours after you originally should’ve arrived, you are eligible for the same compensation as though you were denied boarding. Denied boarding usually happens if a flight is overbooked or there are other reasons that deny you from boarding the plane (even though you arrived on time, and with the right documents). In that case, you can get assistance, compensation, and rerouting/re-booking/reimbursement.
The same happens if your flight is more than 3 hours late to your destination. Compensation structure starts at €250 for flights less than 1,500 km. If you were supposed to be on a flight more than 1,500km within the EU, you can get €400. The €400 compensation also goes for non-EU 1,500-3,000km flights. For flights that are more than 3,000km, you are entitled to €600.
Keep in mind that airlines can reduce your compensation by 50% if you’re rerouted and arrive to your destination within 2-4 hours of your scheduled arrival.
4. And connecting flights delay compensation?
The EU pretty much thought of everything, so there are cases in which you can be reimbursed if one delay caused you to miss your connecting flight. Usually, if you're making a separate reservation, airlines aren't required to give you flight delay compensation.
But if you experienced more than 3 hours of flight delay on your first flight, double-check. You might be eligible for compensation from the first airline. You can also use one of the 3R options (re-booking/rerouting/reimbursement) here. Usually, when you choose one of the options, you aren’t eligible for the other two. However, there are some cases where the airline should still give you flight delay compensation:
- If they can’t reroute you or organize return transportation to your point of departure, you are eligible for your entire flight cost to be compensated.
- You can get price difference compensation if the airline doesn’t offer you a choice between reimbursement and rerouting.
- You’ll only get compensation for the cost of the canceled flight if you booked separate in/outbound flights with different airlines.
5) What about assistance?
Flight delays really aren’t fun, so it’s lucky that the new laws governing air travel reimbursement provide guidelines for that, as well. If your flight is delayed, you’re not only entitled to compensation. You can also receive assistance. Depending on your case and the airline, this may mean food and drinks, and accommodation and transfer to and from the hotel.
6) Group flight delay compensation and special cases
Flight delay compensations add up, so each member of the group whose flight was delayed will receive the appropriate amount. Even babies can get compensation – but only if you remember to book them a separate seat.
If you're traveling for business, or if you're a public official, you can still file a flight delay claim. In most cases, you as the passenger will be the one receiving the compensation.
7) Is there any paperwork?
Always, unless you’re using a service that files the claim for you with online forms.
If you’re filing the flight delay claim yourself, keep your wits about you. Airlines can be unpleasant when it comes to flight delay compensation, the law or no law, so it’s good to:
- Save any documents related to the incident (including original and new flight documents, and flight details)
- Ask for flight delay reason
- Make notes about the delay and take photos (for example, the time you were told about the delay, the reasons ground crew provided, etc.)
It’s best to get as much evidence as you can.
You don’t have to file the claim right away, as you are eligible for flight delay compensation even 3 years after you’ve taken (or not) the flight.
Am I eligible for flight delay compensation?
If you’ve experienced flight delays and cancellations in the last three years and satisfy all the criteria we’ve talked about in this article, the answer is: yes!
All you need to do is get the evidence and know your rights.