Flight delay compensation rules: Getting your monies worth in the EU

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If you travel frequently by air, you’d know that air travel sometimes, can be unreliable. Flights get cancelled at the gate and delays are a regular thing, but did you know that there are set out flight delay compensation rules one could follow to get compensation for time wasted or trips cancelled? 

In 2018, 17.15% of all US flights were delayed, and 3.01% were cancelled. These numbers might seem small or insignificant, but they both translated into 97,760 and 17,169 flights delayed and canceled respectively according to US Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Let’s say each aircraft had just 30 passengers on board, this would mean that over 3.4 million people had their flights either delayed or cancelled. 3.4 million People: either going for a vacation which they had already booked and paid for, going for a funeral or a crucial business trip. Imagine the inconvenience.

Flight delay Compensation rules

But this is just in the US alone. In Europe, an estimated 2.4 million flights are delayed or canceled each year.

Maybe your flight has never been delayed or canceled before, but these things do happen, and when it happens, you should know what actions to take.

Flight delays and cancellation have been one of aviation biggest problems from time immemorial and this have cost passengers a lot. From valuable time wasted to millions of dollars in business deals left on the table all because they couldn’t make the meeting.

So who is to blame? Obviously, there are lots of reasons for flight delays and cancellation; from bad weather to poor flight scheduling; the blame might be just be nature, or poor management. Either way, if your flight is canceled or delayed, there are flight delay compensation rules that should guide your next course of action. That’s what this article is all about. So let’s dive in.

Related Article: Ways CFOs can reduce business travel expenses in 2019

What qualifies as flight delay or cancellation?

If a flight is delayed for 5 minutes, that doesn’t qualify as a delay ok. According to the US  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a flight is considered delay if and when it arrives or leaves 15 minutes later that its scheduled arrival or departure time. A cancellation occurs when an airline does not operate the said flight at all for certain reasons.

But according to EU law, if your flight arrives later than 3 hours after its expected arrival time, then your flight is said to have been delayed and therefore, you are entitled to flight delay compensation for time wasted.

Flight delay compensation rules | what are the rules?

Not all canceled or delayed flights are entitled to compensations. For example, you wouldn’t expect a compensation if your flight is canceled due to extreme bad weather conditions or terrorism. So here are the rules according to the EU law:

  1. Your flight must be an EU regulated flight. Basically, any flight flying into the EU must have to comply with the EU regulations. Example include flights from U.S to Germany or Brazil to The U.K
  2. You can only claim compensation if your flight was cancelled within the last six years
  3. You can only be compensated if your flight delay was the airline’s fault.
  4. You can also only claim compensation if your flight arrived at least three hours later than its scheduled arrival
  5. A flight delay compensation will be determined by how much time delay and distance of the flight

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Delay to your ArrivalFlight DistanceCompensation
3 hours or moreLess than 1,500km €250

Between 1,500km and 3,500km €400

More than 1,500km and within the EU €400
3-4 hoursMore than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport €300
4 hours or more More than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport €600
Flight Delay

What are extraordinary circumstances


According to the EU law, if your flight is delayed by circumstances that are beyond what the flight crew or airline can handle or control, then those situations are considered extra ordinary circumstances and therefore you are not entitled to any form of compensation.
So what exactly are extraordinary circumstances? Well, the law actually didn’t define what they meant by extraordinary circumstances. People have asked if technical faults on an aircraft is an extraordinary circumstance.

What do you think? Please leave us a comment below what you think are extraordinary circumstances.

But this notwithstanding let’s continue, in 2014, a case between jet 2 vs Huzar, the judge ruled that there was nothing extraordinary about technical faults in aircraft. Now this might come as a surprise to you all, don’t you think that a technical faults on aircrafts might be considered extraordinary? A blown tire perhaps might be considered extra ordinary, but according to the EU, there’s nothing extraordinary there.

Examples of extraordinary circumstances

  1. Terrorism sabotage
  2. Political or civil unrest
  3. Security risk
  4. Strike action excluding airline strike example include air traffic control, airport staff, ground handlers amongst others
  5. Bad weather
  6. Hidden manufacturers defects

Flight cancelation: What can you claim if your flight is canceled?

There are a couple of things you can claim if your flight is canceled, some include a full refund, you can also claim return flights or connecting flights that you can no longer take because of your canceled flights. You should also be able to claim a replacement flight to take you to where you were going to.

How do you go about the compensation claim?

There are three things you could do:

  1. Hire a third party establishment to find your claim
  2. Get a lawyer to do this for you
  3. Do it yourself

    A third-party establishment are companies that specialize in helping individuals claim flight delay compensations. For example Compensair is one of such establishments and this is very different from hiring a lawyer.

Get more detailed information on how to claim your cancelled flight compensation our posts

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