UK / EU Flight Compensation Guide


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UK / EU flight compensation rules, step by step.

How to get compensation from the airlinlae? In what cases the airline is obliged to pay compensation to its customers? How to know if you are you entitled to compensation? How much can you receive? Do you need insurance to get compensation? What’s the best way to claim compensation from the airline?

These are some of the questions we will answer in this article.

Flight delay? Cancellation? Denied boarding? File a claim online.

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Photo by Cup of Couple

This is an in-depth guide to air passenger rights in the EU and UK. We cover EU flight delay compensation, EU flight cancellation compensation, EU denied boarding compensation, UK flight delay compensation, UK flight cancellation compensation, UK denied boarding compensation, Right to care, etc.

From passenger’s perspective these laws are practically identical in the EU, EEA and UK. That’s why we won’t separate, for example, EU flight delay compensation from UK flight delay compensation, and sometimes will call it simply European delay compensation.

1. Getting Compensation From an Airline: Introduction

Did you know that you can get compensation from the airline?

On certain flights, every single passenger is eligible to it. In some cases, it is even possible to receive up to 600 euros in compensation from the airline.

In recent years, more and more people are talking about air passenger rights and flight delay or cancellation compensations. Why is that? Is this a new thing? Why there was no such information before?

Actually it’s not a new thing. The regulation that implements the law has been in force in the European Union since 2004. It is the EU regulation 261/2004. But people started talking about it only in recent years. Until now, only the most experienced travelers knew about it. And, of course, airlines knew about it.

But even now still, a few understand what exactly these rules mean. And even less people fully understand their rights, and are ready to fight for their rights when there is a need. Airlines are fully aware of this, and they make advantage of it. Airlines know that passengers don’t known about their rights. That’s why airlines often give false information about the reasons of delay or cancellation, and hide the real reason, to avoid paying compensation.

They use legal terms when communicating with affected passengers.

They like to call everything “extraordinary circumstances”.

They say technical problems are unavoidable. Even though technical problems with aircraft in 9 out of 10 situations are considered airline’s fault, not something unavoidable and extraordinary.

And the list goes on.


When it comes to air passenger rights, unless otherwise stated, we talk about air passenger rights in the EU, EEA and UK. When we say Europe or European, we mean EU, EEA or UK. This is done for the simplicity, since the according laws in these countries are about the same.


Getting Compensation From an Airline: My Experience

Here’s one example from my experience.

I just had a case with Qatar Airways (the #1 airline in the world, by the way). They claimed that the flight was delayed due to a medical emergency. That’s what the airline said. And just like that, they said I was not entitled to compensation.

This does sound serious, right?

I asked for an additional proof that it really happened. They refused my request, which seemed a bit suspicious to me. So, I decided to double-check it, and file a claim with a flight compensation company Refundor.

A few weeks later, I received 450 euros.

It turned out that Qatar Airways didn’t tell the truth.


Did you miss a connecting flight? File a compensation claim online.


2. Can You Get Compensation From the Airline?

Here are situations when you can get compensation:

  • Your flight is delayed. Mostly delay should be 3+ hours. You must have arrived to your destination 3+ hours late.
  • Your flight is cancelled. It must have happened up to 14 days before the day of departure. This is considered a last-minute flight cancellation.
  • You are denied boarding. It applies to situations when you are denied boarding due to overbooking.

It must be due to fault of the airline, not something unavoidable.

If the flight is delayed or canceled due to bad weather (for example, heavy snow storm), most likely, you won’t get any compensation from the airline. However, if the flight is delayed because of technical issues with the aircraft, you may be eligible to compensation. That is because technical problems are considered as something that the airline can avoid. The airline should have taken proper care of its aircraft. There’s an exception though, and it’s factory defects.

What about strikes? As of 2021, sometimes you can get compensation when there is an airport strike. Before it was much harder to get.

Passengers of all ages can get flight compensation, including infants.

Infants with lap infant tickets are equally protected.

Travel insurance is not needed to claim compensation.

Depending on the country you are flying from, compensation can also be requested for flights that were delayed or cancelled 2-3 years ago.

You can claim compensation yourself by contacting the airline. Alternatively, you can hand over the case to flight compensation company.

These are the rules in the European Union, EEA and UK. In some cases these rules also apply to flights departing from countries outside of these countries, and to flights operated by airlines registered outside of Europe, such as Qatar Airways or Turkish Airlines.

Flight delay? Cancellation? Denied boarding? File a claim online.

3. Which Airlines are Covered?

These rules apply to all airlines.

It includes charter airlines and lowcosters.

Compensation amounts are also the same. It doesn’t matter which airline you are flying with. Yes, it is possible to receive a compensation of 400 euros even if the ticket cost only 40 euros. It doesn’t matter if your flight was with Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines or Wizz Air.

EU/UK to EU/UKEU/UK to Other countriesOther countries to EU/UK
EU airlines+++
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If it’s a EU/EEA/UK airline, the Regulation applies to:

  • flights operating within Europe;
  • flights departing from Europe to third countries;
  • flights departing from third countries to Europe.

If it’s an airline registered elsewhere, the Regulation applies to:

  • flights operating within Europe;
  • flights departing from Europe to a third country.

The only difference here? As you can see, if the airline is not from Europe, such as Turkish Airlines or Qatar Airways, the Regulation works only for flights operating within or from Europe. But if the flight is, let’s say, from Cancun to Lisbon, then these rules do not apply.

4. How Much Can You Claim?

You can get one of these three: 250, 400 or 600 euros.

The amount of flight compensation depends on the distance of your flight.

The longer the flight, the more you can get.

The amount of the flight compensation is not affected by ticket price, nor by age of the passenger. If the compensation is due, your child/baby can get it, too. Even if you haven’t booked a separate seat for your baby.

Here’s how much you can claim:

  • 250 EUR – if the flight distance is less than 1500 km;
  • 400 EUR – if the flight distance is between 1500 and 3500 km;
  • 600 EUR – if the flight distance is more than 3500 km.

You don’t need travel insurance for this.

4.1 Connecting Flights

If you have a connecting flight consisting of 2 or more consecutive flights, your destination is the final destination of your connecting flight. In this case, the distance is measured between the starting point and final destination. Also, the length of delay is calculated depending on how much later you have arrived at your final destination.

If there is a 3-hour delay at the time of departure, but you reach your final destination 2.5 hours late, then mostly you won’t be entitled to compensation.

Example. You have a connecting flight: London – Paris – Dubai. The first flight (London – Paris) is delayed. You arrive in Dubai 3 hours 30 minutes late. Reason of the delay? Technical problems with the aircraft. In this case, you are eligible to compensation. Because you arrived in Dubai more than 3 hours late, and the delay was due to the fault of the airline.

To calculate the amount of compensation, you have to look at the distance from London to Dubai. Not the distance from London to Paris or from Paris to Dubai. In case of a connecting flight, you always should take into account the whole distance – from the starting point to the last stop (final destination).

4.2 Self-Transfer Flights

With self-transfer flights it’s the opposite.

With self-transfer flights, every flight is a separate flight.

4.3 Exception: 50% of Compensation

There is one exception, though.

If it is a long-haul flight (3500+ km) that has been canceled and you have been offered a new flight. If in the end you reach your destination between 3 to 4 hours later than planned, then compensation amount may be reduced from 600 euros to 300 euros.

GET FLIGHT COMPENSATION

File a Claim Online

5. How Long Is the Delay?

How to calculate flight delay?

Because it matters.

It shows whether you are or aren’t eligible to compensation.

There’s a simple method. When you board a flight, set up a second clock (World Clock option) on your phone that will tell you the time in your destination country. Mark somewhere the time your flight should arrive at your destination. Once you land, check the second clock to see if you have arrived later than planned (and how much later).

The time of landing is not the time of arrival!

When it comes to flight compensations, the moment of arrival is when the doors of the aircraft are opened and when the passengers can start to leave the aircraft. That very moment. Not, for example, landing.

If at the moment of landing the delay is almost 3 hours, it is worth keeping an eye on what time the doors are opened. This moment can be documented with a video. The video must show both what time it is and the moment when the plane doors are opened.

6. When Will You Get Compensation From the Airline?

The compensation claim process usually takes at least 2 months.

Yes, at least 2 months. You won’t get the money right away. Keep this in mind. If there are extra costs associated with delay (like hotel, food and transport), initially you may have to cover them out of your own pocket.

The only time you can get compensation right away is in case of denied boarding. If the plane turns out to be full and someone has to stay behind, a volunteer is usually sought. A volunteer who is willing to fly on a different flight. This volunteer is usually offered compensation.

Don’t forget that by becoming a volunteer and agreeing to compensation offered by an airline, you won’t be entitled to other compensations from airline. If it’s only 100 – 200 euro, but it’s a long-haul flight, you might be giving up a chance of getting extra 400 – 500 euro (the official EU denied boarding compensation for 3500+ km flights is 600 euro).

7. How to Get Compensation From the Airline?

You must request compensation.

This is the most important thing to remember. Otherwise you won’t get it, even if you are entitled to it. Yes, compensation must be claimed. If you don’t ask for anything, nobody will pay you anything.

7.1 The Easiest Option

You can work with a flight compensation company.

The is the easiest option. Mostly you’ll need to fill in and sign one form, and the rest will be done by the compensation claim company. You won’t need to communicate with the airline. When the process is over, your compensation will be transferred to your bank account.

However, this service is not free. On average, it costs around 30-35% of the amount of compensation. Most companies on the market work under no-win, no-fees agreement — you pay only if you’re getting compensation.

GET FLIGHT COMPENSATION

File a Claim Online

7.2 The Cheapest Option

You can do all of this yourself.

Contact airline, claim compensation, wait.

With some airlines it will be easier, with others it will be more difficult. In some cases, you may end up spending an hour or two just to find the contact/claim form on the airline’s website. I’ve had this experience with Norwegian. I could not understand how to send them a request for compensation. In the end, I found the contact form using Google, but it was not possible by searching directly on their website.

When it comes to replying, some airlines respond after a week, others only after a month or two. The most important thing is patience, persistence and, if necessary, consultation with other travelers and/or National Enforcement Bodies (NEB). Here you can find a list of National Enforcement Bodies in the EU.

To see the regulation you’ll have to refer to, click here.

The text is available in several languages.

In disputed cases, it may help you to refer to other similar cases in which compensation has been granted. You can find these cases on Google, travel forums, and Facebook groups.

7.3 Reasons Compensation Claims are Denied

The two most common reasons:

  • technical problems;
  • extraordinary circumstances.

In addition to that, technical problems are often referred to as extraordinary circumstances that could not be avoided. Remember that technical problems – unless it’s a hidden manufacturing defect – are generally not considered extraordinary circumstances. Therefore, in case of technical problems, you should be able to get compensation.

The Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 states that there are unforeseeable circumstances which could not be avoided even if all possible measures were taken. And if such circumstances are the reason for flight delay or cancellation, passengers aren’t entitled to receive compensation from the airline.

Unfortunately, airlines often use it in their favor.

Therefore, if the reason for the delay or cancellation of your flight is “extraordinary circumstances”, be sure to ask what exactly those are. The airline is obliged to provide you with this information. Unless it is against the law.

8. UK / EU Flight Delay Compensation

Arrived at your destination 3+ hours later?

You are often entitled to compensation from the airline.

Compensation is due when the cause of the delay is something that is not outside the airline’s control. In other words – when the delay is due to the fault of the airline. Passengers of all ages can receive EU flight delay compensation, including infants. You don’t need to have travel insurance to claim compensation.

Keep in mind that paying compensation does not release the airline from the obligation to take you to your destination. Just as the fact that you have been delivered to your destination does not release the airline from the obligation to pay compensation (when it is due).

8.1 What to Do if Your Flight Is Delayed?

Depends on where you are at the moment.

Are you still at home? Or hotel?

Call the airport to find out if check-in time for your flight has changed. If the delay is short, it is very likely that check-in time has not changed. In this case, go to the airport as planned.

If check-in time has changed (it has been postponed), most probably you can come to the airport later. You will be notified of the new time.

If you are already at the airport, head to your airline’s counter/check-in desk to discuss your options.

8.2 The Right to Receive Care From the Airline

If the delay is long, you can get certain services for free.

First of all, regardless of the circumstances, the airline has to get you to your destination.

There are situations when the wait drags on and departure keeps getting postponed again and again. In situations like these it’s not really clear how long it will be like that. There is always the possibility that at some point the flight is going to be canceled altogether. In this case, it is considered to be a flight cancellation. And, in all situations that fall under the regulations we talk about, you will be offered a choice of a new flight (free of charge) or a full refund.

Keep in mind that:

  • If you have to wait 3 or more hours, you are entitled to a free meal and internet access or 2 calls. If it is not offered, ask your airline.
  • If you have to wait all night or even longer, you are entitled to both food and a free hotel stay + transportation to the hotel and back to the airport. For this you will have to leave the airport, and you may need a visa for transit.

Read more: Right to Care (EU, UK Law)

9. UK / EU Flight Cancellation Compensation

Your flight has been cancelled?

You might be entitled to cancellation compensation.

If it’s a last-minute cancellation (less than 2 weeks before departure) that has happened due to the airline’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation of 250, 400 or 600 euros. The longer the flight, the bigger the compensation.

You are notified 7-14 days before departure:

  • You choose a new flight that departs not more than 2 hours before the scheduled departure time, and arrives at the destination no later than 4 hours after the scheduled arrival time. In this case, compensation is not due.
  • In all other cases, you may have a right to compensation.

You are notified less than 7 days before departure:

  • You choose a new flight that departs not more than 1 hour before the scheduled departure time, and arrives at the destination no later than 2 hours after the scheduled arrival time. In this case, you can’t claim compensation.
  • In all other cases, you may have a right to compensation.

Keep in mind that paying compensation does not release the airline from the obligation to take you to your destination. Just as the fact that you have been delivered to your destination does not release the airline from the obligation to pay compensation (when it is due).

9.1 What to Do if Your Flight Is Cancelled?

In the EU, UK, EEA there are specific guidelines.

The same rules apply to other airlines flying from or within Europe. When an airline cancels a flight, passengers must be given a choice of:

  • new flight or flights;
  • or a refund of the ticket price.

If you were notified of the cancellation less than 14 days before the flight, you are also entitled to compensation. See above. But first you have to figure out which of the 2 options to choose.

Choose the an alternative flight or refund. It’s up to you.

9.2 The Right to Receive Care From the Airline

Flight cancelled last-minute?

You may get certain services for free.

You have arrived at the airport just to find out that your flight has been cancelled last-minute. Or, you have a connecting flight, but one of the connections got cancelled, and you are stuck halfway. What you should do in such situations?

First, regardless of the circumstances, the airline has to get you to your destination. Unless you have chosen to accept the refund instead of a new flight, you will be taken to your destination.

Often you have to wait only a few hours until the new flight departs. But sometimes, it can be a whole day or more.

If you have already checked-in your baggage and now your flight has been cancelled, wait for the information. Soon there will be announcement about where and how to collect your baggage. Since your flight has been canceled and there will now be a new flight, you will also need recheck your baggage.

Keep in mind that:

  • If you have to wait 3 or more hours, you are entitled to a free meal and internet access or 2 calls. If it is not offered, ask your airline.
  • If you have to wait all night or even longer, you are entitled to both food and a free hotel stay + transportation to the hotel and back to the airport. For this you will have to leave the airport, and you may need a visa for transit.

Read more: Right to Care (EU, UK Law)

10. UK / EU Denied Boarding Compensation

Have you been denied boarding involuntarily?

If it’s due to overbooking, you will be compensated.

You see, airlines often sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane. It’s a common practice. Because there are always people who don’t show up for their flight, and the plane departs with empty seats. So, airlines do this in order to earn more money.

10.1 Looking for Volunteers

If the airline staff realizes that there will not be enough seats for everyone on the plane, they will start looking for a volunteer willing to fly later. The volunteer (perhaps you) is offered immediate compensation and a new flight.

You can agree to be a volunteer, or disagree. It’s up to you.

If you agree (it’s called “voluntary denied boarding”) and accept the offer, then you are not entitled to EU denied boarding compensation. You get only what you agree with airline for, and nothing else.

If you do not agree, but you are still denied boarding (and asked to fly later), this is called “involuntarily denied boarding”. In this case, you are entitled to compensation of up to 600 euros. The total compensation amount will depend from the distance of your flight.

10.2 The Right to Receive Care From the Airline

You have to wait at least 3 hours?

You are entitled to some free services.

The airline has a duty to take care of you. In the case of European airlines, the regulations apply to all flights operating within Europe, from Europe and to Europe. If it is an airline registered outside of Europe, the regulations apply to flights operated within and from Europe.

Keep in mind that:

  • If you have to wait 3 or more hours, you are entitled to a free meal and internet access or 2 calls. If it is not offered, ask your airline.
  • If you have to wait all night or even longer, you are entitled to both food and a free hotel stay + transportation to the hotel and back to the airport. For this you will have to leave the airport, and you may need a visa for transit.

Read more: Right to Care (EU, UK Law)

11. Connecting Flights

A connecting flight is 2 or more subsequent flights.

People book connecting flights when there is no direct flight to their destination. The second most popular reason is – the price. Taking a connecting flight often is cheaper than flying directly.

Here’s an example of a connecting flight: a flight from Copenhagen to Bali, which consists of 2 flights: Copenhagen – Doha and Doha – Bali. The stop in Doha is called the “layover“.

There are 2 types of connecting flights:

  • airline-protected connecting flights;
  • self-transfer flights (planned and combined by travelers themselves).

Read more: Connecting Flights

11.1 Airline-Protected Connecting Flights

This is the safest and most convenient option.

If it’s an airline-protected connecting flight, you don’t have to worry about anything at all. Almost anything at all.

There is a short connection time between the flights and you are not sure if you will have enough time to get to the next plane? You don’t have to worry about that. Airlines know this. Count on it! The airline has calculated the minimum time needed for a connection. So these connection times are long enough for you to make in time for your flight.

But what if the first flight is late?

Will you make it in time to board the next one?

If there is a delay and if you miss your next flight, the airline will give you a new ticket free of charge. If you have to wait 3 or more hours, you will be provided with free meals. If you have to wait overnight, you will be provided with a free hotel stay. If you arrive more than 3 hours later, you will also be entitled to flight delay compensation.

With connected flights you are protected.

Read more: Missed Connecting Flight Due to Delay 

11.2 Self-Transfer Flights

Same as common. Not same as safe.

Self transfer is when you have two or more separately-booked flights. Self-transfer flights are different from airline connecting flights. In this case, it will be your responsibility if you miss one of your flights. Having a travel insurance may help — but, still, be very careful with short layovers.

Buy travel insurance right after you book your tickets. So that if there are any changes in flight times later, you are already protected against it.

What about compensation from the airline? You might be entitled to it. However, in this case every flight is seen as a separate flight. If one of the flights is delayed for more than 3 hours due to the fault of the airline, you are entitled to compensation. If a flight is cancelled due to airline’s fault — same. You are denied boarding due to overbooking — same.

But initially you will have to pay for all the expenses yourself. For example, you will need to buy a new flight/flights, pay for a hotel and food yourself. Also, keep in mind that you will receive compensation no sooner than after 1-2 months, sometimes after 6+ months.

Read more: Self-Transfer Flights

12. Flight Compensation: FAQ

Do You Need a Travel Insurance?

No, for this you don’t need insurance.

You do not need travel insurance to receive UK / EU flight compensation.

If flight compensation is due, all affected passengers can get it. Regardless of nationality, age and insurance. However, we strongly recommend to buy a travel insurance anyway. It may help in other situations, such as lost or damaged baggage. Or health related issues such as illnesses and injuries abroad.

SafetyWing is an inexpensive option that can be purchased quickly and easily online. Suitable for both short and long trips for several months.

Are Children Also Entitled to Compensation?

Yes, they are.

If compensation is due, children and even infants (up to 2 years old) can receive compensation, too. Even if no separate seat has been purchased. You can only apply for flight compensation from the age of 18 only. Until this age, the application for compensation must be completed by the parents.

Can You Get Compensation for Old Flights?

Yes, absolutely.

You can claim compensation even if your flight was delayed or cancelled 2-3 years ago. This deadline depends on the country, but in most countries in Europe it’s 2 or 3 years.

Anyway, the sooner you apply, the greater the chance that everything will work out, but it is worth trying and applying for older flights as well. If your flight was departing from Latvia, you have less time, because for flights departing from Latvia it has to be done within 6 months after the flight.

Can the Compensation Be Paid in Vouchers?

No. No. No.

Compensation must always be paid by cash or bank transfer. Not in coupons, vouchers or gift cards. If you unknowingly have accepted a voucher or gift card from the airline, you can request a refund and return the gift card.

Is It Worth Trying to Claim Compensation From an Airline That Is Not Registered in the EU?

Definitely.

Although there will certainly be situations where you will be refused, because they “are not a EU airline, and the regulations does not apply to them”. This is nonsense, and another example of how airlines exploit the passengers’ lack of knowledge about their rights.

If an airline provides its services within the territory of the European Union or UK, it is subject to the same rules as other airlines.

Do the Regulations Apply to Charter Airlines?

Yes.

Even if it is a flight with a charter airline (organized by a travel agency), you are also entitled to the same compensation if there is a long delay, or the flight is cancelled.

Just remember that the travel agency will not claim compensation on your behalf. You have to do it yourself. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can work with a flight compensation company.

I Had a Free 5-Star Hotel Stay and I Was Taken to My Destination. Can I Still Claim Compensation?

Yes.

If the delay or cancellation was due to the airline’s fault, you are also entitled to compensation. Always.

Has your flight ever been delayed or cancelled? Have you tried filing a claim for compensation? Compensation for delay or cancellation? What was your experience?

Featured photo by Cup of Couple


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