EU Airline Delay Compensation

Disclaimer: I am an attorney, but I am not your attorney. You can either read this do it yourself guide or use a service that takes about 25% of your compensation such as Airhelp or EU Claim.


The European Union ("EU") offers great compensation under EU Regulation 261 if your flight is delayed depending on the distance of the flight, the number of hours of delay, and departure and destination points. For example, if a long-haul transatlantic flight is delayed more than four hours for a qualifying event, you can receive 600 euros.

The EU consists of 28 countries and several territories: Austra, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion Island, Mayotte, Saint-Martin (French Antilles), the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands.

You can get compensation if

  • If your flight is within the EU and is operated by an EU or non-EU airline.
  • If your flight arrives in the EU and operated by an EU airline (i.e. Charlotte to Frankfurt on Lufthansa would qualify, but that same route on United Airlines would not)
  • If your flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or non-EU airline (i.e. Frankfurt to Charlotte on any airline would qualify)

Compensation Amounts

  • At least 3 hours
    • Less than 1,500 km= 250 Euros
    • 1500-3500 km= 400 Euros
    • More than 1500 and within EU= 400 Euros
  • 3-4 Hours + between an EU and non-EU airport + more than 3,500 km= 300 Euros
  • 4+ Hours + between an EU and non-EU airport + more than 3,500 km= 600 Euros
  • 5+ Hours= may instead opt for reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket and a return flight to the first point of departure.
  • If departure is deferred to the next day, you also can get hotel accommodation and transportation between the hotel and airport.

Additionally, in the event of a cancellation, passengers have the right to:

  1. the reimbursement of the cost of the ticket or a return flight to the first point of departure or re-routing to the final destination
  2. Hotels, meals, refreshments, and transportation between airport and hotel.

Downgraded- If you get downgraded (i.e. demoted from business to economy)

  • 30% of the price of the ticket for all flights under 1,500 km
  • 50% of the price of the ticket for flights between 1500-3500 km
  • 75% of the price of the ticket for flights above 3500 km.

Re-routed- The airline may reduce the compensation by 50% if you offered a re-routing to your final destination and the actual arrival time does not exceed the scheduled arrival by: (a) two hours, in respect of all flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or (b) three hours, in respect of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or (c) four hours, in respect of all flights not falling under (a) or (b)

No Compensation: Even if you are delayed 3+ hours, you could not receive compensation:

  • If the cause is considered an extraordinary event. An extraordinary event is one that could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Examples are political instability, meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, security risks, unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier. Extraordinary events are not most technical problems such as aircraft maintenance. 
    • You still have the right to a ticket refund, alternative transportation to your final destination, or rebooking at a later date.
  • You were informed 2 weeks before the scheduled flight date.
  • You were offered an alternative for the same route with a similar schedule.
  • It was your fault that you were late (i.e. late because of traffic)

You will then need to email or write to the airline. Before you do, use GCmap to calculate the distance of your flight and Flight Aware for a record of the delay. If your letter does not work, appeal to the Civil Aviation Authority.

 

Sample Letter for a Delay Attributable to a Non-Extraordinary Event

Dear (Airline)

I am writing to you in regards to my flight [number] on [date] from [departure airport] to [arrival airport] with the scheduled departure time of ____ and scheduled arrival time of ____.

My booking reference number is ____.  This flight arrived at ____, which was ____ hours late at (airport name). (or this flight was canceled and I arrived on (time and date), which was ___ days/hours after my previously scheduled arrival.

My travel companions were _______. (if applicable)

I am seeking compensation under EC Regulation 261/2004 for this delayed flight.

My scheduled flight length was ___ km and delayed ___ hours, therefore I am seeking ___ euros per delayed passenger in my party. The total compensation sought is ___ euros.

Please respond with 14 days. If not, I will follow up at a later date.

Thank You,

[your name]

Sample Letter for a Delay Attributable to an Extraordinary Event

 

Dear (Airline)

I am writing to you in regards to my flight [number] on [date] from [departure airport] to [arrival airport] with the scheduled departure time of ____ and scheduled arrival time of ____.

My booking reference number is ____.  This flight arrived at ____, which was ____ hours late at (airport name). (or this flight was canceled and I arrived on (time and date), which was ___ days/hours after my previously scheduled arrival.

My travel companions were _______. (if applicable)

Unfortunately, your airline did not provide (hotels/meals/transport to/from airport/ or re-routing home). Attached are my receipts.  Therefore, I request you to compensate me ___ Euros for these expenses.

(Cite an applicable provision of EC 261 or some cases)

Please respond with 14 days. If not, I will follow up at a later date.

Thank You,

[your name]