Everything You Need to Know About Flight Delay Refunds
We all love travelling to distant and exotic locations. Unfortunately, just like any other kind of machinery in the world today, airplanes aren’t immune to problems caused by everything from weather conditions, to tech issues. Ultimately, no matter how well you plan for your vacation, there’s always a chance that you could end up missing out on the trip of a lifetime, thanks to a delayed, or cancelled flight.
The good news is that just because you can’t stop a flight from being delayed, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get some compensation for your misfortune. After all, why should you be the one to suffer when the airline is at fault?
According to regulations managed by the “Denied Boarding Regulation” initiative, if you don’t get to take to the skies when you were supposed to, then you could be entitled to compensation for your flight delay.
Who Can Benefit from the “Denied Boarding Regulation”?
The Denied Boarding Regulation is a solution designed for passengers using European airlines. That means that when Britain leaves the European Union, your rights regarding airline compensation are likely to change. However, for the meantime, if you arrive at your destination more than three hours after your intended arrival time, then you should be able to connect with the authorities and claim for a refund or at least some form of compensation.
You can access this system if:
- You checked in at the airport on time (around 45 minutes before your flight was supposed to depart)
- You have a confirmed booking (this doesn’t have to be printed, you can also use an email confirmation or digital confirmation as proof of your flight)
- Your flight was booked either from a European airport or with an EU airline. (Remember, these rules only apply to members of the EU).
When “Brexit” happens, the “Great Repeal Bill” by the Department for Exiting the European Union could continue to protect passenger rights when it comes to flight delays. This proposal will establish that the rules in place before we leave the EU regarding compensation should become domestic law for residents of the United Kingdom.
If the EU rules do not apply under “EU261” the regulation established to offer common rules about compensation and passenger assistance, then you’ll need to examine the rules that have been laid out by the airline or airport you were booked with.
What Kind of Compensation Can You Expect?
When it comes to flight compensation for a delayed or cancelled journey, it’s important to remember that your rights as a passenger ensure that you should have access to more than just the opportunity to claim compensation. When a flight is delayed for more than 2 hours, customers should have access to forms of communication, like free emails and phone calls, as well as free meals and refreshments as per the nature of the delay.
In other words, if you’re sat in an airport for 4 hours, your airline shouldn’t expect you to go without food and water. If a flight is cancelled entirely, then you may be eligible for a free stay in a nearby hotel until you can get on the next appropriate flight.
If you aren’t given basic comforts at the airport, then this could help you to claim more when you fight for compensation. However, you’ll need to keep evidence of the fact that you needed to pay for your own food, beverages, and other “reasonable” expenses.
When Can You Not Claim Compensation?
You might assume that anyone who suffers the headache of a delayed or cancelled flight should be entitled to compensation – however, as with most things, airlines don’t make things quite that simple. While you can claim for compensation if the delay is the responsibility of the airline, the airline will be able to reject your claim if extraordinary circumstances were present.
The guidelines around what can be considered an “extraordinary circumstance” are unclear at times, but the main thing you need to know is that the courts need to be able to know for sure that it’s the airline’s fault that you didn’t get to your destination on time.
This means that if the airline can argue that the problem was an act of god or something that couldn’t be controlled on their side, then you won’t receive compensation. For instance, if the people in the airport are on strike and refuse to fly the plane, then the airline can’t be blamed for the disruption. Additionally, anything that would make it dangerous to fly counts as an extraordinary circumstance.
Although it’s the responsibility of an airline to get you to your destination, their first and most important aim is to keep their passengers safe. Importantly, while extraordinary circumstances will affect your ability to claim for financial compensation, they don’t affect your access to comforts such as refreshments and accommodation.
What If You Don’t Agree with the Extraordinary Circumstances?
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that some airlines make claims for extraordinary circumstances that their customers simply don’t agree with. The good news is that if you aren’t convinced by the excuses your airline is giving, you can make an argument with legal assistance that will allow you to suggest that you should still be given compensation for the flight.
For instance, if your airline states that they were unable to fly safely because the weather was too bad, but you know that other flights taking the same route still departed safely, then you can argue that extraordinary circumstances weren’t present.
There is an approved list of dispute resolution options available for passengers who are affected by delayed and cancelled flights, provided by the Civil Aviation Authority. However, it’s worth noting that the Civil Aviation authority will only work with people whose flights were delayed or cancelled within the United Kingdom.
If your flight was delayed outside of the United Kingdom, then you’ll need to speak to your airline to begin the dispute procedure. There are letter templates available that you can use when you’re attempting to claim compensation, or you can speak to a legal expert about your options.
Flight Compensation FAQ: Your Questions Answered
Getting compensation for a delayed flight is rarely as simple and straightforward as it should be. In fact, many people have a lot of questions on how to make sure that they get the money that they deserve. Here are a few answers to common questions about flight compensation, that could help you to approach your airline feeling confident, and educated.
Q: Who Can Claim Compensation for a Cancelled Flight?
Flight compensation is the money that can be claimed from an airline when a flight is cancelled or delayed. The money is intended to make up for your loss of time, so that means that you can potentially claim back more than your flight was worth.
Flight compensation for cancellations is reserved for people whose flights are taken off the roster within fourteen days of your chosen trip date. You can additionally claim compensation for flights with delays of more than three hours.
Q: What Circumstances Could Facilitate Flight Compensation?
As mentioned above, if your flight was delayed by more than three hours, you should be able to make a claim for compensation. Of course, there are a few other rules in place too, like you need to make a claim within 6 years, and the claim must be linked to an EU airport or airline.
If you fall into the correct categories, then you will be able to claim compensation for flights that are delayed by a range of conditions, including:
- Bad weather
- Technical problems
Q: Can Compensation Be Given for Flights that Happened A While Ago?
There are plenty of people out there who miss out on compensation because they simply don’t know what their rights are as a passenger. If you’re reading this guide and thinking about a time when your flight was cancelled or delayed in the past six years, then it’s important to know that you can still make a claim for compensation.
In England and Wales, the deadline for compensation claims is 6 years, whereas, in Scotland, passengers only have 5 years. If you can’t remember exactly what happened during your last delay, you might need to speak to a professional about your options.
Q: What if I Make a Claim and Don’t Get Compensation?
According to the laws of EU travel, you are officially entitled to compensation if the airline cannot prove that the reason for a delay or cancellation can be linked to matters that were beyond their control. In other words, if you apply for compensation and you don’t get any response, then you can take the matter to court, and potentially sue the airline in question.
Ideally, you’ll need the right documents to make the legal proceedings go smoothly. For instance, if you can get evidence of your flight booking, and even information on when you arrived at your destination, this can help.
Q: Can I Claim on Behalf of Other People?
While plenty of people travel solo, it’s fair to say that many vacations are a family event. With that in mind, it’s important to know whether you can claim on the behalf of your entire group when you’re looking for delay compensation. Although each person within a family group has the right to claim separately, it’s often easier for everyone involved if one person is nominated to handle the claim for everyone involved.
Importantly, if you’re acting as the head of the claim for your family’s compensation, this doesn’t mean that the rest of your group can simply drop out of the procedure. Everyone involved in the delay will have to sign their own documents and make their own statement to ensure that they get the compensation that they deserve.
Importantly, regardless of who pays for the ticket for members of a family, the compensation awarded by the airline will be given to the person who had their time wasted. This means that even if you paid for all the travel expenses for your entire family when you make a claim the money will go back to them, and not into your pocket.
Q: Do Children Have the Same Passenger Rights?
Since kids don’t typically pay for their own tickets, or suffer much when a flight is delayed for that matter, it’s worth noting that a lot of customers assume that they can’t claim on the behalf of their youngsters. However, the truth is that your child has the same rights as you when it comes to ensuring that you get the right travel experience.
The amounts of compensation that individuals can claim under the rules of the EU261 guidelines are calculated according to specific factors, such as the length of the delay, and the amount of distance you would be travelling. This means that it doesn’t matter how old a passenger is, everyone should be able to claim the same amount of money. This is true regardless of whether you paid full price for your child’s ticket, or you get it on a special deal.
The important thing to remember when claiming for a child is that your youngster will need someone to act on their behalf legally, as they cannot approach the court by themselves.
Q: What if I didn’t Buy My Ticket? Can I still Get Compensation?
One of the main reasons that people get confused when it comes to understanding what they’re entitled to in terms of passenger rights and compensation, is that many individuals simply don’t pay for their own tickets and flights. There are countless reasons why you might end up at a flight you didn’t pay for. For instance, you might have been given a ticket as a gift, or you might be travelling as part of a group.
The important thing for claimants to remember is that the rules around passenger compensation are designed to support people when their time is wasted for reasons that are beyond their control. In other words, when you get flight compensation, you’re not getting money back for the cost of a ticket, you’re getting money that’s designed to make you feel better about the time you wasted.
Q: What Happens if I ended up on a Replacement Flight?
If you get a replacement flight to help you move through your journey faster, then the decision of whether or not you should be given compensation will depend on how long it takes to get you to your destination. If your arrival was still delayed by three hours or more, then you should still be eligible for your compensation.
Ultimately, flight compensation isn’t just there to serve people who missed their flight entirely, it’s also there for anyone who ends up being stuck at an airport for hours at a time. Even if the airline does it’s best to get you on a different flight, you could be eligible to claim for compensation, so it’s worth speaking to a legal expert if you’re unsure.
Q: Can I Still Get Compensation on a Code Share Flight?
A codeshare flight is a specific type of travel opportunity where two airlines agree to share the same flight. This can make things complicated from a compensation perspective, considering the fact that you need to be sure that the airline you’re flying with is associated with the EU, or that you’re flying from an airport in the European Union.
With a Code Share flight, if your operating airline – the company that you end up flying with – is not an EU member, then you won’t be able to get the compensation you would typically expect under the laws of the EU.
Q: What Happens if I Agree to Take a Later Flight?
A lot of people assume that the only way that they can claim compensation for their flight delay or cancellation, is if they actively fight against the airline when that company attempts to get them onto alternative flights or send them through different routes. The key thing to remember about compensation is that EU261 works on how long you were delayed when it comes to landing in your chosen location.
In other words, even if you agree to go on a later flight, you’ll still be eligible to claim for compensation, because you still missed out on important time in your life. The important thing to remember here is that just because your plane leaves three hours late from a specific destination doesn’t always mean that it will land three hours later. In some cases, weather conditions and other favourable circumstances mean that companies can make up on time when they’re in the air. Make sure that you keep this in mind when you’re deciding whether to claim.
Q: What if I agree to Fly with another Airline?
As we’ve mentioned before, a person’s entitlement to compensation based on a delayed or cancelled flight will depend on when you get to your chosen destination. Regardless of the airline, you fly on, you will need to have arrived at least three hours or later after the time you were scheduled to land to claim.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that while the location or airline you were intended to fly with must be associated with the European Union, they don’t necessarily wave their right to paying you compensation if they move you onto a non-EU flight. At the end of the day, it’s still the original company that is responsible for your lost time.
The important thing to note here is that even though you will end up flying with a different airline in these circumstances, you’ll need to make your claim against the original airline that caused the delay. They’re the people who you had your booking with, and the individuals that need to be held responsible for your loss of time.
Q: Am I Still Eligible if I Miss a Connecting Flight?
If you simply miss a connecting flight because you’ve spent too much time playing games on your phone and you forgot to get to the departure gate on time, then you won’t be eligible to claim for compensation because the missed flight was your fault. However, if you were unable to catch a connecting flight because you suffer from a delay caused by a previous airline, then you might have more options available to you.
Essentially, even the smallest delay in your original flight could have a knock-on impact on the rest of your travel plans. Although your original delay might have only been half an hour long, if this means that you end up arriving in your chosen destination three hours late, you’ll still be able to make a claim because you suffered from a significant loss in your valuable time.
Q: Can I Make a Claim if My Flight Was Overbooked?
If your flight is overbooked, then your airline might ask you to move onto an alternative flight, which could put a serious damper on your travel plans. The chances are you’re already familiar with the footage of some passengers being removed from flights rather forcefully, and while this might be a rare occurrence, the truth is that being removed from a flight is more common than you might think.
Most airlines will overbook their flights, to make sure that their cabins are still full when people forget to turn up, or they arrive late to the departure lounge. When the flight ends up being overbooked as a result, the airline will ask whether anyone will volunteer to fly at a later time, in exchange for travel and food vouchers. If no-one is willing to take the bait, then your airline might eventually try a process called “involuntary denied boarding”. This simply means that you’re forced to take a different flight whether you like it or not.
The good news about involuntary denied boarding is that regardless of how long you might be delayed, you will still be entitled to compensation so long as you can show evidence that you were not allowed to board the airline at your chosen time. You can keep your boarding pass, and even ask the airline to provide evidence of your missed flight in writing. However, you will not be entitled to compensation if you give up your seat freely.
How Does Flight Delay Refunding Work? The Legal Side
Delayed and cancelled flights can be a nightmare for travellers.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re going on vacation with your family or heading out on a business trip, it’s safe to say that sitting around for hours in an airport is not something that people generally look forward to. This is particularly true when you consider the fact that delays in your flights can leave you stranded for hours, or even days at a time.
The good news is that compensation is available in the right circumstances, but you’ll need to make certain that you’re eligible for a refund from a legal point of view before you start making your claim. Here we’ll look at some points you’ll need to keep in mind when asking for compensation.
The Fault Needs to Belong to the Airline
Ultimately, just as no-one can ask you to withstand the problems of a cancelled flight when it’s not your fault that you’re missing your plane, no-one can force an airline or travel company to pay out compensation for an issue that they couldn’t control. Ultimately, you’re only going to get compensation if the fault belongs unequivocally to the airline. This means that if it’s too dangerous for an airline to launch a flight, or they don’t have a pilot due to a strike, you won’t get compensation.
The interpretive guidelines published by the EU which highlight, when you should be eligible for compensation, suggest that there must be extraordinary circumstances present in order for an airline to avoid paying compensation.
You Need to be Delayed for More than 3 Hours (In Most Cases)
For the majority of flight compensation claims, you’ll need to arrive at your destination three hours later then you were intended to arrive. Importantly, it’s not enough for you to leave the first airport three hours late. Ultimately, compensation is calculated according to when you arrive at your destination, so that’s what counts.
The guidelines regarding when a plane is considered to have “arrived” at its destination are complicated, however, formal literature says that at least one door on your airline needs to have opened in order for a person to class the flight as being “boarded” in a new location. Even if your flight is only three hours and one minute late when it opens that door, you’re still eligible to claim.
Interestingly, the three-hour rule applies to delays, but the rules are different in the case of denied boarding. If you’re not able to board your flight because the people on the plane remove you from no fault of your own, then you can claim for compensation regardless of whether you’re delayed by 20 minutes or four hours. This often happens in the case of overbooking.
You’ll Need to Claim Within a Specific Time Frame
Although the amount of time that you have to make a claim on a delayed or cancelled flight might be longer than you’d assume, there’s still a limit on how long you have to take the airline to court. Ultimately, your best bet is to file for compensation as quickly as possible – even from the day you arrive back in your home country. However, if you were waylaid, or you didn’t know you could file for compensation, you still have five years in Scotland, and Six years in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to make a claim.
Ideally, you’ll need to keep all your receipts and any evidence you can gather that provides information about your delay. This will make it easier for you to make a formal claim through the customer service department of the airline itself. Remember, you’ll also need to be flying with a member of the European Union, or flying from an EU airline.
Brexit May Affect Your Claiming Rights
Claims for flight compensation are managed and overseen by Regulation 261 from the EU guidelines. This means that for now, you can still benefit from the protection that the EU offers when you’re flying outside of England to another country, or flying within the European Union. These rules apply to any delay that lasts for more than three hours.
Unfortunately, exit from the EU could have an impact on how much you can claim, and what you need to do to apply for compensation. There are current petitions in the government that suggest that EU 261 should become domestic law when we leave the European Union, however, these legislation solutions are only in place until the government decides otherwise.
The position of airlines in the UK, and whether they would relate to the coverage from EU261 is yet to be decided.
You Can Always Argue with Your Airline
Ultimately, when it comes to claiming compensation from a delayed or cancelled flight, it’s worth noting that you should probably prepared for your airline carrier to argue that they shouldn’t have to pay anything to you because of extraordinary circumstances. The good news is that even if your claim is not accepted by an airline, that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep fighting by speaking to a legal professional.
Depending on which airline you flew with, and where you were flying too, you could potentially appeal the decision of an airline through an ombudsman scheme. One important point to remember is that you will need to pay a fee of up to £25 if your claim isn’t successful and you want to make an appeal.
If you do eventually get the response you’ve been searching for, it’s also worth noting that the amount of time it can take to get your compensation claim can vary according to a range of circumstances. Most experts suggest that it should take an average of 71 days to see the results of your claim. However, because every compensation argument is unique, it’s difficult for anyone to provide a timescale for when you’re going to get your money.
If months pass and you don’t hear anything back from the airline, then you may need to pursue the matter further yourself, so you can ensure that you don’t miss out on the cash you’re owed.
You Can Get Compensation: Just Talk to these People
A lot of people assume that getting compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight is too difficult. However, the truth is that many people have managed to get the money they’re owed successfully, even if it does take a little bit of time and effort. Here are just a few testimonials from people who have managed to successfully get their refund:
Sarah Bucksworth (Glasgow, Scotland):
After my flight to Mexico was delayed by five hours three years ago, I assumed there was simply nothing I could do about it. I received free food and water from the airline and agreed to take a later flight, but still ended up missing out on almost a full day of my vacation, thanks to problems with the airline that could have been handled by the travel company. I decided to reach out and make a complaint, even though the problem happened a few years ago, and I received over £300 in compensation!
Adam Brunch (Manchester, UK):
I turned up for my flight to Spain around an hour early, just to make sure that I wouldn’t miss the boarding call. Little did I know that all my preparation wouldn’t mean a thing. Not only was my flight delayed three separate times, but the airline eventually told me that they were simply going to cancel the flight and try to book me something the next day. I almost missed my daughter’s wedding, and the airline had the gall to claim that the problem was with the weather, even though there were countless other flights taking the same route. The good news is that I managed to make a claim successfully, and ended up with nearly £500 for my trouble.
Callum Laws (Newcastle, UK):
I was heading on a trip out to Ibiza for a birthday party with a bunch of friends. When we arrived at the gate for our flight (which happened to be on time), the airline told us that they had accidentally overbooked the trip, so we were going to have to wait until another flight became available. Not only had they given our seats to someone else, even though we arrived exactly when we were supposed to, but they didn’t even give us the option to volunteer to move to a different flight. We only ended up being delayed by about an hour, but me and my two friends still made a successful claim for over £200 each.
Abigail Cleats (Dublin, Ireland)
I was going to a hen party with some of my nearest and dearest when our flights ended up being delayed. When the announcement was first made, we were told that we were only going to be arriving about half an hour late to our destination. However, when everything was said and done, we ended up in our hotels 6 hours later than we had originally planned. We were quick to make a complaint to the airline and start our claim for compensation. We’re now waiting on our payments.
Sophia Bridges (Skye, Scotland)
I was going on a family trip with the kids to the United States, and our flight ended up being completely cancelled by the airline. To begin with, they refused to give us any kind of explanation why we were going to have to wait an extra day for boarding, and eventually, we ended up getting a vague excuse about overbooking. I made the claim for compensation and ended up with around £400 for myself and my family. It doesn’t make up for the lost vacation day – but it helps.
Understanding Flight Compensation
So, how can you determine exactly how much compensation you’re owed from your delayed flight? As we’ve mentioned elsewhere throughout this guide, the amount you’re given from an airline will depend on several different factors, including how long it takes for you to arrive in your destination, whether you’re flying to an EU destination, and the distance of your overall flight.
Here’s a basic guide to figuring out how much you could be owed.
Under 1,500 KM
1,500 – 3500 KM
1,500+ Within EU Guidelines
3,500 KM + to a non-EU Airport from an EU airport
3500 KM + to a non-EU Airport from an EU airport
When calculating how much you’re owed from an airline, it’s important to remember that it’s the amount of time that the airline wastes, not the amount you paid for your ticket that determines how much you’re eligible for.
Wondering what your compensation might look like if your flight is cancelled within 14 days before your departure?
Time of Arrival in Destination
0 – 1500 KM
Up to 2 hours late
More than 4 hours late
1500 – 3000 KM
Up to 3 hours late
Up to four hours late
3000 KM +
Up to four hours late
4+ hours late
If your flight is cancelled less than seven days before you’re due to depart, then the rules remain the same, according to the time you arrive at your destination, and the distance travelled.
Time of Arrival in Destination
0 – 1500 KM
Up to 2 hours late
More than 4 hours late
1500 – 3000 KM
Up to 3 hours late
Up to four hours late
3000 KM +
Up to four hours late
4+ hours late