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Flight compensation in the UK and EU explained


The United Kingdom has expressed that it will continue to comply with all European regulations regarding the aviation industry in the future. This means that when you fly within and from the UK and the EU, you may be entitled to compensation if your flight is disrupted.


Below you can find all the relevant information on your rights as an air passenger in the UK and Europe. If you want to quickly discover which type of compensation you may be entitled to, check your flight with our claim calculator and find out if you are entitled to a refund or monetary compensation. Your rights may include flight disruption compensation, ticket refunds, appropriate care and the reimbursement of additional expenses.


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Regulation EC 261/2004
Flight refund
Flight cancellation compensation
Flight delay compensation
Missed connecting flight
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Applicability of Regulation EC 261/2004


The main piece of legislation that establishes passenger rights in the EU is Regulation EC 261/2004. The Civil Aviation Authority has stated that airlines must continue to comply with the regulation after Brexit, so your rights are still covered for the foreseeable future when flying to and from the United Kingdom. The Regulation EC 261/2004 has been written into UK law, meaning that even after Brexit the passenger rights remain te same. The new law is called 'The Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019'.


Here is a simplified version of how the regulation determines which flights are covered. In other words, when your passenger rights are protected:


  • All flights within the UK and the EU
  • All Flights departing from the UK and the EU
  • Flights arriving in the UK and EU from outside the UK and EU that are operated by a UK or EU airline


All passengers fall under the scope of the regulation unless the passenger is travelling on a free ticket or when flying on a discounted fare not available to the general public. Passengers under the age of two years normally won’t be covered as they tend to fly with price-reduced tickets or under a special fare.


Your right to be compensated for flight disruptions


The law sets out two scenarios in which the airline is obligated to compensate passengers for the inconveniences caused by a flight disruption. The first option is to receive a refund when your flight has been cancelled and you have not been offered an acceptable alternative flight. This is something that is occurring frequently during the coronavirus pandemic. The second option examines the admissibility for passengers to receive financial compensation for the time lost due to travel disruptions. This covers flight delays, flight cancellations and overbooking. Monetary compensation is only due if the flight disruption in question was not caused by an extraordinary circumstance. Bellow, you’ll find a more in-depth explanation of both scenarios.


Flight refund


If your flight has been cancelled by the airline, or if your schedule has changed drastically, you are entitled to the full refund of your fare if the airline fails to provide you with a suitable alternative. Your new (alternative) flight should not depart 2+ hours prior and arrive 5+hours later than your original schedule. Airlines, in almost all cases, will not comply with the criteria so almost all passengers whose flights have been cancelled will be entitled to the full refund of their tickets.


If you have been offered a replacement flight that fulfils the requirements, there is still the possibility that you may be entitled to a refund. Submit your claim and our team will review how your flight schedule changed and when you were informed of the cancellation. We have a dedicated page on when you can claim a refund if your flight is cancelled where you can learn all about your rights. If you choose to submit your claim with Flight-Delayed, we’ll make sure to properly assess all the circumstances affecting your flight and secure every form of compensation that may be entitled to.


Coronavirus cancellations


If your flight has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, you are entitled to the full refund of your airfare. The airline is obliged to refund your ticket in the following 7 days after the cancellation. If they are refusing to offer you a monetary refund and are only making vouchers or travel credit available to you, Flight-Delayed will be more than happy to help you enforce your rights.


The aviation sector has been severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak and the pandemic is considered to be an extraordinary circumstance. This has consequences for air traffic and airlines, so it is precisely now that the rights of air passengers are of utmost importance. The European Commission has confirmed that, in the event of a flight being cancelled, airlines must give passengers a choice between receiving travel vouchers or the reimbursement of the costs of the tickets.


When the passengers are the ones cancelling the booking or wanting to reschedule, they will only be entitled to a full refund if they have bought a fully-refundable ticket. Most fares will not be covered, especially when flying with low-cost airlines. Even though the refund policies vary from airline to airline, there are certain occasions in which you may be allowed to receive the refund of your ticket.


Refund due to a flight delay


If your flight has been delayed for more than 5 hours and you do not wish to travel anymore, you’ll be entitled to a refund. Please note that if you do not travel, you won’t be eligible for compensation. It is more probable, when it regards flight delays, that passengers will be entitled to financial compensation. Below we will explain more about the compensation you may be entitled to if your flight is delayed or cancelled.


Flight cancellation compensation


If your flight has been cancelled, you have the right to claim compensation under EC 261/2004. However, similarly to flight delays, certain conditions must be met for a passenger to be entitled to such monetary compensation. It is a bit trickier when it comes to cancellations, as the moment when you were informed of the cancellation also influences your eligibility. If the criteria are too confusing, you can always use our claim calculator and check your flight. These are the conditions that apply if your flight has been cancelled:


  • If you were informed of the cancellation 14 days or more before your departure, you are not entitled to compensation
  • If you were informed of the cancellation between 7 and 14 days before your departure and you were rebooked on an alternative flight that does not depart 2+ hours earlier and arrives no later than 4+ hours when compared to your original schedule, then you are not entitled to compensation.
  • If you were informed of the cancellation with less than 7 days’ notice, you are entitled to compensation if you’ve arrived at least 2 hours later than planned. (This is the most common case)


All of the above-mentioned cases will only grant you the right to be compensated if your cancellation was not due to an extraordinary circumstance. We’ll say more about these circumstances later, it’s worth noting that they also apply to flight delays.


One more thing to take into account: if your flight is cancelled, the airline must fly you to your final destination or refund your ticket if you do not wish to travel anymore. If you wish to understand more about how you can claim compensation due to flight cancellations, head on to our guide on how to our section on the rules and guidelines regarding flight cancellations in the UK and EU.


Flight delay compensation


The criteria that must be met for passengers whose flight has been delayed to be awarded compensation is more straightforward. Firstly, the delay at one’s final destination must be greater than 3 hours. Secondly, the delay must not be caused by an extraordinary circumstance. We have extensive pages on both how to claim flight delay compensation and what constitutes an extraordinary circumstance. 


If these two conditions are met, passengers will be entitled to up to 600 euros, as per Regulation EC 261/2004, in compensation. The total sums for both flight delays and flight cancellations are determined by the distance covered by your flight (including connecting flights) and are the following:


  • EUR 250 for all flights covering up to 1,500 kilometres
  • EUR 400 for all flights covering from 1,500 up to 3,500 kilometres 
  • EUR 600 for all flights covering more than 3,500 kilometres*


*The total sum can be reduced by 50% if your flight was delayed more than 3 hours but less than 4. The sums are per passenger. The official sums are directly quoted in euros. When you convert them to GBP, an accurate rough estimate is as follows:


Total sums a passenger can receive in compensation for a flight delay or cancellarion


Compensation for a missed connecting flight due to a flight delay or cancellation


The European Court of Justice recently stated that carriers are responsible for your whole booking. It’s well worth knowing that your rights are protected in such cases even if bookings with connecting flights are such a small percentage of the overall in Europe. So how does it work?


The distance between your point of departure and your final destination


Firstly, it is important to know that the distance between your point of departure and your final destination will determine the total sum that you’ll receive in compensation. For example, if you’ve booked a flight from Manchester to Mexico City with a stopover in Madrid, the distance between Manchester and Mexico City will determine how much you might receive. In this case, it would be 600 euros as the distance is greater than 3500 kilometres.


What is hard to understand for some passengers is the fact that if an initial delay of fewer than 3 hours has caused you to miss a connecting flight and that resulted in the passenger arriving with a delay greater than 3 hours when arriving at their final destinations, the passenger is entitled to be compensated for the loss of time. You can always check your flight for free and you’ll discover if you’re entitled to compensation with just a few clicks.


What can Flight-Delayed do for me?


Very often, airlines make the process of claiming as complicated as possible in order to simply avoid compensating their passengers. They also overuse the argument that the disruption was caused by an extraordinary circumstance. Therefore, and more often than not, one sees passengers lose hope and accept the airline’s rejection as the truth.


Fortunately, we have the adequate tools and databases to ensure that your rights are enforced and to fact-check the airlines. We will even take them to court when necessary. If you wish so, we can take care of everything and help you enforce your rights! Claim your refund here.


If you want to maximise the probability of being compensated for your flight delay, cancellation or overbooking, you can let a specialised service, like Flight-Delayed, take care of the whole ordeal. We will gladly help you get what is yours, all under our no win, no fee agreement. 


Claim rejected? You can still submit a claim with Flight-Delayed


If you’re uncertain if your flight delay or cancellation qualifies for compensation, a refund or both, once you’ve submitted your claim our team of experts will analyse the circumstances and assess your case. If your claim has already been rejected by the airline, you can still submit your claim and our team will verify and fact-check their arguments. Very often, they assess the situation wrongly and reject perfectly valid claims; so don’t give up that easily and don’t worry, we’re here to help you!


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