Air passenger rights have been protected in Europe and the rest of the world since 1999, with the establishment of the Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air. However, the European Parliament and the European Commission wanted to ensure that air passengers rights in Europe are protected even further and that passengers have the right to flight compensation.
In 2004, the EU Parliament came up with Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004, also known as EU261. The original 2004 document stated that passengers should be awarded monetary compensation in the event of denied boarding or a last-minute flight cancellation.
Five years later, in 2009, the Sturgeon Ruling determined that these rules should apply also to flight delays of over 3 hours.
You can flight EU261 compensation in the event of:
- Flight delayed by more than 3 hours at the destination
- Flight cancelled fewer than 14 days before the original departure date
- Denied boarding, if the alternative flight offered by the airline arrived at least 3 hours late to the destination
The airline must be the party at fault for the flight disruption for you to be eligible for compensation — read the “Extraordinary Circumstances” section of this article to learn more about this.
In many circumstances, yes. EU261 compensation applies to all flights:
- Within the EU
- Departing from the EU
- Arriving to the EU from a non-EU country (only applies to flights on EU airlines)
See table below to learn more.
|Type of flight
|Flying with a British carrier
|Tokyo to London with British Airways
|Flying with a EU carrier
|Amsterdam to London with KLM
|Flying with a non-UK/non-EU carrier from the UK
|London to Tokyo with Japan Airlines
|Flying with a non-UK/non-EU carrier to the UK
|Tokyo to London with Japan Airlines
|Distance of your flight
|Flights shorter than 1,500 km
|Get £220 per passenger
|Flight between 1,500 and 3,500 km
|Get £350 per passenger
|Flights of over 1,500 kilometres within the EU
|Get £350 per passenger
|Flights of over 3,500 kilometres outside of the EU
|Get £520 per passenger
You can claim EU261 flight compensation for your delayed flight if:
- Your flight was delayed by more than 3 hours
- The airline was the party at fault for the delay — see the “Extraordinary Circumstances” section below to learn more
In the event of a cancelled flight, EU261 protects your rights. Depending on your flight cancellation circumstances, you might get flight compensation, a refund — or even both!
If your flight was cancelled fewer than 14 days before departure, you can claim flight compensation of up to £520 / 600 €. The airline must be the party at fault for the cancellation.
EU261 states that if your flight was cancelled and you did not take the alternative flight offered by the airline, you may be eligible for a ticket refund. You are also entitled to a ticket refund if you were not offered an alternative flight at all.
|Fewer than 7 days in advance
|Departs 1h+ earlier or arrived 2h+ later
|7-14 days in advance
|Departs 2h+ earlier or arrived 4h+ later
|Fewer than 14 days in advance
|No alternative flight offered
|Yes + refund
Yes! EU261 states that if you have been denied boarding without doing anything wrong yourself, you must be compensated under the same principles that apply to delayed and cancelled flights.
Boarding denial is often related to flight overbooking.
Overbooking is common for airlines. They frequently sell more tickets than available seats on the plane, and if there aren't enough volunteers to give up their reservations, passengers may be denied boarding against their will.
Many airlines and travel agencies tend to offer passengers travel vouchers instead of flight compensation or a flight refund. However, this voucher policy is not in compliance with European legislation. If the airline wants to offer a voucher, they still need to clarify to passengers that getting flight compensation or a flight refund is possible.
Additionally, we do not advise accepting a travel voucher instead of a refund or compensation. The main reasons for this are:
- Accepting a travel voucher binds you to fly with the same airline again. In addition, the airline usually assigns a time limit for redeeming the voucher.
- If the airline declares bankruptcy, you may be unable to convert your voucher into a cash refund — in other words, your money will be lost.
They can, but only if the airline was not responsible for the delay, cancellation or denied boarding. Those situations are referred to as Extraordinary Circumstances.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of known examples:
Bad weather conditions, such as thick fog, heavy rain, or thunderstorms.
A strike, most often specifically within the aviation industry (for example, a strike of air traffic control workers at a specific airport).
However, a strike of the airline's crew is not considered an extraordinary circumstance!
Political circumstances, such as a terrorist attack or general security risk due to political unrest.
Natural disasters, including volcanic eruptions and hurricanes.
A collision between the aircraft and birds or other foreign objects.
An ill or unruly passenger.
Flight delays caused by the airport staff, such as extraordinarily long queues to security checks.
Be careful! Airlines can claim that extraordinary circumstances occurred when it was not the case! They do this to avoid having to reimburse passengers.
Claim your flight compensation and refund today using Flight-Delayed.co.uk to improve your chances of receiving compensation and refund. We will thoroughly investigate your claim and hold the airline accountable. We only work on a 'no win, no fee' basis for your convenience.
EU261 itself does not determine how long passengers have to claim flight compensation. That responsibility falls under the relevant authorities of each country.
- In the UK (except Scotland), that is the Civil Aviation Authority, and the timeframe is 6 years after the date of your disrupted flight.
- In France, Spain, Scotland and Greece, you can claim flight compensation up to 5 years after the flight disruption.
- In Portugal, Germany and Austria, you have 3 years to claim flight compensation
- In Italy, Malta and the Netherlands, you can claim flight compensation up to 2 years after the flight disruption.
- More details on delayed flight compensation
- More details on cancelled flight compensation
- Post-Brexit flight compensation rules in the UK
- Rules regarding missed flight compensation
- Rules regarding flight compensation in the case of denied boarding
- Claim Calculator — check if you are eligible for compensation