Getting compensation for delayed flights

You've packed, you've gotten to the airport, you've cleared customs and then...your flight gets delayed. A pretty lousy way to start your holiday!

So what rights do you have to claim back compensation?

Delayed passengers Delayed flights spoil holidays!

"Extraordinary circumstances"

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) define extraordinary circumstances as 'When the flight would have been delayed, even if the airline had taken all reasonable measures.' Here are some possible examples:

  • Political instability
  • Bad weather
  • Security risks
  • Unexpected flight safety complications
  • Strikes
  • Air traffic management decisions

If your flight lands more than 3 hours late you could be able to claim compensation thanks to some clarification by the European Court of Justice in 2012.

However, it's not always that straightforward.

Airlines don't have to pay if there have been 'extraordinary circumstances' which are outside the airline's control.

The word 'extraordinary' sounds like it's something that would rarely happen but in reality a great deal of delays fall into the category.

How do I claim?

Make sure you keep copies of bookings or tickets. Also keep any receipts for any refreshments, transport or hotel costs you end up paying for.

The better organized you are the easier it will be for claiming compensation; take notes of the exact timings of your delays, flight numbers, staff names and any other relevant information.

When you get home check online for the airline's delay policy - they may ask you to send an email or fill out an online form. Alternatively, you can use the letter template provided by the Civil Aviation Authority to send to the airline.

However you contact the airline make sure you keep records of all communication.

What if I don't hear back?

The first step is to contact the airline to find out what's happening.

If you're not happy, the CAA provides a free service to passengers who are having trouble resolving complaints.

Be aware, they admit that they're currently snowed under and the process may take a while!

If the CAA agree that you are entitled to compensation the airline will usually pay out, otherwise your next step will be to go to the small claims court.

How much could I get?

The amount of compensation you may be entitled to depends on how far you were travelling and how long you were delayed. The compensation is paid in euros:

Length of flight

Delay to destination

Compensation due

Up to 1500km

More than 3 hours


1500km to 3500km

More than 3 hours


More than 3500km

More than 3 hours, but less than 4 hours


More than 3500km

More than 4 hours


These payments are for the inconvenience of the delay only. If you end up having to pay for refreshments, taxis or accommodation because the airline didn't provide them they should be refunding these costs (within reason).

It's worth noting the airline should always provide refreshments after a 2 hour delay and accommodation for an overnight one. That's regardless of the cause of the delay; 'extraordinary circumstances' do not apply.

Can I claim for delays several years ago?

According to the Civil Aviation Authority you can claim for delays, provided you still have all the necessary documents.

Here in the UK, the time limit for bringing a claim to court is six years from the date of the delayed flight. Generally, the sooner you make a claim the better.

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