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Flight delay compensation and rights in short
Flight delays, whether you’re heading off on holiday or travelling for business, are not only inconvenient but extremely stressful. It can be confusing for passengers to know what to do in this situation, which is unfortunately becoming an increasingly common issue in air travel.
The good news is that you have several options when your flight is delayed, but how much compensation you can receive is dependent on a variety of factors. When your flight arrives at the destination airport with a delay of more than 3 hours, you are entitled to 250 €, 400 € or 600 €, depending on the flight distance. With a delay of over 5 hours, you can claim compensation for the ticket fare if you no longer want to take the flight. The airline must provide you with services including free meals, refreshments and accommodation, depending on the length of your delay.
Only 65% of flights with a delay of over 3 hours in the EU are entitled to compensation from the airline. Whether a claim exists or not depends on whether the airline could have prevented the flight delay or whether it was due to extraordinary circumstances. When the reason for your flight delay is deemed an extraordinary circumstance - for example, a lightning strike - the airline cannot be held responsible for the delay.
80% of passengers are unaware of their rights in case of flight delays. Only a fraction - about 5% - of those affected succeed in enforcing their claims independently, as the airlines often exploit the naivete of passengers to avoid compensating.
MYFLYRIGHT, experts for travel rights, intend to put an end to this unfair practice. With MYFLYRIGHT, checking if you can claim compensation for your flight delay is free of charge. If you decide to use the service, MYFLYRIGHT will pursue your claim against the airline with no financial risk. Only in the event of a successful outcome is a commission of 25% plus VAT applied, saving you time, effort and stress. If we have to engage our external lawyers, we charge a surcharge of 10%. In certain cases, an immediate pay-out is offered, where the compensation is paid within 24 hours after receipt of all relevant documents. In this case, a commission of 35% plus VAT is charged.
Your flight was delayed? Compensation conditions
After experiencing the inconvenience of a flight delay, passengers could be entitled to compensation.
The amount of compensation depends on two factors - the distance of the flight and by how many hours the flight was delayed. It should be noted that in order to receive compensation, the flight must be delayed for over 3 hours.
This payment is on top of the services that the airline is obliged to offer in certain cases. Additional services must be provided by the airlines starting with flight delays of over 2 hours, and with a flight delay of more than 5 hours you can also receive a full ticket refund.
Our compensation calculator helps passengers to easily calculate their claim in the event of a flight delay.
EU rules on flight delay: Compensation requisite
A claim for compensation can be taken into account only when the flight reaches the destination with at least a 3-hour delay. This includes missing a connecting flight because your first flight was delayed and, as a result, the arrival at your destination is 3 hours later than scheduled – as long as both flights were purchased together.
Further requirements must be met to establish whether you can make your claim, as outlined in the EU Passenger Rights Regulation EC No 261/2004.
It was previously unclear when exactly a flight could be deemed delayed as opinions varied on when a flight was considered to have arrived at the destination – for example, is it when the aircraft’s wheels are on the tarmac or when the passengers enter the destination airport? According to the jurisdiction, a flight has officially arrived when at least one of the doors of the plane has opened and the passengers can leave the aircraft. Therefore, even if a flight arrives on time at the destination airport, if the passengers must wait on the plane for more than 3 hours, this is considered delayed.
EU flight compensation - flight delay
As long as the flight delay is not caused by extraordinary circumstances, passengers will be entitled to receive compensation from the airline. There are 4 compensation amounts in the event of a flight delay, depending on the distance of the flight, which are set out by the EU Passenger Rights Regulation EC No 261/2004. It is important to note that compensation is calculated based on the arrival time at the destination and not on the departure time of the flight.
Delayed flight: Compensation amounts
The distance of your flight is a key factor when determining the amount of compensation you should receive.
Here is an outline of the compensation in relation to distance and delay:
- 3 500 kilometres (outside the EU) and a flight delay at the destination of at least 4 hours - 600 €
- 3 500 kilometres (outside the EU) and a flight delay at the destination of between 3 and 4 hours - 300 €
- Between 1 500 and 3 500 kilometres (outside the EU) and over 1 500 kilometres (in the EU) and if the flight is delayed at the final destination by at least 3 hours - 400 €
- Up to 1 500 kilometres and a flight delay at the destination of at least 3 hours - 250 €
Airline delay compensation and services overview
Airlines must provide passengers with various additional services in case of flight delays.
These services include free meals and refreshments, which you are entitled to when your flight is delayed by at least 2 hours. Passengers should also be granted free overnight accommodation, if necessary, plus free transfer between the place of accommodation and the airport. Even in the event of extraordinary circumstances, the airline is required to provide these additional services to the passenger.
Flight delayed: Refund and other options
With a delay of over 5 hours, you are not obliged to take the flight and the airlines cannot force you to accept it. After all, by this point it may be too late for whatever event you’re flying to, or perhaps you have already missed that important business meeting.
In case of a flight delayed by 5 hours, the airline must offer you the following:
- Ticket refund and, if applicable, the earliest return flight to the departure point must also be provided.
- Alternative flight at a later date to the destination under comparable conditions of transport, depending on seat availability.
- Alternative transport to the destination (e.g. bus, train, taxi).
If you renounce the flight and choose one of the above-mentioned options, it is important to remember that you as a passenger are still entitled to compensation of up to 600 €.
Overview of the rights and services you are entitled to in case of a flight delay:
Flight delay compensation calculator
To help calculate how much you can claim for a delayed flight, you can use our compensation calculator. All you need is your flight number and flight date.
Up to 600 €* compensation. 3 years retroactively.
Flight delay compensation: EU passenger rights
For flight delays of over 3 hours, the EU Passenger Rights Regulation EC No 261/2004 stipulates that the amount of compensation is dependent on the following factors:
- Flight route and airline – The EU Regulation is applicable for passengers departing from an airport in the EU and for passengers arriving at an airport in the EU if the airline is based in the EU
- Responsibility – the airline is to blame for the flight irregularity
- Deadline – the claim for compensation is made within the statutory limitations
Rights when your flight is delayed: EU flights
To figure out if you have a claim and how much compensation you can expect to receive, you need to take into consideration where you are flying to and from, plus the airline with which you are flying. Passengers are protected under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation and are entitled to compensation from the airline if:
- The flight is within the EU, regardless of where the airline is headquartered.
- The flight is departing from the EU to a non-EU country, regardless of where the airline is headquartered.
- The flight is to the EU departing from a non-EU country, only if the airline is headquartered in the EU.
To clarify, if you are flying from Frankfurt in Germany to Bangkok Airport in Thailand with Thai Airways, a non-EU airline, and your flight is delayed by over 3 hours, the airline is required to compensate you because you are departing from an EU country. However, if the delay is on the return flight from Bangkok to Frankfurt, you are not protected and therefore not entitled to compensation, as the airline’s headquarters and the departure airport are outside of the EU.
The following table summarises which flight routes the EU Regulation applies to:
EU flight delay compensation: Connecting flights
As of July 11, 2019, The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that requirements for compensation, with regards to connecting flights booked on a single reservation, have been extended. This means that even when your connection is outside the EU and your second flight is to a non-EU country with a non-EU airline, you are entitled to compensation, as long as this flight was delayed by 3 hours or more at the destination and it was purchased as part of the same reservation as your first flight.
The case which prompted this extension was a group of passengers who flew from Prague (in the EU), to Bangkok (outside the EU). Tickets were purchased from Czech Airlines, the itinerary being from Prague to Abu Dhabi, with a connecting flight from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok. On the first flight, the passengers flew with Czech Airlines (an EU airline) and arrived in Abu Dhabi on time. The second flight was with Etihad (a non-EU airline) and arrived in Bangkok 8 hours after the scheduled time. Although the delay was beyond the control of Czech Airlines, the court ruled they are liable to compensate the passengers, as they provided the tickets for the whole journey.
So, when booking a flight with a connection, it is useful to note whether the airline providing the reservation is headquartered in the EU or not, as this will determine whether you receive compensation in case of a flight irregularity, such as a delay. You will also find more information on the topic in our article Missed connecting flight.
Flight delay rights - extraordinary circumstances
According to the EU Passenger Rights Regulation , airlines must take necessary precautions to prevent flight delays. However, the airline cannot be held responsible for all flight disruptions. When the reason for a flight delay is out of the airline's hands, this is deemed an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and the airline is exempt from financially compensating passengers in this case. Judging whether something is an extraordinary circumstance or not is a grey area and airlines have been known to use this to their advantage. Therefore, it is important to know when you have a claim for compensation and whether the airline is liable.
If there is doubt whether a case is an extraordinary circumstance or not, it will be taken to court where it is carefully assessed whether the airline could have taken all possible measures to prevent the flight delay. Fortunately, there are several judgements which have been made on this subject which can give the passenger a more distinct indication of which events are considered extraordinary circumstances or not and, consequently, when they can receive compensation. Here is a brief overview:
YES – compensation for flight delays
Each airline must prepare their aircraft properly for winter - for example ensuring it is de-iced properly. If the airline does not prepare for foreseeable situations such as this, they cannot claim extraordinary circumstances.
Airline personnel strikes & wildcat strikes:
Airline personnel strikes and wildcat strikes are not considered as an extraordinary circumstance (ECJ, C-28/20 from 23.3.2021) (Judgment of April 17, 2018, Az. C-195/17 and others). An example of a wildcat strike is when, for example, a large number of employees of the airline suddenly call in sick, resulting in flight operations being impaired. This is not regarded as an extraordinary circumstance and therefore the airline must provide compensation.
Aircraft are constantly in use and regular maintenance is the airline’s responsibility. Besides the fact that the safety of passengers is the utmost priority, every minute an aircraft is not in use is an unrecognised sales opportunity for the airline. Therefore, airlines pay great attention to maximising the utilisation of their fleet. Because it is understood that no aircraft, or component, lasts forever, technical problems do not qualify as extraordinary circumstances. Even if this problem is unexpected, the airline is still held responsible as technical problems are inherently part of an aircraft’s complex system.
NO - no compensation for flight delays
Flight delays due to extreme weather:
Extreme weather which is difficult to predict (e.g. typhoons, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes) is considered an extraordinary circumstance and the airlines cannot be held responsible. However, be aware that airlines sometimes use various weather conditions as a way to avoid paying compensation.
Strikes unrelated to the airline:
A strike of air traffic controllers or ground personnel is considered an extraordinary circumstance. If a flight is delayed as a result of this, the airline is not held responsible.
Unfortunately, bird strikes – when birds collide with aircraft – are no rarity. This can cause serious damage to the plane, resulting in long repair times and delays. The Federal Court recognised this as an extraordinary circumstance in 2013, and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) affirmed this on May 4, 2017.
Can I claim compensation for delayed flight?
Deadline to claim late flight compensation
The timeframe in which you can make your claim for compensation varies by country. For example, in the UK the statute of limitations is 6 years from the date the flight was delayed, whereas in Germany it is 3 years, starting from the end of the calendar year in which the flight was scheduled. Another point to consider is in which country you should make your claim. This, as with the statutory deadline, is different across the EU. In Germany, for example, this is decided based on three factors:
- Country of departure airport
- Country of arrival airport
- Headquarters of airline
The following table offers an overview of the statute of limitations within a sample of European countries:
So, for many passengers there is still plenty of time to make their claim. There is no need to panic at the airport or let stress affect your journey. Despite this, it’s always a good idea to submit your claim as soon as possible to ensure details of your case are not forgotten and documents are not mislaid. Gather as much evidence as you can, and this will increase the likelihood of a successful claim against the airline.
Flight delay: Check-list for making a claim
MYFLYRIGHT will gladly help you in any case, even long after your flight issue and without much bureaucracy, to enforce your passenger rights.
Flight delay compensation: Package & business trip
When you set off for that much-anticipated holiday or the conference of your career and the flight is delayed, it’s never a good start. Moreover, delays can cause you to completely miss family functions, important meetings or pre-booked activities.
Although money won’t totally make up for the inconvenience caused by a flight delay, at least you can always claim for the compensation you are entitled to. Even in case of package travel and business trips you have the same passenger rights as individual travellers.
In some cases, you can also enforce a claim for a package price reduction against the tour operator. In this instance you can refer to the Frankfurt Table, which was created using case examples in Germany to give guidance for potential price reduction in the event of travel disruptions during package travel.
EU late flight compensation for package travel
When your flight is delayed during a package trip, you can make a claim against your tour operator as well as against the airline. The key factor here is how long you were delayed at your destination airport:
- Passengers are entitled to compensation from the airline with a flight delay at the destination of over 3 hours.
- With a flight delay of over 4 hours at the destination, passengers are entitled not only to compensation from the airline, but also a reduction of the package price from the tour operator.
It must be remembered that in order to make your claim, the delay must not have been caused by extraordinary circumstances.
Frankfurt table: Claim for late flight
The Frankfurt table serves as a guideline for passengers travelling with a tour operator who have experienced issues such as flight delay during air travel. It shows a summary of judgements in Germany of the District Court of Frankfurt regarding package travel rights and offers an overview of when, and how much in percentage, a passenger can expect to claim for price reduction against the tour operator.
It is important to note that the Frankfurt table is not legally binding and serves only as a reference for passengers. Each case is assessed individually, and price reductions are calculated accordingly. However, it is beneficial for passengers who want to have an idea of what type of price reduction could be applied to their case, by reviewing existing examples.
Flight delay claim: Business trips
A flight delay during a business trip can have serious consequences. Missed meetings, losing clients or being late for a key presentation are all damaging to your business.
But when travelling for business, who receives the compensation – you or your company?
The compensation is always paid to the traveller. It is provided to make up for the inconvenience experienced by the passenger, so it is irrelevant who made the booking. However, some companies include a clause within the employee contract stating that they have the right to this compensation rather than the employee; if your work contract has this clause, unfortunately you would not receive the compensation. You will also find more information on the topic in our article Business travel.
Flight delay: How to claim compensation
You have a few options when making your claim against the airline. Either you choose to make the claim yourself or you delegate the task to someone else. If you choose the former, it is more than likely that you will need to seek legal help, as the airline will be able to argue skilfully against your claim with help of their legal team. If you do opt to enforce your claim independently, you save yourself the commission applied by MYFLYRIGHT in the event of a successful case; however, it will cost you much more time and nerves.
Considering the time it takes to gather all necessary documents - which can be several hours - as well as how stressful it is dealing with airlines, it may be worth making your claim with MYFLYRIGHT instead. Based on our experience, around 50% of cases we receive are enforced by the courts – a lengthy process which can be bypassed using MYFLYRIGHT’s services.
Claiming independently is a risky process since airlines frequently do not disclose all information regarding a delay. An example of this is when you make a claim against the airline due to technical issues, whereas the delay was caused by a bird strike, in which case the airline does not have to pay compensation. By the time this is made clear, you have spent a considerable amount of time, effort and money.
However, in the event of a rejected case when making your claim through MYFLYRIGHT, there is no need to worry about the costs, because commission is only charged when there is a successful outcome. The following table shows the costs involved in a case in Germany where 2 people each claim for compensation in the value of 400 € per person:
Because it can be so costly to make a claim against the airline yourself, many passengers forgo this option. Airlines are experienced in dealing with multiple claims and are adept at escaping compensation payment. To avoid the financial risk, as well as the time-consuming and stressful nature of the process, you can delegate your case to MYFLYRIGHT. We are experts in passenger rights and we can help you get the compensation you are entitled to. If you still want to make the claim yourself instead, the following tips and letter template will be of use.
Delayed flight compensation letter template
When enforcing your passenger rights against the airline independently, there are several points to consider and steps to follow.
Step 1. Write a letter. You can either write your own letter or use our letter template. If you opt for our template, you can fill it in online and email it directly to the airline or print it, fill it out and post it. If you choose to send your letter by post, be sure to opt for registered post in order to make sure you know when the airline receives it, since this might be an important piece of evidence in court.
You must include the following information in your letter or email:
It is a good idea to set a deadline for the date your claim should be settled. The standard time period is 2-3 weeks. If you haven’t received a response from the airline within that deadline, proceed to Step 2.
Step 2. Now you can seek the help of legal services or give the airline another opportunity to respond by sending a second letter. Once again, set a deadline of 2-3 weeks from when you send it and remember to use registered post if you choose to mail your letter.
Step 3. If your second letter does not result in a response from the airline, it’s time to take your case to court. Airlines are obliged to respond to a lawsuit so will be unable to avoid your claim any longer. Be aware of all costs involved before employing legal services. For example, in Germany, if your case is rejected in court, you must pay the legal and court fees yourself.
You can avoid this frustrating and pricey procedure by choosing MYFLYRIGHT, where you can make your claim without any cost risk.
Flight status: EU statistics on delays
Flight delays occur for a wide variety of reasons, many of which do not fall under the responsibility of airlines - after all, legal proceedings are costly and time-consuming for both parties involved. Despite this, many flights are delayed on a daily basis and this has become a common disruption for air passengers around the world.
Flight delays: Airport statistics
Overview of the cancellation rate and on-time performance in main airports. (Source: OAG 2022 and MYFLYRIGHT analysis)
rate 2022 (%)
|Chicago O'Hare International||2,90%||77,86%|
|DFW||Dallas Fort Worth International||2,81%||76,15%|
|Houston George Bush||1,84%||79,72%|
|LAS||Las Vegas McCarran||2,15%||71,08%|
|Los Angeles International||1,41%||78,63%|
|MEX||Mexico City Juarez||1,52%||72,73%|
|JFK||New York J F Kennedy|| |
|LGA||New York LaGuardia||5,37%|| |
|CDG||Paris Charles de Gaulle||1,24%||63,53%|
|PHX||Phoenix Sky Harbor||1,79%||76,80%|
Statistics on airline flight delay
Overview of the cancellation rate of main airlines. (Source: OAG 2022 and MYFLYRIGHT analysis)
rate 2022 (%)
|All Nippon Airways||1,36%||88,79%|
|KLM Royal Dutch Airlines||3,58%||73,06%|
|WE||Thai Smile Airways|| |
How much is your compensation?