Airlines are obliged to offer compensations, but most of the tourists don’t know that they are entitled to a flight compensation for delays or cancelations. Was your flight delayed or canceled and don’t know what to do? There are a few ways that you can get compensation for your delayed or canceled flight. We have prepared a guide on how to get your compensation as soon and as easy as possible.
Sometimes flights don’t go as planned and might get delayed for various reasons. Most of the time these scenarios happen on low-cost companies because of the operational costs. Since it is easier for them to give you a discount on another flight, it doesn’t mean that you have to accept the delay and their resolution.
The compensation you can get is based on the distance of your flight and the number of hours your flight was delayed.
What to do if your flight is delayed in the EU?
If you are a passenger on a flight in the European Union, you can obtain a flight compensation for delays, by following the steps below:
1. Have your boarding pass and travel documents ready
If for some reason, you don’t have your boarding pass, you can present any other document that proves you are a passenger of that certain flight (reservation code, booking code, etc). This number is provided by the airline once you book your flight. It is a 6+ character code that can contain both letters and numbers.
2. Find out why your flight was delayed
Most of the time, airlines do not communicate the delay reason, so you should try to find out what the delay reason is. Most of the time airlines announce “operational circumstances” or “flight safety deficiencies” as the delay or cancellation reason. If this is the case, make sure you get as many details as possible from the airline representative.
This way, once you make the claim, the information can be used to decide if the delay was caused by the airline or not.
3. Write down the arrival time
You should always write down the arrival time. This way, if the flight has over 3 hours delay, you are entitled to compensation. Please note that the arrival time is considered when the airplane has arrived and the landing gate and the doors are open. There are also websites that can provide details about the arrival time for your flight, but in order to be on the safe side, note the arrival time yourself.
4. You should ask the airline to pay for the food and drinks (soft drinks) during the delay
You might not consider it, but if you have to wait for a longer period of time, this is not only hospitality but a necessity for you as a passenger. You have to stay hydrated and energized during your wait at the airport.
5. Do not accept or sign any offers or documents that might void your compensation rights for the flight delay
The airline representative might offer you a discount for a different flight, fly miles, or even a free flight on a different date. Although these might sound great, these types of offers void your compensation rights.
6. If the delay is longer than 5 hours, choose what to do next
If the delay is over 5 hours, you can choose how you wish to handle the delay. You can wait until the flight eventually takes off or is canceled, or you can ask to be reimbursed for the ticket and get a free flight to your point of departure.
7. Ask the airline to pay for the hotel accommodation
If you have to spend the night in a hotel due to the flight delay, ask the airline to cover the costs for the hotel and transport service to the hotel and back to the airport. They have to pay for the accommodation and transfer fee.
8. Save the receipts and other proof of payment
If your flight is delayed or canceled, you should save the receipt for your already paid services such as airport transfer, car rental, city passes, or any other services you have paid for and lost due to the delay. The airline is required to pay for those lost services too since the losses were caused by the delay.
What to do if your flight is delayed in the US?
Here is a list of the things you have to do if your flight was delayed in the United States of America:
1. Present your boarding pass or travel documents to the airline representative
You should have your boarding pass or travel documents ready in case the flight is delayed. The airline representative will ask you to present the boarding pass for further help. If you don’t have your boarding pass, you can use any travel document that contains a reservation code or that proves you are a passenger of the flight.
2. Ask the airline to provide food and soft drinks
If your flight is delayed after the passengers have already boarded the plane, the airline must provide food and drinks within 2 hours. If the delay is longer than 3 hours for domestic flights or 4 hours for international flights, the airline has to allow disembark (if there is no good reason not to do so).
3. Ask the airline for compensation for the delay
You should ask for compensation directly from the airline first. In most of the cases, the airlines deny compensation and can invoke several reasons such as “operational circumstances” or “flight safety deficiencies”. These reasons will not exempt the airline from paying compensation.
What to do if your international flight is delayed?
If your international flight is delayed and you want to file a flight compensation for delays, please follow the steps below in order to make the most out of an unpleasant situation:
1. Present your boarding pass to the airline representative
The airline representative will ask for your boarding pass in order to be able to help you or offer you further information about any delays regarding your flight. This is the standard procedure for most airlines.
2. Ask for further details about the delay
The airline representative should give you more details about the delay and the more details you have, the easier it will be to file a claim. Most of the airlines claim ambiguous reasons like “operational circumstances” or “flight safety deficiencies”. If your flight was delayed for one of those reasons, make sure you ask for more details. This way, you can find out if the delay is caused by the airline or other external factors.
Most of the time low-cost companies will use one of those reasons when the airport taxes grow or the destination airport is crowded and they have to pay extra fees to land.
3. Keep receipts and payment proof for all the extra expenses that occur
If your flight is delayed, the compensation should also cover the extra expenses that occur such as hotel bookings, airport transfers, car rentals, city passes, food and drinks, or any other service that was paid before and lost because of the delay.
How much can you get as flight compensation for delays?
The amount you could receive as a fight compensation for delays is different based on how long the delay is and the flight distance to your destination.
You can find the tiers for compensation based on delay and distance:
- Delays under 3 hours are not eligible for compensation.
- All delayed flights that have a flight distance of up to 1,500 km, can obtain compensation of €250.
- Internal EU flights that have a flight distance over 1,500 km, can obtain compensation of €400.
- Non-internal EU flights that have a flight distance between 1,500 km and 3,500 km, can obtain compensation of €400.
- Non-internal EU flights that have a flight distance of over 3,500 km, can obtain the following compensation:
- If the flight is delayed by 3-4 hours, the compensation is €300.
- If the flight is delayed by more than 4 hours, the compensation is €600.
- If the flight is canceled, the compensation is €600.
Passenger rights for flights covered by the EC 261 European Law
Besides the flight compensation for delays, the airline is required to offer its passengers other things. Find out what you are entitled too if your flight is delayed or canceled.
Food, soft drinks, and accommodation
If you are delayed for a longer period of time, the airline is required (according to the European Law – EC 261) to provide food and drinks for the passengers. The airline is also required to provide you with means of communication, including two phone calls, fax messages, and emails. If your flight was delayed or canceled and accommodation is required, the airline has to provide you with a hotel room and transportation to the accommodation location and back to the airport.
Right to receive a refund or re-route your flight
If your flight delay exceeds 5 hours, you may choose to ask for a full refund or a partial refund and a free flight back to your departure airport (if that is needed). The reimbursement is separate from the compensation funds that cover your time loss.
Handling seat upgrades or downgrades
The airline might provide you with a free ticket to an alternative flight. If the seat is in a better class than what your delayed flight seat was in, they are not allowed to ask you to pay anything extra.
If the seat on your alternative flight is in a lower class than your delayed flight seat, you are entitled to get a reimbursement of 30-75% of the original ticket price from the delayed flight.
The right to be informed about EC 261
Each airline has the obligation to provide its passengers with information regarding the EC 261 law, the airline obligations, and the passengers’ rights at the check-in counters.
You can find the entire EC 261 European Law here. You can save it on your phone if you are traveling, that way you have everything you need ready in case something doesn’t go as planned.
Which flights are covered by the EC 261 European Law
Most of the passengers think that the compensation is only available to EU passengers or for EU flights only. This is a common misconception, but the fact is that the EC 261 law covers worldwide passengers that have issues with their airline and want to get flight compensation for delays.
Within Europe, almost all the flights are covered by the compensation law. Besides the EU zone, countries that are covered by the EC 261 are Iceland, Norway, Switzerland. Other regions that are covered are Guadaloupe and La Reunion, French Guiana and Martinique, the Canary Islands, the Azores, Madeira, and Saint-Martin.
If your flight departs from any European airport, you can rest assured that it is covered by the EC 261 law. The same goes for flights that depart from outside the EU, but the airline is an EU airline.
Flight delay calculation
The delay of your flight is calculated based on the arrival time at your final destination. The European Court of Justice has decided that the arrival time is considered the time when the aircraft has reached its destination and at least one of the aircraft doors is open.
It is important to know the exact moment when you calculate the delay in order to claim your compensation because the moment when the aircraft doors open is usually about 10-15 minutes later than when the aircraft lands.
Keep in mind that flight delays under 3 hours are not eligible for any compensation.
Extraordinary Circumstances and what do these mean
The EC 261 law does not hold the airline responsible for any extraordinary circumstances. This category of events refers to any event that is outside of the airline’s control.
Extraordinary circumstances are scenarios that include lightning strikes, airport employee or traffic control strikes (airline strikes are not included here), flight restrictions, severe weather conditions, medical emergencies, airport infrastructure or radar malfunctions, terrorism or any other event that is out of the airline’s control that won’t permit the takeoff of the aircraft.
As mentioned above, airline strikes are not included in extraordinary circumstances, and starting from 2018, airlines have to compensate its passengers if flights are delayed due to airline employee strikes.
Missing a connecting flight because of a delay
It is not uncommon for passengers to have connecting flights to their final destination. This can happen for several reasons, most of the time an important factor is the lower ticket prices.
If your flight has been delayed and you missed your connecting flight, the airline is obliged to find you a different connecting flight and provide you with a ticket for free on that flight. Besides the new ticket, if you arrive at your final destination with a delay of over 3 hours, you might be entitled to get compensation too. It is still considered a flight delay.
Keep in mind that you should book your flights (connecting flights too) together as part of the same journey. Booking the flights separately will not be covered by the EC 261 law if you miss the connecting flight.
How to file a flight delay or flight cancelation compensation claim
I have prepared a guide on what to do if your flight has been delayed or canceled. The following steps are provided based on my previous experience with flight cancelation and AirHelp.
The first things you need to do
Once you find out that your flight is delayed or canceled, make sure you do the following:
- Prepare your boarding pass or other flight documents
- Find out why your flight has been delayed or canceled
- Collect as much proof as possible of the delay. You can take photos of the departure monitor or any communication with an airline representative that confirms the situation.
- Save the time of arrival at your final destination
- You can ask for food and soft drinks from your airline
- Do not sign or accept any document that might waive your rights for compensation
- If the delay is longer than 5 hours, you can choose to wait or ask for a refund
- If the delay is too long, ask the airline to provide accommodation
- Don’t throw away any receipts that you have for the extra costs caused by the flight delay
Claim your compensation through AirHelp and why you should choose them
I had a couple of flights delayed or canceled in the past and I came across AirHelp via Gmail ads, once my flight was canceled. I was a skeptic the first time, but I gave them a try and boy was that the right decision.
After I saw their ad I thought to myself, why wouldn’t I claim the compensation myself. Then I realized that it would be a hassle for me to find out how to approach this issue and it would take a lot of time to do it. So, I decided to let them handle my claim.
The first step was to use their online checker and see if my flight was eligible for compensation and it was. Next, I followed the claim process, which was pretty straight forward. They provided me with documents that needed to be signed, scanned, and sent back to them. The documents were basically an agreement that they will handle the claim process on my behalf and the contract for the success fee.
Next, I provided them with the information I had about my canceled flight and that was it. In about 10 days, the status of my claim changed and they told me that the airline declined my compensation. After about 5 days, the status changed to “Good News” and I was told that my claim was accepted (who knows what sorcery they did behind the scenes) and I had to add my bank account into the application.
After about a week or so, I got a message from my bank and from AirHelp telling me that I received the compensation and that I had the funds in my bank account. Since it was a short flight, my compensation was €250 for me and €250 for my wife. AirHelp’s fees were 35%, but the fee was well deserved considering the entire process took me a little over 1 hour from start to finish (signing and scanning the documents, submitting the files and adding our details to the application).
I was happy and surprised at the same time by how easy and fast everything went. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the choice I made to claim my flight compensation for delays with AirHelp.
Why use AirHelp
- They analyze your claim fast and let you know if they think they can get your compensation
- They handle all the communication with the airline on your behalf
- They charge the fee only if they obtain your compensation
Filing a claim: documents needed
When it comes to filing a claim, every airline has different requirements and documents that they ask for. This is why, if you decide to file the claim on your own, you might find some resistance from the airline, even if you have the EC 261 law on your side. It is normal to a certain degree, as each compensation they give to passengers, is from their own budget.
That is why I decided to file a claim through AirHelp as it made things a lot easier for me. They knew exactly what documents the airline I was supposed to fly with needed and they guided me and helped me get everything ready to speed up the entire process.
To sum things up, I think that if you experience any issues with your flight, you should consider filing a claim. It is up to you to file a flight compensation for delays or cancelations claim by yourself, or by using a service like AirHelp. From my previous experiences, I can easily say that I would choose AirHelp every time I have an issue with my flight.
You can also use the links below to find out what the score for each airport and airline, rated by passengers and tourists like you and me.
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Don’t know what to pack for your trip? Check out our Travel Packing List article.