What You’re Entitled To If Your Flight Is Delayed?

If you travel by air more or less regularly—whether for business purposes or as a tourist—it’s likely that you’ve experienced flight delays. The 2022 flight statistics show that almost every third European has had such an experience. Still, many passengers are not aware of the benefits and payouts they can get from the airline when such situations occur.

What are your rights as a passenger, when can you claim for a delayed flight and how can you minimise the risk of being stuck in the airport because of a flight disruption? Read on to find out the answers.

What are your guarantees and benefits?

Air passenger rights within the EU are guaranteed by Regulation (EC) 261/2004 that requires airlines to take care of their customers in the event of a flight disruption. Specifically, if your flight is delayed for more than two hours, you have the right for:

  • Two free phone calls and/or emails;
  • Free meals and refreshments (or vouchers to purchase them);
  • Free accommodation if the flight is delayed overnight;
  • Free transportation from the airport to the hotel and back.

In case the flight is delayed for over five hours, you might refuse to take the flight and apply for a ticket refund instead. You also have the right to claim compensation for the delayed flight, which might amount to €600 for long-distance flights. 

How to figure out why your flight was rescheduled or postponed?

If your flight was delayed, you’d probably want to know the reason for that, especially if you’re planning to claim compensation. To find out the reason as well as possible alternatives, you can ask an airline representative to provide you with the information. Sometimes, it’s also made available online on the airline’s website or social media pages.

Some common reasons for delays include bad weather conditions, technical issues, problems with staff, security concerns, strikes, etc. And while some of them are totally within an airline’s control (in this case you might be entitled to compensation,) others are treated as extraordinary circumstances and can therefore exempt the airline from the responsibility before its passengers. This is why airlines sometimes might construe the term “extraordinary circumstances” rather broadly. One might need a lot of persistence to get an airline to disclose the actual reason for the delay, but this is crucial when applying for compensation.

When an airline must compensate you for a delayed trip?

The EC 261/2004 Regulation stipulates certain requirements that your flight needs to qualify if you want to claim compensation from the airline:

  1. You experienced a flight disruption, such as a flight delay of over three hours or flight cancellation;
  2. The flight was either within the EU or departed from the EU, or arrived in the EU and was operated by an EU airline;
  3. The airline was responsible for the flight disruption (e.g., the staff was sick or late, some technical problem occurred, etc.) 

Additionally, there might be some airline-specific requirements concerning the application procedure or required documents when you’re filing a compensation claim. So, if you find out that you’re entitled to compensation, contact the airline to learn the exact terms and conditions.

The forms of compensation available for delays on flights

Basically, when your scheduled flight lands at the final destination late by more than 3 hours and qualifies all the other requirements, you have the right to claim compensation for a delayed flight. 

You might also be entitled to the reimbursement of your extra expenses caused by the long flight delay (such as accommodation, meals, transportation from the airport to the hotel and back) in case the airline didn’t provide any of these services to the passengers.

However, if the flight delay accounts for more than 5 hours, you might lawfully refuse to wait for the departure and claim a refund on the delayed flight. In this case, you’ll get back the cost of the ticket.

What to do if your flight is cancelled?

When an airline has to cancel a flight altogether, its passengers should be offered an alternative re-route flight or get a refund for the cost of the ticket. If for whatever reason you don’t want to take the re-route flight, you can apply for both the ticket refund and compensation.

If your flight was cancelled, you can approach the airline representative to find out what options are available for the passengers. As a rule, you might be offered one of the following:

  • a full refund of your ticket within 7 days of the date of the scheduled departure;
  • an alternative flight to your destination departing as soon as possible;
  • an alternative flight departing on a later day of your choice (if seats are still available.)

Please note that you can only claim compensation for a flight if it was cancelled less than 14 days before the scheduled date of departure.

Minimizing the aftermath of cancellations and delays

Even though it’s virtually impossible to prevent flight disruptions from happening, you still can minimize your risks and mitigate possible consequences if you’re armed with appropriate knowledge. 

First off, be sure to check if the flight was delayed or cancelled before setting out for the airport. This can be done online via the flight timetable on the airport website. Of course, it’s not always the case that the flight delay is announced well in advance, but it might happen, for example, if the weather conditions are worsening and there are already problems with departures. Even though you won’t be able to claim compensation in this situation, at least you won’t arrive at the airport too soon only to find out that the flight has been delayed.

Another useful tip for passengers who’ve experienced a flight disruption is to make use of flight compensation claims services that help you win your entitled compensation with minimal effort on your side. All you need to do is to fill out an application form and let professionals handle all negotiations with the airline and regulatory bodies. This would be a good choice if you just want to get your money from the airline without having to spend your time and nerves pursuing your claim on your own.

Final thoughts

Flight disruptions are inevitable if you’re an active air traveller. Yet, if you are well aware of your passenger rights and know how to act in the event of flight delay or cancellation, you can certainly make the whole experience less frustrating. And the fact that you’re entitled to compensation if the disruption was due to the airline’s fault might serve as a cheer-up.