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Flight Delay

Although flight delays happen often, few passengers are aware of their rights and their entitlement to compensation. Based on Regulation EC 261/2004 passengers are entitled to be compensated from 250 to 600 Euros, depending on their airport of origin and destination, the distance of their journey and the air carrier.


What flights are covered by EC 261/2004?

EC 261/2004 covers all flights within the EU airspace. It also includes Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the outermost regions - i.e. French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and La Reunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira and the Azores, and the Canary Islands.


The regulation also covers all flights departing from an EU airport, and all flights departing out of the EU but having an EU destination which are operated by an EU air carrier.


Here is a simple chart to summarize:


Itinerary EU carrier Non-EU carrier 
 From EU to EU  Covered  Covered
 From EU to non-EU  Covered  Covered
 From non-EU to EU  Covered  Not covered
 From non-EU to non-EU  Not covered  Not covered


If you want to find out whether your flight is eligible for compensation you may use AirLawyer’s Compensation Check platform.

Are all delays covered?

Flight delays that occurred due to extraordinary circumstances are not covered.

Airlines avoid liability in case of “extraordinary circumstances”, like strikes, meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, technical problems at the airport, Air Traffic Control restrictions, political unrest.

Internal strikes by airline staff of the air carrier are not considered as “extraordinary circumstrances”. In these cases airlines should compensate their passengers according to EC 261/2004.


Only delays of arrival at final destination of 3 hours or longer are covered by the EC 261/2004.

The arrival time is considered to be the time when the first door of the aircraft opens for disembarkation, and not the time of the aircraft landing or parking at the gate. Also note that the time of delay is calculated at the final destination. For example, if your flight was delayed at the point of departure by 3 hours or more but you managed to reach your final destination in less than 3 hours then you are not entitled to compensation.

How much compensation am I entitled to for flight delay?

The established amounts of compensation based on EC 261/2004 range between 250 and 600 Euros based on the distance between your point of departure and arrival and the length of the delay.


You can find the amounts you may claim in the table below:


 Delay less than 3h   Delay 3 to 4h   Delay more than 4h   Never arrived   Distance
 0  € 250  € 250  € 250  All flights 1,500km or less
 0  € 400  € 400  € 400  Flights within EU over 1,500km.
 0  € 400  € 400  € 400  Non-internal EU flights between 1,500km and 3,500km 
 0  € 300  € 600  € 600  Non-internal EU flights over 3,500km

What happens if I had a connecting flight?

If you had a single booking for all your flights (same booking reference) and the delay at your final destination was 3 hours or more, your compensation will be calculated based on the total distance between your initial place of departure and final destination, regardless of your intermediate stops.

My flight is delayed. What should I do?

  • Hold tickets and boarding passes related to the disrupted flight and to any other alternative flights offered.
  • Ask the ground crew why the flight is delayed.
  • Keep a note of the actual arrival time at your final destination. Remember that arrival time is when the airplane opens its door for disembarkation, and not when the airplane lands or parks at the gate. If you can, collect some proof, like photos of the departure  board or any communication with the airline confirming the disruption.
  • Ask the airline to cover your meals and refreshments.
  • Keep all receipts from costs that occurred due to the delay (including hotel bookings, rent car bookings, taxis, meals etc.)
  • Be careful with what you sign – do not sign anything or accept offers that may waive your rights (for example vouchers for future flights).

How long after the flight delay can I claim my compensation?

Your claim is time limited according to the law of your country, provided that either the place of departure or the place of destination is situated in that country. Otherwise, your claim will be time limited according to the law of the country where the carrier has its headquarters.


 Country  Limitation period
 Austria  3 years
 Belgium  1 year
 Bulgaria  3 years
 Croatia  3 years
 Cyprus  6 years
 Czech Republic  3 years
 Denmark  3 years
 Estonia  3 years
 Finland  3 years
 France  5 years
 Germany  3 years
 Greece  20 years
 Hungary  5 years
 Iceland  2 years
 Ireland  6 years
 Italy  26 months
 Latvia  2 years
 Lithuania  3 years
 Luxembourg  10 years
 Malta  No limit
 Netherlands  2 years
 Norway  3 years
 Poland  1 year
 Portugal  3 years
 Romania  3 years
 Slovakia  2 years
 Slovenia  2 years
 Spain  5 years
 Sweden  3 years
 Switzerland  2 years
 United Kingdom  6 years

Are there any other rights that come with EC 261/2004?

Right to reimbursement or re-routing


If your delay exceeds 5 hours, the airline should offer you a full refund of the part of the journey not made and a return flight to your first point of departure at the earliest opportunity.


Right to care


The airline should provide you with meals and refreshments during the delay, as well as access to communication, including two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or emails. If overnight stay is needed, the airline should provide accommodation at a hotel and transportation to and from the airport.


Upgrading and downgrading


If the carrier places you in a class higher than that for which the ticket was purchased, it should not request any supplementary payment.


If you are placed in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, the carrier shall, within 7 days, reimburse:


(a) 30 % of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1,500 km or less, or

(b) 50 % of the price of the ticket for all intra-Community flights of more than 1,500 km and for all other flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km, or

(c) 75 % of the price of the ticket for all flights not falling under (a) or (b).


Right to further compensation


Further to the compensation provided by EC 261/2004, you can also claim additional compensation for damages that occurred due to the flight delay, such as the cost of your alternative travel by any means (including air, boat, train, bus, car rental etc.), the cost of overnight hotel accommodation or the cost of missed paid events (such as conferences, pre-booked hotel accommodation or car rental, etc.). In order to claim the above the above damages you should be able to provide evidence of the costs, such as invoices, receipts, bank account payments etc.


In case of an illegal act or omission of the carrier, you can also claim moral damage for your physical and mental suffering, in certain jurisdictions.


Right to be informed


Every airline should inform its passengers about their rights under EC 261/2004. Specifically:


  • In case of delay of at least 2 hours the carrier shall provide you with a written notice setting out the rules for compensation and assistance in line with EC 261/2004. The contact details of the Civil Aviation Authority shall also be given to you in written form.
  • If you are a blind or a visually impaired person, the carrier shall use appropriate alternative means to notify you of your rights

Where can I read the EC 261/2004 regarding flight delays?

You may read the text of Regulation EC 261/2004 here.

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