24 May 2017

Waiting for a Delayed or Cancelled Flight – What You Should Know

Airport queues
So you’re stuck at the airport, waiting for a delayed or cancelled flight. What do you need to know?

If your flight departs from the EU, or is arriving in the EU with an EU-based carrier, then you have certain rights and protections under Regulation EC261/2004. The airline must provide you with refreshments proportional to the delay, along with two telephone calls, texts or emails. If your delay entails an overnight stay then the airline must also provide you with accommodation.

Furthermore, if you are delayed for more than 3 hours, you may be entitled to compensation if the delay was the airline’s fault, but not if the cause of the delay was beyond the airline’s control. For example, no compensation is due if the delay was caused by bad weather.

Right to meals and refreshments:

When an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure:

(a) for two hours or more in the case of flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or
(b) for three hours or more in the case of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and of all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or
(c) for four hours or more in the case of all flights not falling under (a) or (b)

Passengers are entitled to free meals and refreshments, along with two telephone calls, texts or emails.

Sometimes airlines will not provide this assistance when they are supposed to, but so long as the above conditions are met, you should be able to purchase reasonable (read: cheap) refreshments then claim the money back later, providing you keep your receipts.

Often airlines will offer vouchers which can be used at the airport, but these are usually low value, such as €5. This won’t buy you much at airport prices, but sometimes outlets at airports offer special deals in conjunction with these vouchers – so look around before spending your voucher!

Right to Accommodation

If you are delayed overnight, or if you have been rerouted onto a flight departing the following day, the airline must provide you with overnight accommodation and transport between the airport and the accommodation. However, in practise certain airlines do not always provide this, so you may need to arrange your own ‘reasonable’ accommodation, then claim back the cost of accommodation and travel from the airline. Therefore it is essential that you keep your receipts, to help with claiming back these costs. It is also important to note that airlines will only pay for cheap accommodation, so don’t check into a 7-star spa resort for the night and expect the airline to pay you back for it!

Re-routing and Reimbursement

When a flight is cancelled at short notice (or delayed over 5 hours), you have the choice between:

a) Reimbursement of your ticket cost within 7 days, and travel back to the origin of your journey.
Or b) Re-routing under similar conditions (i.e. same travel class) to your destination at the earliest available opportunity

The reimbursement is for any unused part of your ticket, or for any part of your journey which is now rendered pointless by the delay (e.g. you will miss a business meeting). Compensation may also be payable.

The re-routing option will include the right to accommodation laid out above, if an overnight stay is required, along with the right to meals and refreshments. Compensation may also be due if you arrive at your destination over 3 hours late.

It is also worth noting that if the airline fly you to a different airport to your ticketed destination, they must also cover the cost of travel to your ticketed destination, unless otherwise agreed by yourself. If they do not directly arrange such travel, make sure you keep receipts for expenses incurred so you can claim the cost back from the airline.

If you have missed a connecting flight (all booked under one reservation) due to delay on the first flight, these same reimbursement and re-routing rules apply.

Right to Compensation

The rules governing compensation are a little complex, but in brief you may be entitled to compensation if you are 3 hours (or more) late upon arrival at your destination (timed by when the plane doors open), or if your flight is cancelled. More details can be found here: https://www.claim4flights.com/eu-regulation-261-2004/

If you are intending to claim compensation, it is a good idea to keep any evidence of your booking, such as ticket stubs, boarding passes and booking confirmation, as these will help while trying to claim. If the airline gives you a ‘delay confirmation letter’ for insurance purposes, this is really useful if you later decide to claim compensation, so keep hold of it!

Reduced Mobility and Unaccompanied Children

The airline have a specific obligation to provide extra assistance to persons with reduced mobility, those accompanying them, and unaccompanied children. If you fit into one of these categories, it is important that you notify the airline’s representatives so that they can accommodate your needs.


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Big thanks for the £304.70 transferred to my bank account today. My claim related to a three-leg flight from Norwich UK to Phoenix USA via Schiphol. The CAA suggested I had a good case but could do nothing because the delay occurred within Dutch jurisdiction. I twice did battle with KLM/Delta myself but they would not budge. Another claims firm tried but threw in the towel. So congratulations to Claim4Flights for taking it on and winning – and for getting the money transferred into my bank account within two days of notification. Very impressed!

Delta Airlines Flight – Andy, Norfolk from Delta Airlines £304.70 won 11th April 2017
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