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Flight Delay Compensation

Up to £460/person, back to 2005
plane delays

If you're delayed more than three hours or your flight's cancelled, under EU rule 261/2004 you are often entitled to between £100 and £460 in compensation - and it's possible to claim this for free.

This is a full step-by-step guide to claiming, including free template letters and info on how to stop the airlines squirming out of paying. It also has full details of the late 2014 Supreme Court decision to turn down Jet2 and Thomson's attempts to block many claims - and the latest on how airlines have responded.

Flight delay compensation is big money

The doors for mass compensation for long flight delays were flung open in October 2012 following a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice. It clarified that passengers were entitled to compensation for long delays (as long as they met the set criteria) following a challenge by some airlines.

Since then, passengers who've been delayed have been fighting to get that compensation and MoneySavingExpert has helped lead the charge. Just under 300,000 of our free flight delay reclaiming letters have been downloaded.

Not everyone has won compensation. Jet2 and Thomson tried to block people from claiming for flights that were over two years old, and for unforeseeable technical faults (court rulings at the end of 2014 seemed set to end this, though some cases are still being put on hold - see Court cases info for the latest).

Yet we are also swamped with some huge successes – here are a few to inspire you:

I used the template to complain to Thomas Cook about a delayed flight to Egypt in 2010. It is compensating me £1,040. It's made my day. - Amanda, Oct 2013

Just got a cheque for £970 from BA for delays in 2009 thanks to you telling me about new legislation. More than I actually paid. - Denise, claimed for 2 passengers (£485 each), Dec 2012

Airline-by-airline chances of success

If you've yet to claim, click on our poll results below for an idea of how likely it is your airline will pay up based on what other MoneySavers have found.

If you've already tried to claim compensation, we'd love to know which airlines are paying up, and which are playing hard ball. Please tell us how it went below.

Have you tried to claim compensation for flight delays?This week's MoneySaving poll

Aegean Airlines

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Aeroflot

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Aer Lingus

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Air Asia

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Air Berlin

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Air Canada

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Air China

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Air France

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Air India

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Air New Zealand

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Alitalia

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American Airlines

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ANA

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BMI Regional

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British Airways

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Brussels Airlines

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Cathay Pacific

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Continental

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Croatia Airlines

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Cyprus Airways

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Delta

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Eastern Airways

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Easyjet

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El Al

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Emirates

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Etihad

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Finnair

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Flybe

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Germanwings

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Iberia

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Icelandair

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Jet Airways

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Jet2.com

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Kenya Airways

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KLM

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Korea Air

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Loganair

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LOT Polish Airlines

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Lufthansa

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Malaysia Airlines

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Monarch

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Norwegian

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Pegasus

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Qantas

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Qatar Airlines

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Ryanair

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SAS

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Singapore Airlines

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South African Airways

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Swiss

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TAP Portugal

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Thai Airways

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Thomas Cook

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Thomson

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Turkish Airlines

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United

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US Airways

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Virgin Atlantic

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Wizz Air

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Other

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Could claiming compensation push air fares up? Martin's view

Before putting in a compensation claim, consider that while you have a legal right to do so. An influx of claims could mean airlines have to shell out big bucks, and flight prices may be hiked to make up for any losses.

The law behind this is clear cut, the ethics far less so. My usual focus for these type of issues is on reclaiming – asking for money back that was wrongly taken from you. This, however, is compensation, and like many I worry about a growing compensation culture.

This EU ruling has certainly swung the pendulum against airlines. As the cost of the flight is irrelevant to the payout there will be some who paid £20 for a cheap flight, were delayed a few hours that didn't really bother them, yet are entitled to a disproportionate £310 compensation for it.

If everyone did it, this could cripple budget airlines' pricing models and possibly hasten the financial troubles of airlines already struggling in a tough economy. Therefore balancing this on the see-saw of right and wrong isn't easy.

If I were rejigging the rules to make it fairer for both travellers and the industry (in order to keep flight prices down), I'd suggest the compensation paid should be whichever is cheaper - your flight price or the fixed compensation amount set out in law.

For example, if you were on a £50 flight and entitled to £230 compensation, you'd get £50 in compensation. But if your flight cost £300, you'd be entitled to the full £230 in compensation.

Yet equally, there are many for whom this is valuable financial justice for substandard service on an expensive product. People who paid £1,000s for flights and spent a dozen hours trapped with upset young children, sleeping on chairs in overheated airports or on planes waiting to take off.

Therefore each individual must make their own ethical choice of whether to take up the cudgels and go for the compensation. While the impact on the airline is no reason not to do it, for me it is a reason to first examine whether the compensation you could be due would be truly fair or excessive.

Martin Lewis' tips on claiming for flight delays

Watch Martin's flight delay claiming tips video below, which was filmed in June 2014 in conjunction with The Telegraph.

Flight delay compensation - the rules

It's only for EU-regulated flights

European Union flight

An EU flight is where the flight departed from an EU airport, regardless of the airline OR where an EU airline landed at an EU airport. Under this law, EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

So a delayed Manchester to Miami flight qualifies, regardless of the airline. Yet for Miami to Manchester, you are entitled to compensation flying Virgin or KLM, but not on Air India.

Quick questions

What if my flight was a codeshare?

What if I was on a package holiday?

What if I wasn't on an EU flight?

You can claim back to 2005, but it's harder for flights before 2009

You can apply for compensation for any past delays, stretching back as far as February 2005.

Yet in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, due to the statute of limitations, if you need to take the airline to court to get the cash (not too common, don't be unduly worried) then you can only go back six years. In Scotland, it's five years. So older claims can be tricky.

Quick questions

My airline says I can only claim back two years. I've heard there's been a court case on this?

What do I do for 2005-2009 cases (2005-2010 in Scotland)?

How far back can I go for non-UK claims?

When did these rules come into force?

Have the rules been tested in court?

It must be the airline's fault to claim

Map of European travel destinations

You are only entitled to the compensation if the delay was something within the airline's control. Staffing problems and underbooking all count. Yet political unrest in a country or bad weather make claiming a no-go.

Guidelines created by European regulators in July 2013 outline scenarios where they believe passengers can claim compensation, although case law created since then may now invalidate some of the scenarios, so it's best just to use it to give you an idea. See the full list on the European Commission's website.

Quick questions

What scenarios are NOT the airline's fault, meaning no compensation?

What scenarios are the airline's fault, meaning I could get compensation?

How do I know if it's the airline's fault?

Does the delay have to be the airline's fault to claim via my travel insurance?


So can I claim if...

...there was a technical fault with the plane? I've heard there's been a court case on this?

...my flight was cancelled due to underbooking, and I flew later?

...the pilot or crew were late?

...the plane I was due to fly on was late arriving from its previous destination?

...my flight was diverted to a different airport?

... I missed a connecting flight?

Delays must be 3 hours+ to claim

Compensation for delays is only due on flights arriving over three hours or more late. How long the delay is determines how much you could be entitled to.

Time is money, claim your plane delay compensation

Crucially, this is a straight rule. It's about when you arrive, not when you leave. So if you're on a flight that takes off 4 hours late but lands 2 hours 55 minutes late, you're not over the 3-hour delay needed to be eligible for compensation.

This is also about compensation for a delay, not a refund of the flight ticket cost, so the amount you are due is fixed dependent on the delay length and distance travelled. You can use the Web Flyer site to check the distance of your flight.

Compensation is also per person, so for a family of four, quadruple it (although where a passenger travels free of charge – a child, for example – you cannot claim). BUT compensation is based in euros, meaning the amount you'll get in sterling will fluctuate, depending on the exchange rate at that time.

See the table below for how much you could get.

My flight's been delayed. How much will I get?

Arrival delay Distance Costs Compensation (i) Refund of fare if you didn't travel (ii)
Under two hours Any distance No No No
2 hours - 2h 59mins Any distance Maybe (iii) No No
3 hours+ All flights under 1,500km eg, London to Paris Yes €250 (£190) Yes, if delayed over five hours
All flights between 1,500km – 3,500km eg, Manchester to Malaga Yes €400 (£310)
Flights within the EU only, 1,500+ km Yes €400 (£310)
3-4 hours Flights between an EU and non-EU airport, 3,500km+ eg, London to New York No €300 (£230)
4 hours+ Flights between an EU and non-EU airport, 3,500km+ eg, London to New York Yes €600 (£460)
(i) You're only entitled to compensation if you meet the eligibility criteria outlined in the guide. (ii) You're entitled to a refund of your fare, regardless of what caused the delay. (iii) Depending on the length of the flight, this rule kicks in on delays of more than two-four hours. Sterling figures based on the mid-January 2015 exchange rate of €1.3 to £1. Rounded to the nearest £10.

Here's some more detailed information on your rights as outlined in the table.

Quick questions

When can I claim for costs, and what can I claim?

Am I entitled to compensation?

Am I entitled to a refund of my fare?

How do I check how long my flight was delayed for?


Ready to claim? Now skip to the How to claim section.

Flight cancellation compensation - the rules

Below are the rules if your flight has been cancelled. If your flight has been delayed, please see the rules detailed directly above.

It's only for EU-regulated flights

An EU flight is where the flight departed from an EU airport, regardless of the airline OR where an EU airline landed at an EU airport. Under this law, EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

So a delayed Manchester to Miami flight qualifies, regardless of the airline. Yet for Miami to Manchester, you are entitled to compensation flying Virgin or KLM, but not on Air India.

If your flight was booked as part of a package holiday, the tour operator has to either get you an alternative flight, an alternative holiday or refund the whole holiday cost. If you need to make a claim, contact the tour operator.

The cut-off is 2005, but it's harder for flights before 2009

You can apply for compensation for any past cancellations, stretching back as far as February 2005.

Yet in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, due to the statute of limitations, if you need to take the airline to court to get the cash (not too common, don't be unduly worried) then you can only go back six years. In Scotland, it's five years. So older claims can be tricky.

Quick question

My airline says I can only claim back two years. I've heard there's been a court case on this?

You could be entitled to a refund or a new flight, no matter the reason for cancellation

When a flight is cancelled, however long before it was due to take off, you have a right to...

  • EITHER a refund for the flight that was cancelled.
  • OR an alternative flight (airlines call this re-routing) to your destination.

This applies:

  • As long as it happened after 17 February 2005.
  • Regardless of how long before the flight you were told of the cancellation.
  • Regardless of what it was that caused the cancellation.
  • And if the flight you were on departed from an EU airport, regardless of the airline, OR you were on an EU airline and landed at an EU airport. If you were on another flight anywhere else in the world, you may still be able to get your money back and compensation, but you're at the mercy of other sets of rules.
Quick questions

What if you're stuck at the airport?

What if you missed a connecting flight because of a cancellation?

What if I paid using air miles?

It must be the airline's fault for compensation

You CAN claim additional compensation of between €125 (£100) and €600 (£460), depending on the arrival time of a rescheduled flight you're put on.

Even if you go for a refund of your original ticket, rather than be re-routed, meaning you don't travel, you can claim compensation based on the timings of the alternative flight offered.

Quick questions

In what circumstances could you claim compensation?

When can't you claim compensation?

What about technical faults with the plane? I've heard there's been a court case on this?

How much compensation you'll get depends on the flight delay and distance

This is compensation for a delay, not a return of the flight ticket cost, so the amount you are due is fixed dependent on the delay length and distance travelled. You can use the Web Flyer website to check the distance of your flight.

Compensation is also per person, so for a family of four, quadruple it (although where a passenger travels free of charge – a child, for example – you cannot claim). BUT compensation is based in euros, meaning the amount you'll get in sterling will fluctuate, depending on the exchange rate at that time.

As you can see from the tables below, if you depart earlier than your original flight you'll probably arrive earlier so you won't be due compensation. But where you've departed earlier than the original flight and arrived later, because you've been put on a different route that is longer, or been given a connecting flight that delays you getting to your destination, for example, compensation may be due.

Flight cancelled 7-14 days before departure
Flight length 0 - 1,500km, eg, London to Paris 1,500 - 3,500km, eg, London to Istanbul 3,500km+, eg, London to New York
Delay (i) Leaves 2hrs+ before, lands up to 2hrs after 4hrs+ late. OR leaves 2hrs+ before, lands 2hrs+ after Leaves 2hrs+ before, lands up to 3hrs after 4hrs+ late. OR leaves 2hrs+ before, lands 3-4hrs after Leaves 2hrs+ before, lands up to 4hrs after 4hrs+ late
Compensation €125
(£100)
€250
(£190)
€200
(£150)
€400
(£310)
€300
(£230)
€600
(£460)
(i) Based on the timings of alternative flight offered. Sterling figures based on the mid-January 2015 exchange rate of €1.3 to £1. Rounded to the nearest £10.
Flight cancelled less than 7 days before departure
Flight length 0 - 1,500km, eg, London to Paris 1,500 - 3,500km, eg, London to Istanbul 3,500km+, eg, London to New York
Delay (i) Leaves 1hr+ before, lands up to 2hrs after 2hrs+ late Leaves 1hr+ before, lands up to 3hrs after 3hrs+ late Leaves 1hr+ before, lands up to 4hrs after 4hrs+ late
Compensation €125
(£100)
€250
(£190)
€200
(£150)
€400
(£310)
€300
(£230)
€600
(£460)
(i) Based on the timings of alternative flight offered. Sterling figures based on the mid-January 2015 exchange rate of €1.3 to £1. Rounded to the nearest £10.

If you're bumped off a flight, you're entitled to compensation

Where the airline has overbooked and you voluntarily give up your seat, the amount of compensation is between you and the airline to agree on. It must also give you either a refund of the ticket price if you decide not to travel, or an alternative flight.

If you were forced off due to overbooking, then you fall in the same camp as a cancelled flight. This means you're also eligible for compensation as overbooking was the airline's fault. The table below shows how much you can get.

How much compensation are you due?
Flight length Arrival delay Compensation due
Up to 1,500km, (all flights) eg, London to Paris Up to 2 hours €125 (£100)
Up to 1,500km, (all flights) eg, London to Paris 2 hours+ €250 (£190)
1,500km – 3,500km (all flights), eg, Manchester – Malaga Up to 3 hours €200 (£150)
1,500+ km (flights within the EU only) 3 hours+ €400 (£310)
3,500km+ (flights between an EU and non-EU airport), eg, London to New York Up to 4 hours €300 (£230)
4+ hours €600 (£460)
(i) Based on the timings of alternative flight offered. Sterling figures based on the mid-January 2015 exchange rate of €1.3 to £1. Rounded to the nearest £10.

Still not had your question answered? Let us know in the forum discussion and we'll endeavour to add it to this section.

Step-by-step help on how to claim

Whether your flight was delayed or cancelled, our step-by-step guide shows how to claim.

Step 1: Complain to the airline

Passengers should claim compensation

Different airlines have different procedures for claiming. Some will list email or postal addresses you need to send a written claims letter to, others will ask you to fill in an online claims form. So check what method your airline wants you to use before claiming.

Just remember to explain what went wrong and state what you want in terms of compensation and/or reimbursement. You can use these links to double-check if your flight was delayed for over three hours and how far the flight distance was. Both affect the compensation.

Remember to say you want compensation under:
EC regulation 261/2004

It's important you do this - quoting the law each time lets airlines know you're serious.

Free template letters to complain to the airlines: If you need to send a written complaint, you can use our free template letters, which are based on information from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Even if you're asked to fill in an online complaints form you can use our template letter or segments of it to help your claim. Download using the following links: Delayed flights template letter and Cancelled flights template letter.

Alternatively, a company called Resolver has a free online flight delay compensation claim system that will guide you through the process and let you know when and how to escalate automatically. Please feedback on the service on our Resolver forum thread.

Remember, it's the operator of the flight, rather than the firm you booked with, which is responsible when things go wrong. So if you booked a ticket via Qantas, but were on a BA plane, then as BA operated the flight, it's responsible if anything goes wrong.

Here's a table linking to all to airline complaints pages, which will explain whether you need to get in touch by writing, or by using online complaints forms.

If your airline's not listed above, go to its website or call to find out the best way to make a claim.

Quick questions

What evidence do I need to submit?

Do I need a boarding pass to claim?

Can I claim if the airline I flew with has gone bust?

Can I claim if the airline I flew has been bought out?

Should I use a claims handler or solicitor to get compensation?

How long should my claim take?

Do I have to accept money in vouchers?

If you're successful, hurrah! As compensation for flight delays is set at specific levels depending on the flight delay and length, there's really only two outcomes here - you've received the correct amount and your claim is now over, or your claim has been rejected (in which case see Step 2 below).

Please report successes in the Flight Delays forum thread.

Step 2: Claim rejected or put on hold by the airline? Take it to the regulator

Just because your case has been rejected or put on hold by the airline, it doesn't mean the airline is correct. If you believe you've been fobbed off when you think you have a legitimate claim, take your case to the relevant regulator to look into.

Again this is something you can do yourself - you don't need a claims handler to do this.

Which body should I complain to?

You can only complain to the UK's CAA about certain flights - otherwise you need to complain to the European Consumer Centre or the regulator in the departure country. What matters is where you flew from and where the airline's registered, as the table below shows.

It's worth noting that these regulators are not ombudsman schemes, so they cannot decide cases or impose requirements. They will advise you whether they think you have a valid complaint and, if so, take it up with the airline.

Read more about European ombudsman schemes

Who to complain to?
Flight departure country Airline based in... Who to complain to
UK Doesn't matter CAA
EU, not UK EU, not UK European Consumer Centre or Regulator in departure country
EU, not UK Rest of world Regulator in departure country
Non-EU, arriving in EU (not UK) EU Regulator in arrival country
Non-EU, arriving in UK EU Regulator in departure country or the European Consumer Centre

What should I write?

To complain to the CAA, most passengers need to fill out its online form. Read its complaints information first, to check you're eligible to use its online form. Residents in Northern Ireland, for example, where the flight is inbound to or outbound from Northern Ireland, have to send complaints to the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland instead. At the end of July 2014 the CAA told us it was resolving cases in about 10 weeks.

To complain to the ECC or other regulator, you can use our Delayed flights template letter or you can use the EU's complaints form. When writing, set out all the details of your complaint and include copies of all correspondence.

Please report successes in the Flight Delays forum thread.

Step 3: What if the airline still says no or keeps your claim on hold?

Some airlines are playing hardball with claims and many are rejecting people even when the CAA or other regulators say you have a claim. The problem is that regulators do not have the same powers as ombudsman schemes - they can't force airlines to pay out.

  • If the airline rejects your claim even after you've gone to the regulator... Unfortunately the next step is really to take it to the small claims court (though you could first try mediation – we're currently researching the pros and cons of mediation and will update this guide soon). Don't think going to court is about judges and wigs though - you can actually claim online. See Step 4 for help on making a court claim.

  • If the airline is keeping your claim on hold... The only way to force the airline to deal with your claim is to take it to court - but even then the court may keep your claim on hold while awaiting the outcome of pending cases (see Court cases for more details)

    If your claim's been delayed due to the ongoing legal battles, you may be best waiting for them to be resolved. However if your claim is nearing the six-year time limit for taking court action, consider filing proceedings fast. The Ministry of Justice has confirmed court claims which go over the six-year limit while on hold will still be heard.

While the onus is on the airline to prove the cause of the delay, unfortunately, as there's no central database collating why flights are delayed, it's their word against yours. So try and recall whether you were told anything by the pilot or airport staff at the time of the delay to back up your claim. If you don't think the airline has cited the correct cause of delay, it may be worth challenging in court.

Step 4: How to take your case to court

If you complained to the airline and lost and then complained to the relevant regulator or the European Consumer Centre and lost again - or the airline's put your case on hold - you can go to court. You can take your complaint to a local county court in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or a sheriff court in Scotland.

To use the courts' small claims system, your claim needs to be under £10,000 in England and Wales, or under £3,000 in Scotland and Northern Ireland. You can also ONLY take your case through the small claims system within six years from the delayed flight in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, you've got five years.

Subject to this, anyone can make a claim in the small claims courts, although the airline you claim against could challenge whether or not you can use the court you want to use - it's up to the court you apply to to decide.

  • Booked flights in the UK? You should be able to take your case through the courts in the relevant country you're based in, regardless of where the airline is based.
  • Got a UK address for the airline? The European Consumer Centre says if so, you can take an airline to court here, even if the head office is based elsewhere.
  • Flight departed or arrived in the UK? The ECJ ruled in a flight cancellations case in 2009 that you can take an airline to court for cancellation claims in either the country the plane was due to arrive in or depart from, regardless of where the airline's based.

If none of the above apply, the European Small Claims Procedure can be used for cross-border complaints for claims of under €2,000. There is a standard claim form which you can issue through the county court.

It's worth noting that if your claim has already been decided by a court, unfortunately you can only appeal the decision within 21 days of it being made.

For more information on going to court and what this entails, see our Small Claims and How to Complain guides. It may also be worth considering taking legal advice.

Made a claim? Let others know how it's gone in the forum on your airline's thread: British Airways, Easyjet, Flybe, Jet2, KLM/Air France, Lufthansa, Monarch, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Thomson & Virgin Atlantic. If your airline's not listed, let us know on this guide's discussion thread.

Court challenges defeated - but some airlines still aren't playing ball

Some airlines have been fighting tooth and nail in court to try and reduce the number of passengers that can claim - and putting claims on hold while they went to court. There are two big issues, but in late 2014 the airlines lost both cases in the Court of Appeal. The UK's highest court, the Supreme Court, then said it wouldn't let them appeal - stopping airlines wriggling out of paying claims, or so we thought.

Technically these rules only apply to cases heard in English and Welsh courts, but airlines and courts based in Scotland and Northern Ireland are likely to also use these rulings when considering cases.

Since then, while most airlines have started to pay out, a handful are looking for new legal routes to prevent claims. Here's the latest:

  • The 'extraordinary circumstances' issue. Jet2 went to court to argue that any unforseeable technical fault was an 'extraordinary circumstance' and therefore not its fault and it shouldn't have to pay out (this was the Huzar v Jet2 case). Many airlines, not just Jet2, put cases on hold awaiting this result, until in Oct 2014 the court ruled against Jet2. So the current law is now quite clear:

    You CAN claim for technical problems that haven't been caused by "extraordinary circumstances". Normal technical problems such as component failure or general wear and tear should not be considered "extraordinary".

    Most airlines have accepted that, so things should now be plain sailing (or flying). But solicitors' firm Bott & Co, which specialises in flight claims, says even now in 2015 Flybe, Jet2, Ryanair and WizzAir are still putting claims about technical faults on hold pending the outcome of a request to the European Court of Justice by the Netherlands (the van der Lans v KLM case) to clarify whether a technical fault is an extraordinary circumstance.

    If your claim is put on hold by the airline, you can still go to the regulator and then take them to court. However the airline may then request the court put a 'stay' on the claim – ie, put it on hold awaiting the outcome of the ECJ case - though different individual courts have different attitudes. One to watch is a case at Liverpool County Court due in Feb 2015 on whether or not claims should be stayed while the outcome of van der Lans v KLM is awaited. Of course we'll keep you up to date via our free, weekly MoneySaving email.

  • The 'you can only go back two years' issue. Thomson tried to overturn a ruling saying claimants can go back at least six years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (five in Scotland), arguing it should only be two under a different set of rules - the Montreal Convention (this was the Dawson v Thomson case). This too was turned down in October 2014 making it clear that under UK law:

    You CAN claim for flights going back at least six years (five in Scotland).

    Yet again though, the airlines are desperately trying to find another way to fight this. Bott & Co say Ryanair and Jet2 in particular are still rejecting (but not putting on hold) claims for delays that took place over two years ago.

    This time they're using a different argument, namely that their terms and conditions only allow claims to be made going back two years. But if this happens to you, fight 'em. Any court is likely to take a dim view of the airline.

It's worth noting though that not all claims are affected. Click on the dropdown to see what the major airlines told us when we asked what their policy was.

Here's what the airlines told us:

If my claim is complex, should I consider using a claims firm/solicitor?

Certainly in the first instance you should be writing to the airline and then to the relevant regulator yourself. This is simple and free to do with our template letters - we don't think it's worth giving 30% of what you're due to a claims firm when you can do it yourself.

However we make a possible exception to this if things get tricky and court is the only option left - then it can be worth paying, especially if the thought of court action scares you. Even then though consider using a reputable solicitors' firm like Bott and Co, which has been pioneering in this field, rather than a claims management company.

Of course if you do, it means you will need to give away some of your payout. It's also worth remembering that claims firms usually only like the easy cases that you could win yourself easily without their help, so the fact that one is willing to take you on at this point is in itself a good sign.

How to choose a claims handler/solicitor