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Flight Delay Compensation

Up to £470/person, back to 2005
plane delays

If you're delayed more than three hours or your flight is cancelled, EU rule 261/2004 means you're often entitled to £100-£470 in compensation.

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, plus full details on the late 2014 Supreme Court decision to turn down Jet2 and Thomson's attempts to block many claims.

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. The ruling 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. Around 260,000 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, but recent court rulings have put an end to this (see Court cases info).

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.

MoneySavingExpert.com creator Martin Lewis says:

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 £320 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 £200 compensation, you'd get £50 in compensation. But if your flight cost £300, you'd be entitled to the full £200 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' flight delay claiming tips

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

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 2008

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 2005-2008 cases (2005-2009 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. Here's what you're entitled to when your flight has been delayed.

This is also about 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 site to check the distance of your flight.

Compensation is also per person, so for a family of four, quadruple it. 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 (£200) 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 (£240)
4 hours+ Flights between an EU and non-EU airport, 3,500km+ eg, London to New York Yes €600 (£470)
(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) This rule kicks in on delays of between two and four hours, depending on the length of the flight. Sterling figures based on the early November 2014 exchange rate of €1.27 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 2008

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 another set 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 (£470), 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. 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
(£200)
€200
(£160)
€400
(£310)
€300
(£240)
€600
(£470)
(i) Based on the timings of alternative flight offered. Sterling figures based on the early November 2014 exchange rate of €1.27 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
(£200)
€200
(£160)
€400
(£310)
€300
(£240)
€600
(£470)
(i) Based on the timings of alternative flight offered. Sterling figures based on the early November 2014 exchange rate of €1.27 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 (£200)
1,500km – 3,500km (all flights), eg, Manchester – Malaga Up to 3 hours €200 (£160)
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 (£240)
4+ hours €600 (£470)
(i) Based on the timings of alternative flight offered. Sterling figures based on the early November 2014 exchange rate of €1.27 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.

Supreme Court decision opens the floodgates after Thomson and Jet2 legal challenges are defeated

Until recently there had been some doubt about some of the rules above, as two airlines had been fighting a lengthy legal battle challenging when passengers could claim. Thomson tried to overturn a ruling saying claimants can go back at least six years in England and Wales - arguing it should only be two - while Jet2 argued that unforeseeable technical faults should not count as an airline's fault.

A number of airlines had put claims on these two specific issues on hold while the two court cases were being fought - in total, we estimate tens of thousands could have been affected. But passengers got a big boost in October 2014 when the Supreme Court blocked Thomson and Jet's attempts to wriggle out of paying claims on those grounds.

Legal sources say that as the Supreme Court is the UK's final court of appeal, there's no realistic prospect of the airlines being able to appeal this decision any further - meaning the Court of Appeal's ruling will stand. So:

  • Under the law you CAN claim for flights going back up to six years.
  • Under the law you CAN claim for technical problems that haven't been caused by "extraordinary circumstances". So normal technical problems such as component failure or general wear and tear should not be considered "extraordinary".

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.

So here's what you should do:

  • I've not yet submitted a flight claim. You should do so now as airlines can no longer put them on hold.
  • My flight claim is on hold. You should ask the airline or court which stayed the case to reopen it. The CAA says it expects airlines to do this automatically, while courts should also do the same. However it's worth giving them a nudge. The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that court claims, which have gone over the six year time limit as a result of being on hold, will still be heard. But if your claim was only on hold with the airline and it's gone over the six year barrier, it's down to the airline to decide whether or not to continue with it.
  • My claim has been rejected by the airline. If your case was previously rejected by the airline, you should ask for your claim to be reconsidered in the light of the judgment, as long as you haven't already agreed a settlement.
  • My claim has been rejected by the court. If your claim was decided by a court more than 21 days ago unfortunately it's too late to take it back to court. If a decision was made within the last 21 days ago then it's a done deal - case closed we're afraid.

What if the airlines STILL put cases on hold, despite the ruling against them?

If that happens, fight 'em. Any court is likely to take a dim view of that. See our full step-by-step help on how to claim below.

Step-by-step help on how to claim

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

Step 1: Gather evidence to support your claim

To claim a refund, compensation or additional cost you should initially:

  • 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.

  • Prepare the details of the flight you're claiming for and any documents you may have, including boarding passes, tickets and any proof of the delay. However don't worry if you don't have any documented evidence - we've still heard of people claiming successfully without it.

Quick questions

What evidence do I need to submit?

Do I need a boarding pass to claim?

Step 2: 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.

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

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 3 below).

Please report successes in the Flight Delays forum thread.

Step 3: Claim rejected by the airline? Take it to the regulator

Just because your case has been rejected 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 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 departed from and where the airline is registered, as the table below shows.

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

Claiming from an EU regulator? It may be worth checking if there's a local ombudsman first

In some European countries such as Norway and Germany there are also separate ombudsman schemes. However information on these is patchy (we're planning on compiling a definitive list shortly).

If you're planning to claim directly from a regulator in another EU country, the CAA says it's worth first checking if there's an ombudsman-type scheme and if so making a claim to it rather than to the regulator.

Don't worry too much if you claim to the regulator when an ombudsman scheme is available though – the CAA says it understands that in countries such as Germany there is a close relationship with the regulator and the ombudsman, so it shouldn't matter which body you complain to.

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 (or ombudsman if there is one)
Non-EU, arriving in EU (not UK) EU Regulator in arrival country (or ombudsman if there is one)
Non-EU, arriving in UK EU CAA or the European Consumer Centre in your country of residence

What should I write?

To complain to the CAA, most passengers need to fill out its online form. Read its 'Referring your complaint' 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's resolving cases in about 10 weeks.

To complain to the ECC or other regulator, use our template letter below. When writing, set out all the details of your complaint and include copies of all correspondence. Download here: Complain to ECC/other regulator.

Please report successes in the Flight Delays forum thread.

Step 4: What if the airline's put my claim on hold?

If your claim has been put on hold, it's likely this is due to the Thomson or Jet2 court challenges mentioned above. But they've now lost their cases and as the Supreme Court's denied them the right to appeal, the cases should be able to proceed. For more information, see the Court Cases section.

If an airline still won't open your case, the only way to force them is to take them to the small claims court (see Step 6).

But if your claim has already been decided by a court, unfortunately you can only appeal the decision within 21 days of it being made.

Step 5: What if the airline still says no?

Some airlines are playing hardball with claims and many are rejecting people even when the CAA or other regulator 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.

Unfortunately the only way to force airlines to deal with claims that have been rejected or ignored is to take them to the small claims court (or first try mediation – we're currently researching the pros and cons of mediation and will update this guide soon).

But going to court isn't about judges and wigs, you can actually claim online. See Step 6 for help on making a court claim.

Step 6: 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. This can be carried out in a county court in England and Wales.

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.

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

In general, we don't think it's worth giving 30% of what you're due to a claims firm when you can do it yourself for free. However we make a possible exception to this once things get tricky – as then it can be worth paying – especially if the thought of court action scares you.   

So if you've met rejection from the airline after the CAA/other European regulator has ruled in your favour and you may need to go to the small claims court, or you've a particularly complex case, using a solicitors firm like Bott and Co, which has been pioneering in this field, may be a help.

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