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Flight Delay Compensation Get up to £505/person, back to 2005

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Whether the flight was last week, or six years ago, EU rules mean if you’re delayed over three hours or your flight is cancelled, you’re often entitled to £210-£500 per person in compensation.

This is a full step-by-step compensation guide, including template letters on how to get your money back for free and how to stop the airlines squirming out of paying.

Flight delay COMPENSATION - The key rules

  1. 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.

    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 I was on a package holiday?

    What if I wasn't on an EU flight?

  2. The cut-off is 2005, but it's harder for flights before 2007

    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?

    What do I do for 2005-2006 cases?

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

    When did these rules come into force?

    Has it been tested in court?

  3. It must be the airline's fault to claim

    Map of European travel destinationsYou 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.

    To make your case stronger, guidelines created by European regulators in July 2013 outline scenarios where they believe passengers can claim compensation. Importantly, these include some technical faults which were previously rejected by airlines. 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?

    Can I claim if... flight was cancelled due to underbooking, and I flew later?

    ...the pilot or crew were late?

    ...there was a technical fault with the plane?

    ...the plane I was due to fly on was late arriving from its previous destination? flight was diverted to a different airport?

    ... I missed a connecting flight?

  4. Delays must be over three hours to claim compensation

    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. If the delay is two hours or more you could be due expenses at the airport for food, etc.

    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.

    Quick questions

    Time is money, claim your plane delay compensation

    How do I know if my flight is delayed?

    What if my flight is delayed by less than two hours?

    What if my flight is delayed by more than two hours?

    What if my flight is delayed by more than three hours?

    What if my flight is delayed by five or more hours?

  5. The compensation is fixed regardless of flight cost

    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 website Web Flyer to find out 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.

    How much compensation are you due?
    Flight length Arrival delay Compensation due
    Up to 1,500km (all flights), eg, London to Paris 3 hours+ €250 (£210)
    1,500km – 3,500km (all flights), eg, Manchester – Malaga 3 hours+ €400 (£330)
    3,500+ km (flights within the EU only) 3 hours+ €400 (£330)
    3,500km+ (flights between an EU and non-EU airport), eg, London to New York 3-4 hours €300 (£250)
    4+ hours €600 (£500)
    Sterling figures based on the mid-January 2014 exchange rate of €1.21 to £1. Rounded to the nearest £10.

Ready to claim?

Now skip to the How to claim section.

Still not had your question answered?

Let us know in the forum discussion and we'll endeavour to add it to this section.

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What are your chances of success?

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 October there have been some huge flight delay compensation successes. Though to manage your expectations, we've found the feedback's mixed as not everyone wins. People either get easy payouts, or hit a brick wall that only court action will solve. So it's up to you. To inspire you, here are a few success stories:

"I used the template to complain to Thomas Cook about a delayed flight to Egypt in 2010. They are compensating me £1,040. It's made my day."Amanda - October 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, who claimed for two passengers (£485 each) – December 2012

"If it wasn't for the MSE email, I wouldn't have known about this. To get compensation was particularly satisfying, as to make matters worse, on that delayed flight the air conditioning broke."Paul, who claimed £200 – December 2012

"Received £630 (£315 x 2) compensation from Thomas Cook after my flight from Newcastle to Bodrum was delayed 4.5 hours. Thank you MSE and all the members of the forum for their advice." Adam – December 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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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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American Airlines

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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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Croatia Airlines

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Eastern Airways

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El Al

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Jet Airways

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Kenya Airways

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Korea Air

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LOT Polish Airlines

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Malaysia Airlines

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Qatar Airlines

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Singapore Airlines

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South African Airways

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TAP Portugal

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Thai Airways

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Thomas Cook

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Turkish Airlines

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US Airways

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Virgin Atlantic

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Wizz Air

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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, 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. 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 £330 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.

"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."

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Flight cancellation COMPENSATION - The key rules

  1. You could be entitled to money back or a new flight if your flight is cancelled, no matter what the reason.

    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 is:

      cancelled flight compensation
    • 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?

  2. If it's the airline's fault, you may get up to £500 compensation.

    You CAN claim additional compensation of between €125 (£105) and €600 (£500), 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?

  3. 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 give you either a refund of the ticket price if you decide not to travel within seven days, 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 (see above).

  4. You could get up to £500 compensation but it depends on the delay and the length of the flight.

    The amount you could get in compensation varies between €125 (£109) and €600 (£500). This depends on the distance of the booked flight, and the delay suffered in reaching your final destination.

    Importantly, compensation is an ex-gratia payment, different to getting money back for something you've already paid for. It's effectively free cash.

    BUT compensation is based in euros, meaning the amount you'll get in sterling will fluctuate, depending on the exchange rate at that time.

    Quick questions

    How much compensation could you get?

    How do you find out how long the flight distance was?

  5. Not had your question answered yet? Read our FAQs

    Can you make a claim if the airline you flew with has gone bust?

    Can you make a claim if the airline you flew has been bought out?

    What if you paid using air miles?

    What if you were on a package holiday?

Still not had your question answered?

Let us know in the forum discussion and we'll endeavour to add it to this section.

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How do you claim?

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

  • Determine whether this is your first claim, or whether you claimed to the airline or to a court and your case was put on held pending the October 2012 European Court of Justice judgement. If this is your first claim, carry on reading.

    Click on the following if your claim is already on hold.

  • Prepare all documents, including boarding passes, tickets and any proof of the delay.

  • Use these links if you need to check if your flight was delayed and how far the flight distance was. Both affect the compensation.

  • Follow the below steps.

Step 1: Complain to the airline

Passengers should claim compensationDo I complain to the flight operator? Or to the firm I booked the tickets from?

It's the operator of the flight, rather than the firm you booked with, which is responsible when things go wrong. So if, for example, 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.

Once you've established who is to blame, complain to the airline. Below we've linked to all the relevant pages you need. These will either list email addresses or postal addresses to send claims letters to, or online claims forms that you'll need to complete.

Bear in mind airlines may try every trick in the book to try to get out of paying. If this is the case, you can take your complaint further, as we explain below.

Beware of claims management companies saying they'll put in a claim for you. Going down this route will cost you (usually around 25% + VAT), when you could do it yourself for nothing.

What should I write?

If you have to submit a written complaint, briefly explain what went wrong and state what you want in terms of compensation and/ or reimbursement. Use our template letters, which are based on information from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Download Template Letters

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?

How long should my claim take?

If you're successful, hurrah! If not, go to step 2.

Please report successes in the Flight Delays forum thread.

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Step 2: What if my claim gets rejected?

Just because your case has been rejected by the airline, it doesn't mean the airline is correct. If you've been given any of the following excuses, take your case to the relevant regulator to look into (more information about who to complain to below).

Classic unfair reasons for rejection:

  • Some firms, in particular Thomson, are citing the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions, which they claim state they don't need to look back as far as 2005. That's nonsense, the rules say you can go back to 2005.
  • Some airlines say they'll only look at complaints going back six years. While this is unfair, you'll struggle to successfully claim pre-2007 because courts in most of the UK can only go back six years (five in Scotland), so it is difficult to enforce the rules back to 2005.
  • Some airlines will cite a technical issue as a reason for rejecting your complaint. But under new guidelines published in July 2013, some technical issues actually mean a customer is entitled to compensation. For example, if they're caused by poor maintenance.

Who 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.

Who to complain to?
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

However, none of these are 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.

What should I write?

  • I'm complaining to the CAA

    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.

  • I'm complaining to the European Consumer Centre/other regulator

    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 Template Letter

Quick questions

How long should my claim take?

Do I have to accept money in vouchers?

Please report successes in the Flight Delays forum thread.

Step 3: What if I lose again?

If the relevant regulator or the European Consumer Centre takes up your complaint but you still lose, you may have to take your complaint to a local county court in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or a sheriff court in Scotland.

How to take a claim to court

Claim been rejected? You can reopen your case

More passengers could be able to successfully claim compensation for flight delays, after new guidelines were issued by European regulators in July 2013. Any complaint that's currently with the CAA but which hasn't been assessed by it will also be sent back to the original airline to look into again using the guidelines.

Importantly, the new guidelines mean that if there is a technical fault, in many cases airlines will no longer be able to use this as a reason to wriggle out of paying compensation for delays.

If you've already complained but failed, there may be hope, depending on the circumstances:

Appealed to CAA but not heard back?

Appealed to another regulator but not heard back?

Not appealed yet? Demand your airline reopens your case

CAA/other regulator rejected your claim?

Made a claim?

Let others know how it's gone in the MSE Forum on your airline's thread:

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Join in the Forum Discussion:
Flight Delays
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