If your flight has been cancelled or delayed, you may be entitled to compensation under EU law. However, you only have the right to compensation in some circumstances – not all.
You might be able to claim compensation if your flight either:
• left from a UK, European Union (EU), Iceland, Norway or Switzerland airport
• you flown with a ‘European airline carrier’ and landed in the UK, the EU, Norway or Switzerland – no matter where you were flying from
So for example, if your flight was delayed from Dubai to Manchester and you were flying with an airline registered in Europe, you may be entitled for compensation. If you were flying with an airline such as American Airlines, Emirates, Qantas and so on, you wouldn’t be eligible to claim under EU law as standard.
It’s important to remember that outbound and return flights are typically classed as two separate flights – even if you booked them together. This is because in some cases you use multiple airlines to complete your journey. Should a problem arise, only the airline which ‘operates’ the flight can be held responsible.
This could potentially mean that if you were flying from London to Melbourne, you’ll most likely change at Dubai or Singapore. You might use British Airways (for example) to fly to Singapore and Qantas from Singapore to Melbourne.
If your ‘second flight’ operated by Qantas was delayed, you most likely wouldn’t be able to claim compensation, if you booked the flight separately from your first flight as they’re not bound by EU law like British Airways is. If you did book both flights together as one transaction then you may be able to claim depending on the airlines you used – see below for more information.
Should your British airways flight be delayed for a considerable amount of time while at London and you ‘miss’ your second flight from Singapore to Melbourne, under EU law they would have to compensate you in certain circumstances – see below for a full explanation.
What happens for a Short Delay?
Typically a ‘short delay’ is subjective and can vary depending on the airline you use. Equally the distance of the flight and the countries you’re flying between should also be taken into account.
• A Short-haul flight is usually regarded as a distance under 1,500km – for example, London to Dublin.
• A Medium-haul flight is typically between 1,500km — 3,500km – such as, London to Moscow.
You can check the distance of your flight by using the Mileage Calculator on WebFlyer.
Depending on how your airline has ‘classified’ your flight distance and the delay time, for a short to medium delay your airline should:
• Give you access to food and drink
• Access to phone calls and emails
• Accommodation if you’re delayed overnight
• If applicable they should also arrange journeys between the airport and the hotel
If you don’t get help from the airline at the airport, keep receipts for expenses and try to claim from the airline at a later date.
What if the flight’s delayed for 3 or more hours?
You’re normally entitled to claim compensation if the flight arrives more than 3 hours late and it’s the airline’s fault – for example, if there was a technical fault.
In most cases, you won’t get compensation if the delay was because of something outside the airline’s control, such as bad weather or a security risk like terrorism.
The EU law on flight compensation uses the term ‘extraordinary circumstances’ to refer to situations where delays or cancellations have been caused by things that are not the responsibility of the airline. If extraordinary circumstances apply, you are not entitled to compensation. The main categories of events that are likely to be an extraordinary circumstance include:
• Acts of terrorism or sabotage
• Political or civil unrest
• Security risks
• Strikes (such as, airport staff, air traffic control)
• Weather conditions
This list is not “extensive”, and airlines may use other ‘extraordinary circumstances’ not listed here.
If you’re on a non-EU flight which connects to an EU flight, you can usually get compensation if:
• You booked both flights (outbound and inbound) as a single booking
• You were delayed for more than 3 hours
• The delay was the airline’s fault
For example, if you were flying from London to Sydney using a European airline carrier, with a stopover in Singapore, and your connecting flight was delayed or you couldn’t board the plane, you’d usually be covered under EU law if both flights was booked as ‘one transaction’ – if you booked each flight separately you may not be covered as standard.
What if your flight is delayed for 5 hours or more?
According to the latest information from Citizens Advice: “You don’t have to take the flight if it’s delayed for 5 hours or more. It doesn’t matter whose fault the delay is or the distance of the flight.”
This means if you don’t take the flight the airline has to give you all of the following:
• a full refund for the flight
• a full refund for other flights from the airline that you won’t use in the same booking, eg an onward or return flight to your destination
• if you’re part-way through a journey, a flight back to the airport you originally departed from
How to Claim?
If you think you have a case for flight compensation, you should contact your airline directly. Most airlines will have a claims procedure for you to follow. Normally this is a standard claim form which documents all the information the airline needs to process your claim.
If your flight is covered by EU law, there are two main sections in which you are entitled to payment from your airline:
• Reimbursement for care and assistance – This usually applies if you paid for food, drink or accommodation that your airline should have provided. Remember to keep all receipts / proof with bank statements – so you can claim costs back.
• Compensation for the disruption – If the flight delay was regarded as severe and could have been avoided by the airline, the EU law sets out fixed levels of compensation you should receive.