My flight’s been delayed, will I get compensation from the airline?

European airlines and flights departing from Europe will be subject to the EU Denied Boarding Regulations in the event of a delay. These entitle you to:

  • two free phone calls, faxes or emails; 
  • free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay; and
  • free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.

The above applies:

  • when a flight within the EU that is more than 1,500km is delayed for at least three hours;
  • when a flight that isn't within the EU but is between 1,500 and 3,500km is delayed for at least three hours; or
  • when any other flight is delayed for at least four hours.

Delays of five hours or more:

  • The airline should offer you a refund of the flight cost. The refund is for the flight cost only, not the holiday price if the flight is part of a package holiday.

Compensation
If the delay is due to exceptional circumstances that couldn't have been avoided (e.g. bad weather, act of God, or, where flight safety is at risk, some technical failures) you will not be entitled to compensation.

If the delay is due to other reasons and your flight arrives more than three hours late you’ll be entitled to compensation of €250–€600, depending on the distance of the flight.

If the EU’s Denied Boarding Regulations don’t apply (for example you’re flying with a non-European airline and departing from outside Europe), you’re entitled to the assistance and compensation set out in the airline’s conditions of carriage or the tour operator’s booking conditions.

In terms of package holidays, if the delay results in a significant change to your holiday then the tour operator must offer an alternative if they can, or a refund.

Where the flight is delayed and it isn’t clear whether a significant change will result, the tour operator doesn’t have to offer an alternative or a refund – until they’re constrained or forced to make a significant change. This would happen when there’s no prospect that the delay will only lead to a minor change. A significant change is generally taken to be 12 hours on a 14-night holiday.

You should also contact your travel insurance provider to find out what cover is available under your policy.

For more information visit the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website.

About the CAA

If you’ve already complained to the airline and are not happy with their response the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) may be able to help as it is responsible for regulating aviation in the UK. You can get more information from the CAA website or alternatively phone their consumer advice line on 020 7453 6350.

ABTA's advice

If you do experience a flight delay, keep as much evidence as possible such as boarding cards and other documents.

If you expect to claim back expenses, keep any receipts you obtain for purchases. Keep expenses at a “reasonable” level i.e don’t eat at a very expensive restaurant or the best hotel in town. 

If any of the airline staff advises you to make your own arrangements, ensure you make a note of their name, when they told you and where you were when advised. If possible, request that they put a note on your booking that records their advice.

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