Although you may experience flight delays, that doesn’t mean you have to accept
them. The EU law concerning air passenger rights is officially known as
Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11
That’s quite a mouthful, so we just call it EC 261. It’s a European law that requires
airlines to compensate passengers for long flight delays, cancellations, and in
situations where they are denied boarding. Passengers on EU flights that are
eligible under EC 261 must be paid up to 600 EUROS in compensation for flight
delays of more than three hours.
According to the EC 261, you are entitled to file a claim for €600 cash
i. You arrive at your destination more than three hours later than planned.
ii. The flight took off in the EU (from any airline) or landed in the EU (provided
that the airline is headquartered in the EU).
iii. You have checked in for your flight on time (generally no less than 45
minutes before departure).
iv. You encountered these problems on a flight operated no more than three
v. The airline is responsible for the delay (e.g. operational circumstances and
vi. It doesn’t matter whether the airline has already provided you with food,
refreshment or travel vouchers.
• Compensation for Business Travelers and Public Officials
Many people think that their employer will be entitled to any compensation for a
delay during a business trip, but that’s not the case.
In fact, it is the passenger who has suffered the inconvenience that is entitled to
flight delay compensation, not the person who paid for the ticket.
This is the general principle set out in the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation for
major flight delays, cancellations and cases of overbooking. It doesn’t matter
whether you’re an employee of a private-sector company or a public official.
• Right to Care: Food, Refreshments and Accommodation
When you’re stuck waiting for the airline to get you back on track toward your
destination, European law EC 261 provides that you’re entitled to a number of
essentials, depending on your flight details.
The carrier must provide you with meals and refreshments during the delay, as
well as access to communications, including two telephone calls, telex or fax
messages, and emails.
If overnight accommodation is necessary, they must provide you with a hotel
room, and transportation to and from the airport.
Other Rights provided by the EC 261
• Right to reimbursement or re-routing
In addition to compensation for your loss of time, if your delay exceeds five hours,
you are entitled to a full or partial refund of your original ticket and a return flight to
your point of departure, if needed.
• Upgrading and downgrading
If you are offered an alternative flight and are lucky enough to get an upgrade, the
airline isn’t allowed to charge you anything extra. On the other hand, if the class of
the alternative flight is lower, you can get a reimbursement of between 30-75% of
the price you originally paid.
• Further compensation
Even if you are compensated under EC 261, this doesn’t affect your right to
request further compensation.
This rule doesn’t apply in cases where passengers have voluntarily surrendered
their reservations. But bear in mind that the amount you are entitled to under EC
261 may be deducted from whatever additional compensation you receive.
• Cash Compensation or Flight Vouchers
When your flight is delayed, your airline may offer you compensation in the form of
flight vouchers. Of course, when you’re tired and frustrated and someone is
offering you a voucher for a new flight, it’s very hard to say ‘no’.
However, you should check that by accepting a voucher, you’re not waiving your
right to claim for the compensation you’re legally entitled to. EU regulations clearly
state that compensation should be paid in cash, electronic transfer or checks,
unless the passenger chooses to accept travel vouchers instead.
Essentially, it’s your choice as to whether to accept the vouchers or not. The data
says that most people do.
But you must remember that it’s worth finding out what you might be entitled to if
you refuse the airline’s offer and insist on cash instead.
Most people don’t know their rights on what compensation they’re owed. We
surveyed European air travelers and found that 85% don’t know their rights, and
globally 13 million passengers miss out on more than €5 billion in compensation
What To Do When Your Flight is Delayed
If you’ve just found out your flight is delayed, don’t stress, follow the below-
• Hold onto your boarding pass and any other travel documents.
• Ask why the flight was delayed.
• Gather proof of the delay (for example photos of the departure board or
communications from the airline confirming the disruption.)
• Make a note of the arrival time at your destination.
• Ask the airline to pay for your meals and refreshments.
• Don’t sign anything or accept any offers that may waive your rights.
• Choose to wait it out or call it off if your delay is more than five hours.
• If needed, get the airline to provide you with a hotel room.
• Keep your receipts if your delayed flight ends up costing you extra money.