I had a flight cancellation, can I claim compensation?

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you may be able to claim compensation and get a refund under the Denied Boarding Regulation.

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Cancelled flights: your rights

If you're travelling with an airline based in the EU or with a non-EU based airline flying from an EU airport, you're protected by the Denied Boarding Regulation.

The regulation states that the airline has an obligation to offer you assistance if your flight is cancelled or the delay is expected to go beyond a certain point.

Depending the length and circumstances of your delay you could be entitled to:

You can also use our free tool to claim flight cancellation compensation.

Am I covered? 

If you can answer yes to all of these then you'll be protected by the Denied Boarding Regulations

  • Do you have a confirmed booking?
  • Did you check in on time? Or if no check-in time was given, then at least 45 minutes before your flight was scheduled to depart?
  • Are you're departing from an EU airport, or from a non-EU airport and flying into an EU airport?

You also have rights under the Denied Boarding Regulations if your flight was delayed.

Refund or rerouting?

If your flight is cancelled and either departed from an EU airport or you were on an EU airline and landed at an EU airport. You can choose either:

  • not to travel, and get a refund of your ticket cost. You can also choose this option if the delay lasts for five hours or more but the flight isn't cancelled
    or
  • an alternative flight (airlines call this rerouting) to your destination.

You can claim one of these:

  • regardless of how long before the flight you were told of the cancellation
  • regardless of what it was that caused the cancellation.
If you're travelling with a non-EU based airline flying from a non-EU destination, the airline doesn't have the same duty to look after you. Check the airline's Condition of Carriage to see what compensation you are entitled to.

Your entitlement for flight cancellations

Under the Denied Boarding Regulation, what you're entitled to depends on the length of your delay and the length of your flight.

You're entitled to meals, refreshments, phone calls and emails if one of the following occurs: 

  • a flight under 932 miles (for example, London to Venice) and you arrive at least least two hours late
  • a flight within the EU that is more than 932 miles (for example, London to Athens) and you arrive at least three hours
  • a flight that isn't within the EU but is between 932 and 2,174 miles is delayed for at least three hours
  • any other flight delayed for at least three hours.

Provided that you qualify in one of the above categories, you're entitled to:

  • two free phone calls, faxes or emails
  • free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay
  • free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required
  • you can also choose not to travel, and get a refund of your ticket cost if the delay lasts for five hours or more (but the flight is not cancelled).

Find out where you fit it, use a flight distance calculator to find out how many miles your flight covers. 

Am I entitled to compensation?

Compensation for cancelled flights depends on the reason for the cancellation. 

If the airline can prove the cancellation was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’, no compensation is payable.

Extraordinary circumstances are situations beyond the control of the airline, for example, security risk, political instability or severe weather that makes flying dangerous. Strikes are also usually included in this category.

Although you are not entitled to financial compensation for flight cancellations in these circumstances, you are entitled to the meals, refreshments, accommodation and hotel transfers depending on the length of your flight and delay (as explained above).

Flight cancellation compensation explained

If your booked onto an alternative flight (airlines call this rerouting) to your destination, you can claim for the delay based on your original departure time. 

Compensation for delay
Flight distanceHow late arrivingEntitlement
Up to 1,500km (932 miles)More than 3 hours€250
Any flight within the EU over 1,500km (932 miles) or any other flight between 1,500km-3,500 km (2,175 miles)More than 3 hours€400
More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)Between 3-4 hours€300
More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)More than 4 hours€600

Find out where you fit it, use a flight distance calculator to find out how many miles your flight covers. 

Compensation for a cancelled flight  

Claim flight cancellation compensation - use our free tool

If there are no extraordinary circumstances, you can claim cancelled flight compensation using our free tool in accordance with the Denied Boarding Regulation as detailed in the table above. 

Before using this tool you will need to know:

  • how late you were arriving (if rerouted)
  • the distance of your flight
  • your flight number.

Challenge extraordinary circumstances

It’s worth challenging your airline if you don't agree that there were extraordinary circumstances - for example, if you're told you can't fly due to weather conditions, but other flights are departing. Airlines may stretch the definition of extraordinary circumstances further than they should.

A 'technical problem' is not an extraordinary circumstance

Van der Lans v KLM

The European Court of Justice ruled that ‘a technical problem’ is not one of the extraordinary circumstances that airlines can use as a valid defence against paying flight delay compensation.

This is now one of the highest rulings on the issue of technical problems and is binding on all European courts.

If your flight has been delayed because of a strike, see our guide on what to expect from your airline in the event of a strike.

How to appeal a decision

If you have an unresolved complaint about an airline, it is required to inform you about an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme that you can use.  

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) hold a list of approved providers of ADR and the airlines they cover.

Please note the Civil Aviation Authority can only help you if the flight was cancelled or delayed within the UK, or was on a UK based airline.. 

Regardless of whether you choose to use the CAA, you still have the right to take an airline to the small claims court if you feel it is unfairly refusing your compensation. But it's a good idea to seek legal advice before taking this step.

If your flight was cancelled or delayed outside the UK on a non-UK airline, you will need to complain to the airline regulator in the country the delay occurred in.

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