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's 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

Refund or rerouting?

If your flight's 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:

1. An alternative flight (airlines call this rerouting) to your destination.

  • If your flight wasn't direct and was cancelled part-way through, you are entitled to a flight back to your original point of departure or to be refunded in full.
  • rerouting to your final destination at the earliest opportunity
  • rerouting to your final destination at a later date convenient to you.

You are also entitled to assistance:

  • 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.

Or

2. Cancel your flight and get a refund. You can also choose this option if the delay lasts for five hours or more but the flight isn't cancelled. 

You must receive a refund of the full cost of the flight within seven days. But, once you take a refund the airline no longer has a duty of care towards you and you can't claim back any further expenses you have. 

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.

My airline won't book me on a suitable alterative flight

If other airlines are flying you can try to rebook with an alternative airline yourself and claim that back as an expense. 

But this is risky, and we’d recommend taking this step only once you’ve exhausted all over options.

This may only work if your reason for travel is exceptionally time sensitive, such as a child’s wedding or job interview.

Depending on the circumstances you may also be able to claim this successfully if you have to wait more than a couple of days for the rescheduled flight you're offered.

Importantly, do not cancel your existing booking, this will leave you in a much strong position to claim back the cost of your alternative flight.

Compensation for a cancelled flight

Tool flight icon 470794

Flight delay & cancellation compensation calculator

If you travelled to or from a UK airport and your flight was delayed or cancelled, we can help you calculate what compensation you can claim for free.

Start your claim

If there are no extraordinary circumstances, you have the right to claim cancelled flight compensation in accordance with the Denied Boarding Regulation as detailed in the table below. 

Your entitlement rights for flight cancellations

If your flight is cancelled and you choose to be rerouted, you can treat any extra time you have to wait as a delay. Under the Denied Boarding Regulation, what you're entitled to depends on the length of your delay, and how much notice you were given of the cancellation.

If you were give less than seven days' notice and your new flight departs more than one hour early or arrives more than two hours later than your original flight. Or, If you were give less than 14 days' notice and your flight departs more than two hours early or arrive more than two hours late, you're entitled to the following:

  • 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
  • each affected passenger can also claim compensation if the cancellation is not due to ‘extraordinary circumstances'.

Cancelled flight compensation

Your right to 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. Delays and cancellations due to a strike 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).

Connecting flights

The Court of Appeal decision in the joint cases of Gahan v Emirates and Buckley v Emirates means passengers flying with a non-EU airline are entitled to compensation if a flight departing from, or arriving in the UK is delayed by at least three hours at the final destination, as a result of a missed connection outside Europe.

This means that European guidelines on passenger rights during disruption are now clear, the final destination of a connecting flight is the last airport listed on the passenger's ticket.

For example, if you are flying from London to Sydney with a stopover in Singapore and the Singapore to Sydney portion of your journey is delayed by more than 3 hours - or cancelled -  you are entitled to claim EU flight delay compensation.

Flight cancellation compensation explained

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

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

If your flight was cancelled less than 7 days before departure
DistanceDeparture and arrival timesComp.
Less than 1,500kmIf your new flight takes off more than one hour before your original flight, and arrives less than two hours after it€125
 If your new flight arrives more than two hours after your original flight€250
1,500km to 3,500kmIf your new flight departs more than one hour before your original flight, and arrives less than three hours after it€200
 If your new flight arrives more than three hours after your original flight€400
More than 3,500kmIf your new flight departs more than one hour before your original flight, and arrives less than four hours after it€300
 If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight€600
If your flight was cancelled between 7 and 14 days before departure
DistanceDeparture and arrival timesComp.
Less than 1,500kmIf your new flight takes off more than two hours before your original flight, and arrives less than two hours after it€125
 If your new flight takes off more than two hours before your original flight, and arrives more than two hours after it€250
 If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight€250
1,500km to 3,500kmIf your new flight takes off more than two hours before your original flight, and arrives less than three hours after it€200
 If your new flight takes off more than two hours before your original flight, and arrives three to four hours after it€400
 If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight€400
More than 3,500kmIf your new flight departs more than two hours before your original flight, and arrives less than four hours after it€300
 If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight€600

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.

Regardless of whether you choose to use an ADR scheme 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.

Did you pay with your credit card?

You can claim for a cancelled flight paid for using a credit card and with a total ticket value of over £100, if the airline refuses to refund you. Use our template letter to make a Section 75 claim for a cancelled flight.

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