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Consumer Rights.

I had a flight delay, can I get compensation?

If your flight is delayed you could be entitled to compensation or a refund, so make sure you know your flight delay compensation rights and are not left out of pocket.
Which?Editorial team
Flight delay compensation

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The rules on flight delays or cancellations

If you booked a flight that either departed from the UK or Europe or was with a UK or European airline, you're protected by the Denied Boarding Regulation - or EU Regulation 261/2004 - if your flight is delayed or cancelled.

If you're more than four hours late arriving at your destination, you could also be entitled to claim EU flight delay compensation of up to €600 per person

You can use our free flight delay compensation tool to make a claim.

The Denied Boarding Regulation applies if:

  • you have a confirmed booking
  • you checked in on time, or if no check-in time was given, then at least 45 minutes before your flight was scheduled to depart
  • you're departing from a UK/EU airport, or from a non-EU airport and flying into a UK/EU airport on a 'community carrier' (an airline with its headquarters and main place of business within the UK or EU. This includes all European discount and no-frills airlines).

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. But you can check the airline's Condition of Carriage to see what compensation you are entitled to.

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

Your rights to compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight

In this video, Which? Legal flights expert Adrian, explains what airlines should be doing for you at the airport, your options for making a claim and what to do if an airline rejects your claim for compensation.

Your entitlement for flight delays

What assistance you're entitled to depends on the length of your delay and the length of your flight.

Flight delay of more than two hours

If your flight’s delayed for at least two hours and depending on how far you're flying, your airline has to give you:

  • 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.
When you're entitled to assistance
Type of flightDistanceHow long you have to wait

Up to 1,500km (932 miles)

Flight time is usually about 2 hours or less

2 hours or more

Between 1,500km - 3,500km (932-2,175 miles)

Flight time is usually between 2 about 4 hours

3 hours or more

More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)

Flight time is usually more than 4 hours

4 hours or more

Each affected passenger can also claim flight delay compensation if the delay is not due to ‘extraordinary circumstances'.

Flight delay of more than five hours

If your flight’s delayed for more than five hours you're entitled to choose between being rerouted on a different flight or getting a refund, just as if your flight had been cancelled. And each affected passenger is still entitled to claim flight delay compensation if the delay is not due to ‘extraordinary circumstances'.

Timeline for claims

You can make a claim up to six years after the delayed or cancelled flight if your flight flew in or out of a UK airport.

Claim flight delay compensation

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 your flight arrives at its destination more than three hours late each affected passenger is entitled to claim flight delay compensation. 

The distance of your flight, length, and the reason for the delay will affect how much compensation you can claim.

You can claim flight delay compensation claim in accordance with the EU Denied Boarding Regulation, as detailed in the table below. 

Flight delay compensation explained

Depending on the distance of your flight and the length, and reason for, your delay you could also be entitled to claim compensation.

Compensation for delay
Flight distanceHow late arrivingEntitlement
Up to 1,500km (932 miles)More than 3 hours£220
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£350
More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)Between 3-4 hours£260
More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)More than 4 hours£520

These compensations total apply for:

  • Flights departing from an UK airport
  • Flights departing from any country and arriving at an UK airport, with an EU or UK airline
  • Flights departing from any country and arriving at an EU airport, with an UK airline.  

If you're flying between two EU airports with a non-UK airline then the EU version of the rules will apply, and your compensation will be paid in euros.

Compensation for 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 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.

What are extraordinary circumstances?

If the airline can prove the delay was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’, it won't have to pay you compensation.

Extraordinary circumstances are situations beyond the control of the airline.

List of extraordinary circumstances for flight delays

  • a security risk
  • unlawful acts
  • political instability 
  • drone disruption
  • long security queues
  • severe weather that makes flying dangerous
  • restricted Air Traffic Control operations
  • strikes by non-airline staff (eg baggage handlers employed by the airport)

Strikes by airline staff are not considered an extraordinary circumstance, so you should receive compensation. See our guide on what to expect from your airline in the event of a strike.

Although you are not entitled to financial compensation when there's an extraordinary circumstance, you are entitled to assistance when your flight is delayed.

Assistance includes meals, refreshments, accommodation and hotel transfers, depending on the length of your flight and delay.

Key Information

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.

Challenge extraordinary circumstances

It’s worth challenging your airline if you don't agree that there were extraordinary circumstances because airlines may stretch the definition of extraordinary circumstances further than they should.

For example, if you're told you can't fly due to weather conditions, but other flights are departing you could challenge whether the adverse weather really was the genuine cause of the delay.

There may be some circumstances in which you can claim - for example, if your flight is delayed due to knock-on effects resulting from an extraordinary circumstance.

For example, if on Wednesday morning there was drone disruption at the airport, delays that day would be classed as an extraordinary circumstance. 

But if you travelled on Thursday after the drone disruption took place, and your flight was delayed as a result of it, this would be seen as a knock-on effect and you could be entitled to a make claim.

Can I claim for extra out-of-pocket expenses for a delayed flight?

As well as the compensation you could be owed under EU Regulation 261/2004, you might also be entitled to claim for any extra out-of-pocket expenses under the Montreal Convention.

For example, these could include if the flight delay or cancellation caused you to:

  • miss a night of pre-booked accommodation
  • miss a concert or event you’d bought tickets to
  • miss a day of car rental which you’d already paid for

However, this can be quite a tricky legal argument. If you’d like to know if you may be entitled to additional compensation contact Which? Legal for one-to-one advice.

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

Regardless of whether you choose to use a CAA approved 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.