How to Claim EU Compensation If Your Flight is Delayed

EU regulation 261 (2004) requires airlines to compensate passengers between €250 and €600 cash for flight delays of over 3 hours, for cancellations, and for involuntary denied boardings due to overbooking. The amount depends on the distance of the flight.

This applies to flight departures from EU countries, and it applies to flights headed to the EU on airlines based there. It also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. And it applies to award tickets not just paid tickets.

Compensation even applies to cancellations that happen in advance, not just the day of departure. In fact if the cancellation happens within two weeks of departure an airline has to pay compensation unless they can provide transportation more than two hours earlier that arrives no more than four hours later than originally scheduled. The rules get more stringent within a week of departure.

Airlines often claim an exemption due to “extraordinary circumstances” that couldn’t have been avoided, and there’s much litigation over this most of which having been resolved in favor of the passenger. For instance while strikes and weather can be extraordinary, mechanical issues generally aren’t.

You can simply write to the airline’s customer service something to the effect of,

I am writing regarding flight NUMBER on [date] from AAAA to BBBB with scheduled departure time of XX:XX. My record locator is ZZZZZZZ and ticket number 0000000000.

This flight arrived TK hours late [or “was cancelled and I arrived on flight ABC at XX:XX on Y date.”] Therefore I am requesting compensation under EC Regulation 261/2004.

The flight was XYZ kilometers therefore I am seeking €[amount].

Thank you for your assistance. I look forward to your reply within 14 days.


Copyright: trevorbenbrook / 123RF Stock Photo

However I often tell readers to simply turn their claim over to one of the companies that will submit on your behalf for a percentage of what they recover. That’s because it can be so frustrating at times to get the airlines to actually pay.

In fact in the UK it seems that passengers are actually sending bailiffs to airline offices to collect compensation that’s due. (HT: Howard M.)

Bailiffs are arriving at the offices of leading UK airlines, and staff are paying on-the-spot with debit and credit cards, an investigation by You and Yours has found.

If staff fail to pay up the bailiffs can remove and sell their office equipment and furniture.

In one case, bailiffs boarded a plane belonging to a small European airline and prevented it from taking off until the owners paid up.

Let’s hope your case doesn’t come to that!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Is there a specific website you would use to document the arrival/deparutre time of a specific flight? Some sites seem to have better info than others

  2. LOL, Gary, what’s your success rate with that type of email?
    It’s all airline specific. I always get a no from BA. Using a lawyer is the only way to go after that. US airways was notorious for ignoring EU law.

  3. My Indian aunt and uncles flight from ord-ams-bom was canceled. On their behalf, I emailed KLM and Delta emailed me back and said they would send the checks. Took about 2-3 months until getting the checks but got them about $1400 USD back. If you have the time and patience, I recommend manually doing it, over hiring a company because the company takes 25% usually.

  4. Your commentary is not accurate.

    The non-EU states listed such as Switzerland are bound by the original EU261/2004 directive which specifies compensation for cancellations, but they are not bound by the subsequent ECJ ruling which extends the same benefits to delays. That is only binding on the actual EU states. Therefore, you are not statutorily entitled to compensation for delays on airlines from those states for flights departing non-EU territory.

  5. Would this apply if I have a JFK-LHR flight on Virgin Atlantic that I paid for using Skymiles?

  6. I would also like to know if one used AA miles to fly on BA from Milan to San Diego and the flight was delayed for approximately 3 hours, are we entitled to any payment?

    I’m also interested in the answers to several earlier posts.

  7. Ukraine International Airlines in July departed from Italy with a delay of 5 hours with no weather issue at all. The airplane cames from Ukraine with a big delay because of bad weather in Ukraine (according to the airline), so UIA declined to pay the compensation because of bad weather. But the bad weather issue was with the previous flight, not with my flight (beautiful weather in Italy and in Ukraine destination). I don’t buy this explanation. Am I right? What do you think?

  8. Tripit Pro checks your past flights and let you know when EU Comp claim money is due. Tripit even links you to 3rd party companies that can process your claim. I received $600 from a past due flight out of Paris that was 2 yrs ago. (Statute of limitation doesn’t apply. EU Comp is retrievable no matter how long ago). Win-win.

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