Know your rights: When and how to claim a flight compensation

In 2018, close to 25% of flights arrived lateThat’s 1 out of 4 flights. Yes, that many.

In this guest post, Thomas Busson – Head of Communications at ClaimCompass, shares more about what every air passenger needs to know about flight compensation and how to make a claim. 

There is absolutely no doubt that flying is cheaper than ever. If you’re a tad flexible and well-organized, scoring cheap airfare is (almost) as easy as ordering something on Amazon.

But as if airlines had to make us pay in another way for the privilege of booking cheap flights, flight delays are ever on the rise.

While flight disruptions can definitely ruin your travel plans, it might not be that bad for your wallet, though.

Air Passengers can get up to 600€ in Flight Compensation

Something that very few air passengers know is that the law protects them in cases of flight delays, cancellations, and overbooking.

The EU Regulation 261/2004 states that should you reach your final destination 3 hours late or more, you might be entitled to up to 600€.

The best part?

It doesn’t matter how much you paid your tickets in the first place. The amount of the compensation is dependent on the distance of your flight (and in some cases, also on the exact delay).

Obviously, few airlines have been advertising this to their customers. That’s why it is estimated that out of all eligible passengers, only 2% actually receive their compensation.

That’s just not right.

This could happen to you one day. If it ever does, you might want to know your rights and submit a claim right away.

flight compensation

When am I Entitled to a Flight Compensation?

First of all, because it is a European law, your flight must be somehow connected to the European Union (EU). More precisely, your flight must be in one of the following categories

  • Intra-EU flight
  • Departed from the EU and landed out of the EU
  • Departed out of the EU, landed inside the EU, an was operated by a European airline

For example, a flight delayed by over 3 hours, from London to Paris, or London to New York, makes you eligible for compensation (250€ in the first scenario, 600€ in the second – more on that below).

For a flight from New York to London, it depends: if it was operated by an EU airline like British Airways, you’re eligible. If it was operated by a US airline, like Delta, you’re not, unfortunately.

Flights entirely out of the EU, like Bangkok-Dubai, do not fall under the scope of the EU Regulation.

Keep also in mind that all delays are not equal: in most cases, you need to be at least 3 hours late to be eligible.

Most importantly, to be eligible, the disruption must be the responsibility of the airline: if the flight was disrupted for reasons out of their control, they are not obliged to pay. These are called “extraordinary circumstances” – unfortunately for passengers, airlines tend to abuse this excuse to avoid enforcing passenger rights.

How Much Am I Entitled to?

The amount of the flight compensation varies according to the distance of the flight, as follow:

  • 250€ for a flight of less than 1,500km
  • 400€ for flights between 1,500km and 3,500km, and for intra-EU flights
  • 600€ for flights of more than 3,500€ (except intra-EU flights)

Combine this with some expert money-saving travel tips, and you’ll soon have a budget to travel all year long.

And here’s the thing:

This is the amount per passenger. It means that a family of 4 people flying from Paris to New York, arriving 3 hours late, will be entitled to 3,600€ (600€ per person).

Why does it matter?

Because some airlines take advantage of passengers’ lack of awareness when it comes to passenger rights, and offer only one compensation, no matter the amount of travelers.

For flight cancellations, it gets a little bit more complicated, because the airline may reduce the compensation amount by 50% if they managed to reroute you to your final destination without too much delay.

How Can I Get a Flight Compensation?

You can contact the airline’s customer support directly: explain the situation and provide any proof you may have, along with your travel documents (boarding pass, booking confirmation, etc.).

Don’t forget to mention that you are claiming compensation under the EU Regulation 261/2004.

Just don’t get your hopes too high:

Few are the airlines that happily comply with the Regulation and agree to pay compensation right away.

That’s why so many travelers are entrusting their claim to claim agencies such as ClaimCompass instead.

It is indeed not so uncommon for airlines to abuse their passengers’ lack of legal expertise to avoid paying compensation. Some of them often hide behind the “extraordinary circumstances” excuse to decline compensating passengers. Even when it’s a lie…

A report for the European Court of Auditors has stated that “Claim agencies […] are filling enforcement gaps” when it comes to compensation claims. Passengers indeed have trouble enforcing their rights on their own – and that’s not surprising, considering how complicated airlines make it for them to claim.

If you’d rather save yourself the hassle of handling the correspondence with the airline and the potential rejection of your claim, you can submit your claim through one of these agencies. There are no upfront fees: if they manage to secure your compensation, they will take a cut, but if it turns out that you are not eligible, you won’t owe them a thing.

You can always use ClaimCompass’ Compensation Checker to verify whether or not you’re eligible: it’s free.

What if I already had a Delayed Flight in the Past?

Well, I might have some great news for you:

The EU Regulation is retroactive. It means that if you had a disrupted flight in the past few years, you might still get your compensation.

The exact statute of limitation (time period after which you can no longer claim) varies from one country to another. For example, it’s 6 years in the UK. That means that if you had a delayed flight from or to the UK in the past 6 years, you are still entitled to compensation.

But you better act fast and make sure you still have your travel documents with you: airlines will often make it hard for you to get your compensation.

Know Your Rights… and Spread the Word

Too few travelers are aware of their rights and this needs to change. It doesn’t take long to understand what your air passenger rights are, and if it helps you get 600€, isn’t it worth it?

A quick look at these airline ratings shows that European airlines still arrive late quite often. And it’s not about to change.

Now let’s hear it from you: have you ever had a delayed or cancelled flight? Did you know your rights and get compensated?

Written by

Travel blogger and tourism graduate from Bulgaria, working in the field of Digital Marketing and PR for travel brands.

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