FLIGHT DELAYS | Mayo Wynne Baxter
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Recent research from Which? shows that about 43 million passengers suffered delays in the UK last year. According to figures, around 183,000 long haul passengers and 729,000 short haul passengers were delayed by at least three hours. At this time of year, it’s useful to know what your rights are as a passenger travelling within or from the EU.

The Denied Boarding Regulation

The European Commission Regulation 261/2004 (“Denied Boarding Regulation”) establishes an airline’s obligation to support passengers not just if they are denied boarding but also if their flight is cancelled or delayed.

Although the right to compensation is not specifically set out within the Regulation, a 2012 European Court of Justice ruling gave passengers the right to claim compensation for delays in excess of 3 hours.

Where do they Apply?

The Regulations only apply to if you’re travelling with an airline:

  • Based in the EU;
  • Or with a non-EU based airline flying from an EU airport (EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).

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.

Notifying Passengers

The airline must display a notice at their check-ins stating:

If you are denied boarding or if your flight is cancelled or delayed for at least two hours, ask at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the text stating your rights, particularly with regard to compensation and assistance.

If an airline decides to deny someone boarding, cancels a flight or there is a delay of over 2 hours, it then has to give every passenger affected written details setting out their Regulation rights.


Any entitlement you may have to compensation depends upon the length of your delay and the length of your flight.

Compensation is calculated based on different “types” of flight:


Type 1            Flight of less than 1500 km in distance


Type 2 Flight within the EU of greater than 1500 km in distance, or any other flight of greater than 1500 km but less than 3500 km in distance


Type 3 Flight not within EU of greater than 3500 km in distance



Delay is calculated on the arrival time, being when the aircraft doors are opened and not when it lands at your destination. You can only claim compensation if the delay means you arrive over 3 hours later than the original scheduled arrival time.

Compensation would not be paid if the airline can prove that the delay or a cancellation was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’. This covers situations beyond their control, such as security risks, political instability, strikes or severe weather that makes flying dangerous. Although you may not get financial compensation for a flight being delayed in these circumstances, you are entitled to the free meals, refreshments, accommodation and hotel transfers depending on the length of your flight and delay.

Refreshments and Communication

If a flight is delayed, you are entitled to free refreshments and “communications” (being 2 free phone calls, faxes or emails) if the expected delay is more than:

  • 2 hours for a Type 1 flight
  • 3 hours for a Type 2 flight
  • 4 hours for a Type 3 flight

Don’t expect that much though – refreshments may not be much more than a bottle of water and a bag of crisps!

Refreshments, Communication and Accommodation

If your flight is expected to leave the day after the original scheduled departure time, then you are entitled to free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if you have to stay overnight.

Refreshments, Communication, Accommodation and Refunds

But if your flight is still delayed 5 hours later, you can then decide to abandon your journey even if your flight has not actually been cancelled. At this point, you can request a refund for all unused tickets, a refund on tickets used already if the flight no longer serves any purpose in relation to your original travel plan, and, if need be a flight back to your original point of departure at the earliest opportunity.

Financial Compensation

You can claim compensation if your flight is delayed for more than 3 hours. Compensation is payable for each passenger affected, unless a passenger travels free. Compensation is based in Euros, as set out in the table below:


Flight Type Delay in Arriving Entitlement
1 More than 3 hours €250
2 More than 3 hours €400
3 Between 3-4 hours €400
3 More than 4 hours €600

If your flight is cancelled, in addition to compensation, the airline must also offer to reimburse you or reroute you on the next available flight or an agreed date. Payments may be reduced depending upon what offers are made by the airline for an alternative flight.

Obtaining a Refund or Compensation

The first step to obtaining any compensation is to submit a completed air passenger rights EU complaint form to your airline. Make sure that you keep a copy for your records. If you are not satisfied with the airline’s response, then you can complain further to the relevant National Enforcement Body.

Hopefully, your next flight will be problem free!

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