What Are My Rights If My Flight Is Delayed?

One of the great certainties of air travel is that, if you take enough flights, you are going to suffer from delays. In this post, we take a look at what your rights are if you are subjected to a flight delay and how you may claim for delayed flight compensation.

To complicate matters somewhat there are no rights that are applicable in all circumstances – much will depend on what has caused the delay and also the nature of the tickets booked. Don’t worry though, we will run through those details in this post.

Basic Assistance

If your flight is covered by EU law – and it will be if it departs from any EU country (plus a few other European nations) or arrives in one of those countries and is operated by an airline from one of them – then you are entitled to care and assistance.

This part is the most straightforward; if your flight is delayed for at least two hours you will be entitled to food and refreshments, these usually made available through vouchers to be used in the airport.

You will also be entitled to a means to communicate (this often by refunding the cost of calls) as well as accommodation if the delay is overnight (and transport to and from the accommodation).

This level of care applies to any flight covered by EU law, irrespective of the length of flight. 

It is possible that it will be difficult to always get this level of care organised through the airline, for instance overnight accommodation if required, especially if the nature of the delay has left the airline understaffed.

In this instance, passengers can book their own accommodation and transport (at a reasonable cost) and look to claim back later – this as advised on the CAA website.

Getting food and drink should be straightforward and accommodation possible if required. 

However, the situation regarding then getting to your destination, especially if connecting flights are involved, can be more complex. This is also true for claiming any compensation you might be entitled to.

Getting To Your Destination

If your flight does not involve any connections then the task of rebooking is straightforward and the airline will assist by getting you on to the next available flight.

It might be that the delay becomes so lengthy that the flight is no longer of value to you – for instance if the delay means you have missed the work appointment it was booked for. 

If the delay is for more than five hours then you are entitled to a refund if you would prefer this to being rebooked, you will also receive a refund on any unused parts of the booking (for example the return flight) and, if you’ve already completed part of your journey, get a flight back to your departure airport.

However, it should be noted that the additional refunds relate to that booking, if you had, for example, a delay on a BA flight that then caused you to miss an entirely separate booking not  bought as part of a single journey then you would not be entitled to any refund for this second part of the booking.

Booking separate tickets can save money but it comes at a risk that if a delay on an earlier part leads to the missing of the later part then the second airline has no duty to come to your assistance. Essentially, it is not their fault that you missed their flight.

For any booking that is booked as a single journey this level of care applies. If you book a BA journey that is Manchester – London Heathrow – Bangkok all as one ticket and the Manchester part is delayed then BA will rebook you to your ultimate destination if the delay leads to you missing the London flight.

If, however, you had Ryanair from Manchester To London ahead of the BA flight to Bangkok then a Ryanair delay would be hugely problematic; BA would have no duty, and be extremely unlikely, to offer any help in getting to Bangkok beyond suggesting you book a new ticket.

Given that airlines work in partnership and so most journeys can be booked as a single ticket it is rarely advisable to book separate tickets; the only exception would be if the risk was worth the reward, i.e. the savings were such that even having to make last minute alternative arrangements proved cost effective.

As a general rule, buying tickets for a journey as a single ticket makes all subsequent issues much easier to deal with – the airline will have the responsibility of looking after you and getting you to your destination.

The Right To Compensation

The other aspect of entitlement comes in the form of compensation. Here a different approach is required.

Getting to your destination requires quick action by you and the airline, you might need to get booked on to the next flight, you might need to make enquiries about what will happen regarding connections.

Compensation can wait and it is even advisable to park thoughts of compensation for a little while. We will explain why.

Trying to sort compensation while at the airport might only serve to divert your focus from your main task, that of getting to your destination, keeping abreast of the length of the delay and making any contingency plans that might be required.

It is also highly likely that any compensation received at the airport will be a small total of what you might otherwise have received. 

If the airline is likely to face compensation claims it is in their interest to pay as little as possible and so might offer recompense in the form of vouchers or a low figure; it won’t be the full amount that would be applicable under EU law, specifically EU Regulation EC 261.

The difference could be huge as the compensation entitlement can be up to 600 euros per passenger – this applying to infants on an infant ticket too.

The compensation available depends on the flight and length of delay and is, at the time of writing:

Short-haul flights (flights of up to 1,500km).

For flights delayed by three hours or more, the claim is for 250 euros. Claims cannot be made for shorter delays.

Medium haul flights (1500 – 3,000km).

As with short haul flights, the delay has to be at least three hours. The compensation rises to 400 euros per passenger

Long-haul (more than 3,000km)

For delays under three hours there is no compensation.

For three to four hour delays, the claim is 300 euros.

For delays of four hours and over the compensation available rises to 600 euros per passenger.

The Cause Of The Delay Is Key

For compensation to apply in any of these cases, the delay has to be for reasons that are the fault of the airline, ‘exceptional circumstances’ not being open to compensation.

The devil is in the detail here as a lot of things that you might not classify as exceptional circumstances are put into this umbrella term.

Ash from a volcano affecting flights is seen as exceptional circumstances, that seems a fair enough description, but baggage handler strikes are also deemed exceptional.

But, if the delay is of the airline’s causing and is for at least three hours then you have a case for compensation.

How to claim

There are three ways to claim – by doing it yourself, by hiring a solicitor or by using a third party such as Flight Reclaim.

Hiring a solicitor is an option to be ruled out – there are likely to be fees to pay even if the claim is unsuccessful. With the maximum level of compensation fixed at 600 euros the cut taken by a solicitor hired to seek compensation will be disproportionately high.

Making the claim yourself is preferable to hiring a solicitor, but the process will be time consuming and burdensome. The airlines have a tendency to make the claim anything but straightforward with numerous forms to fill in and red tape to be navigated. By doing so they ensure people drop out and give up mid claim, or settle for a far smaller payout, happy eventually to get any money at all.

The third option is the service offered by Flight Reclaim. 

We of course charge a fee, but it is a fixed 25% + VAT, this one of the cheapest in the industry. Importantly, it is also a no-win, no -fee service and so the fee will only be applicable if you are in line to receive hundreds, or even thousands in compensation.

By using Flight Reclaim, all stress is removed, you simply tell us the flight details and leave it to us. We have helped more than 50,000 passengers, have a 98% success rate and have secured more than £20m in compensation. 

You can read what others have said about our service by reading the independent reviews on TrustPilot. 

If you wish to make a claim for a flight any time with the previous six years, simply fill out the claim form. 

For further information, call us on 0161 883 2662 or use our Contact Form. 

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    Passengers helped
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