Best Travel Blog 2024

EU FLIGHT DELAY COMPENSATION | How To Get Your Trip Reimbursed

Flying is an efficient way to get from A to B and can save a lot of travel hassle and time. However, things do not always go as planned, and delays, cancellations, and lost luggage can quickly compromise the joy of traveling. Here it is important to know how you can get flight delay compensation on your flight, and in this post, I am sharing what applies in the EU.

Having worked as a flight attendant for 7 years, I tell you that delays and cancellations are the last things that an airline wants, and unfortunately, what ends up happening on a regular basis. 

It’s not always anyone’s fault really, but when it comes to the aviation industry, so many pieces are involved in order to make the full puzzle. There is a ton of regulations, rules, political factors, safety, technology, and a massive international flight schedule that has to be taken into account. 

That being said, having a flight delayed or canceled, or your luggage lost, SUCKS as a passenger!

The surprise no one wants

One of the beautiful aspects of traveling is the surprises that might occur. I think we can agree, that flight disruptions are simply not one of them…

Both through my job and as a traveler, I have tried almost every single imaginable flight hiccup there. Delays, cancellations, strikes, a passenger going rouge, someone making a huge dent in the side of the aircraft, a mechanic noticing a wrong screw in the cargo – basically any common and highly unlikely reason for a flight to be compromised – I’ve witnessed them all. 

Flight delays and cancellations, unfortunately, happen all the time, and not long ago I experienced it again. I had a flight booked to Argentina through Italy, and without notice, my flight was canceled. Not only was this a headache in itself, but the next one that happened, was even more so. The airline could not rebook me immediately because of overbookings and schedule changes. I now had the option to get a refund or receive a voucher. The migraine occurred when I went to search for other flights. In the 3 months since I bought my ticket, the prices have now increased by almost 500% – ouch!!!

EU flight delay compensation assistance

I always buy travel insurance and with the current uncertain state of the world, it is more important than ever. Travel insurance will cover you for most inconveniences related to when your flight is disrupted. This time I learned, however, that there is a company in this world specifically designed to help travelers with flight delays and cancellations – it’s AirHelp

AirHelp has helped millions of people worldwide with their entitled compensation and lets passengers know their rights. Many people (including myself) do not know which rules apply and that EU air carriers are obligated to compensate passengers in numerous cases. 

Many airlines are, unfortunately, prone to drag insurance cases into eternity when they can. Hoping that people will give up on their claim. Usually, they succeed using this tactic. 

Personally, I have too many other things to worry about, and hunting down airlines for a few hundred euros, is simply not within my list of priorities. Who needs that kind of worry in their life? 

I decided to use AirHelp and a few months later, I received my compensation. All I had to do was fill out a form with my flight details and upload a few documents. AirHelp takes a considerable percentage, but make sure you get your EU flight delay compensation and receive all that the European Union says is within your air passenger rights. 

What EU flight delay compensation am I entitled to?

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If this is your first time flying, this might all be completely new information. The EU EC 261 Regulation is the main legislation that protects passengers’ rights, and it is the driving force for you to make a claim. 

The European Regulations applies to: 

  • All passengers departing from a country of the UE, Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway
  • All passengers arriving from a country of the UE, Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway

Note: some exceptions are made for flights between the European territory of the Member States and the French overseas departments.

Delayed flight

eu flight delay compensation

Your plane is delayed by definition if you reach your destination 3 hours later than the originally scheduled time of arrival, and then you are entitled to compensation. 

The amount you are entitled to depend on the distance of the flight, and also on the time. The rates go as: 

  • 250€ for flights up to 1500 km
  • 300 € for a delay between 3 and 4 hours
  • 400€ for flights between 1500 – 3500 km
  • 600€ beyond 3500 km, provided that you are at least 4 hours late

You can calculate your compensation through this flight calculator.

The compensation is not due if: 

  • You were informed of the delay at least 2 weeks before departure
  • The air carrier can prove that the case occurred due to exceptional circumstances (volcanic eruptions, civil wars, floods, earthquakes, etc.)

Good to know: 

The delay is calculated at the arrival and not the departure of the airplane. The time of arrival is defined by the opening of at least one door of the plane. 

Other rights in case of flight delays

In case your flight departs several hours late, you are entitled to free drinks and meals at the airport. This has to be offered by the air carrier on top of 2 telephone calls, 2 faxes, or 2 e-mails. I don’t know how many people use faxes nowadays, but this is good to know in terms of the high costs of international phone calls. 

If your flight is so delayed that it is postponed for the next day, you are entitled to accommodation and transportation between the airport and the hotel. 

The assistance you can expect, or maybe demand, depends on the waiting time and the flight distance. It is relevant in case your flight takes off with a delay of more than: 

  • 2 hours for flights up to 1500 km
  • 3 hours for flights in the European Union of more than 1500 km and for all other flights between 1500 – 3500 km
  • 4 hours for flights of more than 3500 km

Use the flight calculator to see what you are entitled to. 

In case of delays of more than 5 hours, you have the choice to: 

  • Continue your trip
  • Postpone your trip
  • Renounce your trip and get a refund of the tickets not used and also on your trip taken that is no longer relevant (an example could be that your flight was delayed on the departure of a connecting flight. Here the return has to be paid by the airline)

Canceled flight

eu flight delay compensation

In case your flight departs several hours late, you are entitled to free drinks and meals at the airport. This has to be offered by the air carrier on top of 2 telephone calls, 2 faxes, or 2 e-mails.

In addition, you are also entitled to choose between a refund of your ticket or another flight to your final destination in similar conditions. Meaning the airline has to offer you a suitable alternative. 

Furthermore, you are entitled to a compensation of: 

  • 250€ for flights up to 1500 km
  • 300 € for a delay between 3 and 4 hours
  • 400€ for flights between 1500 – 3500 km
  • 600€ beyond 3500 km, provided that you are at least 4 hours late

Use the flight calculator to see what you are entitled to.

The compensation is not due if: 

  • You were informed of the delay at least 2 weeks before departure
  • The departure of the alternative flight is less than 2 hours earlier or the arrival time is less than 4 hours later
  • The air carrier can prove that the case occurred due to exceptional circumstances (volcanic eruptions, civil wars, floods, earthquakes, etc.)

Overbooking and denied boarding

eu flight delay compensation

This does not happen often, thankfully, but it does occur. In rare cases, you may be denied boarding because the flight is overbooked. Meaning that the airline has sold more tickets than available seats. Though it sounds odd, this is quite common as many passengers change their travel plans last minute, or simply don’t show up at all. 

In case this happens, the airline must first call on volunteers who willingly accept being taken off the flight. Volunteers are entitled to: 

  • The reimbursement of their ticket and a new ticket to the departure airport if needed
  • Meals and drinks while waiting for alternative flight
  • A payment negotiated with the airline

If you are not a volunteer but is denied boarding for other reasons you are entitled to: 

  • The choice of an alternative flight
  • The refund of your ticket
  • Return flight to your airport of departure 
  • Meals and drinks
  • 2 Phone calls, faxes, or emails
  • Accommodation and transport from the airport if needed

Furthermore, you are entitled to the payment of: 

  • 250€ for flights up to 1500 km
  • 300 € for a delay between 3 and 4 hours
  • 400€ for flights between 1500 – 3500 km
  • 600€ beyond 3500 km, provided that you are at least 4 hours late

Use the flight calculator to see what you are entitled to.

Good to know:

Denied boarding may be justified in certain cases related to health, safety, security, or inadequate travel document. In this case, you are not entitled to compensation from the air carrier. 

A final note on EU flight delay compensation

Europe has the EC 261 legislation with the purpose of protecting you as a flying traveler. You are entitled to claims ranging from 250€ to 600€ depending on the circumstances. You are entitled to compensation if: 

  • The flight arrived at your destination more than 3 hours late
  • Your flight departed from a country of the UE, Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway
  • Your flight arrived in a country of the UE, Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway
  • You checked in for your flight in time and followed all other requirements responsible to you
  • The airline is responsible for the incident and was not subject to exceptional circumstances
  • You had your flight canceled or it was delayed no more than 3 years ago

Even if the airline has already provided meals, drinks, and travel vouchers you are still entitled to compensation. This also applies if you are not an EU resident or citizen.

What does Airhelp cover?

For AirHelp to assist you with your compensation, your flight must take off or arrive within the EU. Additionally, the airline must be European with their main office in the EU. 

In short AirHelp covers: 

  • Delays of over three hours not caused by exceptional circumstances
  • Flights canceled with less than a 14-day notice and no suitable alternative flight is offered
  • Overbooked flights and denied boarding
  • Missed connections due to delay, cancelations, or overbooking of your flight
  • Lost or damaged luggage

For a more specific overview, head to AirHelp’s website and read the coverage policy

How does Airhelp help?

AirHelp will provide all the legal services and assistance you need to claim your compensation. Basically, you fill out the form and AirHelp will take care of everything. They might need additional information or proof of the event, but other than that, you are free of the legal hassle. 

What does Airhelp cost?

To make your claim and fill out the forms is free. AirHelp only charges if they win your compensation claim. In this case, they will charge 35% in normal cases and 50% if the case ends up in court. 

The percentage is quite high, but with a process of several months, I think it is worth the lack of stress. Also, a compensation of a few hundred euros directly into your wallet, by only filling out a form, is a pretty good trade. 

How do I summit an EU flight delay compensation claim?

With Airhelp

To make the claim through Airhelp you simply visit Here you follow the steps and fill out a form. You must provide flight details and your boarding pass or e-ticket. The form is very user-friendly and should take you less than 10 minutes. Finally, AirHelp immediately tells you if you have an entitled claim. 

Making the claim yourself

The procedure for making a claim yourself is as follows: 

At the airport, you must require written confirmation of cancellation, delay, or denied boarding with the ground staff. This statement has to include circumstances if possible. 

If the staff denies making this document, you must take a photo of the notice board and have testimonies from other passengers. Take screenshots of notices, emails, or anything else proving the situation if the incident occurred online.

You must also keep all receipts of payment, proving your expenses related to your disrupted flight.

Next, you have to contact the actual carrier. Keep in mind that sometimes you book with a certain company but the flight is operated by another. It is with the operating airline you have to make your claim. 

Use the online form that should be provided by your airline and make sure to have screenshots proving the form subscription. 

If you did not receive any response after 6 weeks, or if you have any litigation with the airline, it is advised to contact the European Consumer Centre of your home country. This should be possible to do without cost. 

Can I claim EU flight delay compensation myself?

Yes, you can chase down the airline and claim compensation yourself, but as you might have realized from above, it can be a tough road to head down. 

Some airlines might make it pretty easy, and others will make you hike through a desert without water for months before paying up. 

If you have the time, patience, and mental state, you can make the claim yourself and keep 100% of your entitled compensation. 

With AirHelp, however, you are saved a ton of time and potential headaches. Also, using this company will improve your chances of getting compensation. The purpose of AirHelp is to help with flight compensation and they have a team of specialists and lawyers ready to fight your case. Making it as fast and convenient as possible for you to receive your money. 

What exceptional circumstances are not eligible for compensation?

eu flight delay compensation

If the airline can prove that the flight disruption occurred because of unavoidable extraordinary circumstances, they are not required to pay compensation to you. 

European Regulation 261 does not give concrete examples but specifies that: 

“Extraordinary circumstances occur when air traffic is disrupted although all reasonable measures were taken by the air carrier to avoid delays and cancellations.”

Some examples of flights being disrupted without the airline being responsible are volcanic eruptions, floods, civil wars, extreme weather conditions, earthquakes, acts of terrorism, etc. 

Some reasons for flight disruptions can be discussed. This is the case of an air traffic control strike within the airline. Here the airline should be informed about the upcoming strike and should therefore put in all measures to avoid your flight being delayed or canceled. If the strike compromising the airline is the staff around the airline (here security staff at the airport, ground staff, etc.) Here the strike is outside the company and is therefore not the responsibility of the air carrier. 

Good to know: 

A technical problem is not an example of an exceptional circumstance according to the Court of Justice of the EU. In cases where you are compromised by technical issues, you are also entitled to compensation. However, if it is the manufacturer of the airplane, who detects a malfunction, the airline is freed from paying you the compensation but still has to provide a refund of your ticket and assistance. 

Hopefully, this was all the information you needed relating to flight delay and cancellation compensation on your EU flights. I know it can be a bit of a jungle and tricky to navigate around. Very often, it turns out that you are entitled to compensation more often than you might think. I strongly recommend AirHelp, as it is the easiest and safest way to ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to. 

I hope you feel well-dressed to go out and explore the world even in uncertain times.

As always feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions. 


The article may include affiliate links, meaning that I may receive affiliate compensation at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. Read more in my Affiliate Disclosure.


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