How to claim money for flight delays

Harvey Jones 29 June 2022

Flight delays and cancellations are set to disrupt our holidays through the summer. Here's how you can claim compensation on a late flight

Your dream summer holiday can quickly turn into a nightmare if your flight is delayed, leaving you stuck in departures rather than sunning yourself on the beach. Or worse, stranded overseas when you're desperate to jet back home.

This year has already seen hundreds of flight delays and cancellations, and the travel season hasn't got into full swing yet.

"Under British and EU law, you have the legal right to claim compensation even for delays of two or three hours"

Under British and EU law, you have the legal right to claim compensation even for delays of two or three hours. Airlines are reluctant to pay up which means that you have to jump through a few hoops to get it.

Another problem is that the rules are complex. How much do you get depends on the length of delay, distance travelled, departure point, destination and carrier.

When do I qualify?

To qualify for compensation, you must be departing from or arriving at a British or EU airport. Flights in other regions are also covered, but only if you flew with an EU or British carrier.

However, if you fly say, from New York to LA with an overseas carrier such as American Airlines, you will not be covered and will rely on local rules.

"To qualify for compensation, you must be departing from or arriving at a British or EU airport"

You can claim £220 compensation for a three-hour delay on a short-haul flight of less 1,500km, say, from Glasgow to Amsterdam, or £350 for flights of between 1,500km and 3,500km.

The maximum you can get is £520 for a four-hour delay on long-haul flight of more than 3,500 km, say, from London to New York.

You cannot claim for a missed flight connection unless it was made on the same booking reference and the connection was at an EU airport

What else can I claim?

Woman stuck at airport drinking takeaway coffeeThe airline will supply you with food, drink and, for overnight delays, a hotel

If you're stuck at the airport, the airline must also supply you with a reasonable amount of food and drink. 

If airline staff are too busy to arrange this, you can cover “reasonable" expenses from your own pocket and claim them back later (remember to keep receipts). They won’t pay for luxuries like alcohol, though.

For overnight delays, the airline must also put you up in a hotel and provide transport.

If you have been delayed for more than five hours and no longer wish to travel, you are entitled to a full refund.

How do I get the money?

Go directly to your airline. Search its website or call customer services department to find the details.

When searching online, beware claims management companies. They will take a significant chunk of any compensation you get. To find out more, visit Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or Citizens Advice Bureau.

When can’t I claim?

The delay must have been the airline’s fault, such as staff shortages, technical problems or a strike at the company.

It won’t compensate for causes beyond its control, such as severe weather and natural disasters, war or civil unrest, security issues, air traffic control restrictions, strikes by airport staff or a medical emergency on board.

"The delay must have been the airline’s fault, such as staff shortages"

This can lead to grey areas, and disputes. If your airline doesn’t play ball, complain to the CAA. Its Passenger Advice and Complaints team will review your case.

Can I get compensation for other costs?

Your airline will not offer compensation for hire cars, hotels, excursions or any other extras you have paid for but missed out on. 

Can I backdate a claim?

You can make a compensation claim going back up to six years.

Do I get cash compensation?

Some airlines will try to fob you off with vouchers, but you have the right to insist on cash if you want it. 

Can I claim on my travel insurance?

It depends on the travel insurance policy, but most only pay small amounts and only after a lengthy delay, say, 12 hours or more.

Read more: What to do if an airline loses your luggage

Read more: 7 Travel fails to avoid when booking holidays

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