How To Claim EU Flight Compensation For Delayed Flights

If you frequently fly to popular European destinations, chances are that you’ve found yourself stuck at an airport departures gate well past your flight’s departure time more than once on your adventures.

Unfortunately, unexpected delays to flights is one of the main issues associated with international travel. If you’re sat reading this because your flight has just been delayed, regardless of the reason for the delay you should know that you might be able to claim EU flight compensation with the help of a reputable company like Airhelp.

(Airhelp helps airline passengers to get the compensation they are entitled to after a disrupted flight e.g. a cancellation, delay or overbooking).

Here’s what you need to do next:

Check the airline’s own policy for flight delays

The first thing to do is to check the airline’s website for their policy on compensation for delayed flights. Here they will outline the procedure they expect their customers to follow in the event of a delay. Be mindful that if your flight is delayed, the 300 or so other passengers are all going to try and get answers from the airline staff at the departure desk so save yourself a stressful wait in line and wait for an announcement.

If your flight is delayed over a certain amount of time, depending on the circumstances, the airline must provide you with:

  • Food and water
  • Access to the internet and a phone call
  • Accommodation and hotel shuttle transportation for overnight delays

The airline may give you vouchers to get these things at the airport. If in doubt, politely ask one of the airline staff to clarify their position to you before you make your own purchases.

If you don’t receive any help at the airport the airline may cover reasonable expenses incurred because of the delay so keep your receipts, however, be mindful that you are unlikely to be reimbursed for anything the airline deems unnecessary so don’t expect to claim for expensive hotel stays and restaurant bills.

Find out whether you can claim compensation

It’s important to remember that you can only claim compensation if the delay is caused by the airline themselves – for example, if there was a technical fault with the plane or they had staffing issues. You’re unlikely to receive compensation if the delay was caused by something outside of the airline’s control such as bad weather or security concerns.

Determine what compensation you are entitled to

The compensation you will receive is directly associated to the length of time you are delayed, and the total distance you’re due to travel with the airline during the journey in question.

  • Less than 1,500km – 2 hours
  • Over 1,500km and within the EU – 3 hours
  • Between 1,500km and 3,500km and between EU and non-EU countries – 3 hours
  • More than 3,500km and between EU and non-EU countries – 4 hours


You don’t have to take the flight if it is 5 or more hours delayed

If your EU flight is delayed by 5 or more hours, then you can choose not to wait for it. If you don’t take the flight, by law the airline must give you all of the following:

  • a full refund for the flight
  • a full refund for other flights from the airline that you won’t use in the same booking, such as an onward or return flight
  • if you’re part-way through a journey, a flight back to the airport you originally departed from

If you do decide to wait it out and take the flight when it arrives, and the delay was caused by the airline, you can claim up to €600 in compensation.

Remember that regardless of the length of the delay you are unlikely to receive any compensation if the flight delay is caused by something outside of the airline’s control so check the cause of the delay with the airline before making a decision.

What to do if your flight is cancelled

If your flight is cancelled, you have the legal right to:

  • a full refund – including the cost of other flights in the same booking from the same airline that you won’t use such as return or onward flights
  • a replacement flight to get you to your destination
  • a return flight to your departure airport if you are already halfway through a multi-stop journey

If the airline staff are able to, secure your refund or replacement flight whilst at the airport, otherwise deal with the airline directly when you return home.

If you choose a replacement flight and have to remain at the airport for any length of time (if you are let’s hope it’s got some serious amenities) the airline is legally bound to provide you with the same support as it would for a delayed flight. Don’t forget that you can claim compensation if the replacement flight delays your original arrival time by 2 hours or more.

If in doubt, call the airline you’re travelling with direct and ask them how you can claim the compensation you’re entitled to.


Have you ever experienced a European flight delay? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Featured photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash