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Flight cancellations and delays

Flights can be delayed for a variety of reasons; staff strikes, security threats and freak natural phenomenon, but if a cancellation or delay is the airline's fault, then you could be owed some compensation. Read on for advice on how to deal with the dreaded delay.
What to do when your flight gets cancelled

If your flight gets cancelled by the airline, you have a right to either a full refund or an alternative flight. This is regardless of what the cause was or how far before the flight you were informed. If you miss a connecting flight as a result and have booked the whole journey as one ticket, then the airline must refund the price of the entire ticket. Unfortunately, if you booked the two tickets separately then you can only claim for the cancelled stretch or delayed stretch.

For EU flights you can also claim compensation of between €125 (£105) and €600 (£500) depending on the arrival time of the rescheduled flight, as long as the cancellation was the airline's fault. However, you must have been informed within 14 days before the flight. If you were offered a re-routed flight that delayed your arrival time by less than four hours, you will not be able to claim compensation. Likewise, you won't be able to claim if you were told of the cancellation less than 7 days before the scheduled departure but were offered re-routing that allowed you to reach your destination less than 2 hours later than your original flight.

What to do when your flight gets delayed

For non-EU flights:

You won't be covered by the EU flight delay compensation scheme, but it's worth checking whether the country the airline is based in has its own scheme. If not, your travel insurance may provide you with some compensation.

For EU flights:

You have some rights to claim compensation on any flight that's delayed, as you are covered by the EU flight delay compensation scheme.

Less than two hours:

Unfortunately you'll have no right to compensation.

Over two hours:

You should be provided with some money or a voucher towards food or drink in the airport - also, if necessary, overnight accommodation (if the delay takes you past airport closing time) and a couple of phone calls. Make sure to keep any receipts, as you may be able to claim essentials back from your airline.

Over three hours:

On top of the expenses mentioned above, you can claim compensation of between €250 to €600 (£210 to £500), depending on the flight distance, unless the flight is delayed in "extraordinary circumstances beyond the airline's control" (including strikes or bad weather).

Over five hours:

As well as the above, you also qualify for a refund of the ticket cost if you choose not to travel.

How much can you claim?

Flight length
Arrival delay
Compensation due
Up to 1,500km (all flights), e.g. London to Paris 3 hours+ €250 (£210)
1,500km 3,500km (all flights), e.g. Manchester Malaga 3 hours+ €400 (£330)
3,500+ km (flights within the EU only) 3 hours+ €400 (£330)
3,500km+ (flights between an EU and non-EU airport), e.g. London to New York 3-4 hours €300 (£250)
3,500km+ (flights between an EU and non-EU airport), e.g. London to New York 4 hours+ €600 (£500)


 Sterling figures based on the mid-January 2014 exchange rate of €1.21 to £1. Rounded to the nearest £10.

Table provided by

How to claim compensation for delays/cancellations

1. Complain to your airline

Start by complaining to your airline with written correspondence. Explain the circumstances and quote the Civil Aviation Authority. Ensure you include the following information:

  • Your booking reference
  • Your flight number
  • The names of all passengers in your party
  • The intended date of travel
  • Departure and destination airports
  • Departure time
  • How many hours your flight was delayed by
  • OR how far ahead of your flight time your flight was cancelled
  • How many kilometres your were due to fly
  • The compensation amount you are expecting
  • If you weren't provided with the necessary refreshments/accommodation, then attach receipts for the cost of purchasing your own along with the total costs for these
  • Include photocopies or print outs of any relevant documentation, including flight tickets, boarding passes and booking confirmations

2. Write to the next relevant authority

If the airline refuse to acknowledge or fulfil your claim without good reason, then you will need to complain to the relevant authority, although this can change depending on where the departure country of your flight was.

Departure country
Airline based in...
Who to complain to
UK Doesn't matter CAA
EU, not UK EU, not UK European Consumer Centre or regulator in departure country
EU, not UK Rest of world Regulator in departure country
Non-EU, arriving in EU (not UK) EU Regulator in arrival country
Non-EU, arriving in UK EU CAA


 Table provided by

You can use this form to complain to the relevant authorities and as a guide - be sure to include any correspondence with the airline as well as copies of your boarding pass etc.

3. 3. Take your claim to court

If your claim is also rejected by the relevant authority, this doesn't necessarily mean that your claim won't make it through the small claims courts. It may be worth taking legal advice ee for more information.

When to claim compensation

You can claim on flights since 2005, but it's harder for flights before 2007. If you need to take the claim to court, then this can only be on flights from the last six years.

If you're delayed at the airport and need to keep yourself or your family entertained, check out our blogger tips for waiting at the airport.

Date published 01/05/2014

All information correct as of date of publishing

If there are any airlines or information not included here that you would like to know more about, email us at and we'll include the most popular.

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