Flight delayed? Get up to £430 compensation (it's free to do!)

flight delay compensation

A lot of us have been there. You rock up to the airport, excited to get on the plane to start holidaying in the sun - only to find out your flight is delayed. The best outcome is an extra hour in the bar, but some delays can go on for hours and, if you’re really unlucky, even days. Did you know that no matter what you paid for the flights (yep, even if they were £6 Ryanair jobbies!), you can claim from £180 to £430 in compensation.

If you are delayed, you’ve immediately lost a percentage of your holiday as well as your hotel time (think of the £££ a day in a hotel room is) and you may also have missed connecting flights. So what should you do? Firstly, don’t pay a company to get the compensation for you - you can totally do it yourself.

flight delay people

Who can get compensation?

You must have arrived more than three hours later than scheduled on an EU flight (so any trip from an EU airport, or to an EU airport if it’s an EU line) - you don’t need to have booked flights or hotels seperately to do this, a package holiday still counts.

It must be the airline’s fault. If a tornado ripped through the airport it’s known as an ‘Act of God’ and there’s not a lot you can do, but if there weren’t enough staff or the ‘system’ went down because of a technical fault - then the airline is responsible. They need to prove that they did everything in their power to avoid the delay.

Reasons it wouldn’t be the airlines fault include:

  • Bad weather
  • If it isn’t safe to fly due to security or safety issues
  • Political issues in the country you are going to
  • Air traffic decisions or if the staff go on strike

Reasons it might be the airline's fault include:

  • If there is a technical fault (Jet2 v Huzar) with the plane (the wing has fallen off etc)
  • It was cancelled due to underbooking (it’s not your fault you were the only one who booked)
  • The pilot or crew were late
  • If your flight was diverted to a different airport (as long as you are three hours late when you arrive) and lots more.

Compensation is per person, so if a group of you went (and booked together), you’d all get compensation, it isn’t split between you. However, it is based in euros (which are pretty weak at the moment) and you probably paid in sterling - so you’ll have to take the exchange rate into account.

flight delay compensation

I was delayed a few years ago though…

No worries, you can get compensation from way back in February 2005. Here’s the issue though if you had to take the airline to court, you can only go back six years (statute of limitations) in England and Wales, and five years in Scotland.

The thing is, you’re going to need to prove you were on that delayed flight with some documentation - so search your emails or that draw with all your paperwork and festival bands in.

students waiting for flight

How much could I get?

This is about compensation for your delay, not the price of your ticket, so the amount you are due is fixed on the delay length and distance travelled (which you can check via WebFlyer). So a person who paid £6 for a flight, and a person who paid £1,500 will both still get the same amount of compensation.

How much could I get?

Delays 3+ hours - Under 1,500km = €250, 1,500km - 3,500km = €400 and flights within the EU only = €290

Delays of 3-4 hours - Flights between an EU and non-EU airport (3,500km+) = €300

Delays of 4+ hours - Flights between an EU and non-EU airport (3,500km+) = €600

flight delay compensation amount

How do I get it?

You then have to complain to the airline, saying you want compensation under EC regulation 261/2004 as your flight which was XX miles was delayed by XX (you can find out numbers via FlightStats). The CAA have a standard letter to help you with any claim you do have - it’s a good place to start.

Attach the details of the flight you’re claiming for and any documents you may have including boarding passes, tickets and any proof of the delay. Don’t send original documentation in the post (these things get lost!), send photocopies.

If you’re successful the airline may offer you vouchers, but you don’t have to accept them and can argue for cash.

sleeping in airport

What about food and hotel costs?

If your flight has been cancelled or delayed for more than two hours - the airline is obligated to look after you (no matter what the cause of the delay is - including that tornado!).

The airline isn’t going to put you up in a 5* hotel or feed you fillet steak but it will give you access to phone calls/emails (x2), refreshments, meals, basic accommodation and transport to and from overnight accommodation.

The CAA suggests that if they don’t offer it to you, get it yourself and send them a letter asking for compensation.

flight delay hassle

The airport says it won’t compensate me

It’s not the end of the road…

Firstly, write back explaining why this shouldn’t be the case and say you’re going to take it up with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) if they don’t settle the matter accordingly. This will hopefully show them that you are serious and might convince them to settle.

If not… you’re going to actually have to go the CAA (it’s free). What matters here is where you flew from and to and where the airline’s registered. If the airline is based in the UK, you complain to CAA, but if it’s in the EU but not based in the UK, you complain to the European Consumer Centre.

luggage conveyor belt sleeping