2022 Update: This still applies post-Brexit in the UK. It may also be known as UK261. I’ve also updated some of the figures below.
What’s the worst part of a holiday? Well, except the journey home anyway… Delayed flights! We’re all used to them. Over the years I’ve lost count of the number of times my flights have been delayed. It can really put a dampener on those ‘holiday feels’!
In June this year, I was planning on going to the Champions League Final in Cardiff. I found out quite late so I booked my flights from Edinburgh to Bristol with EasyJet. Dragging myself out of bed at 5am, I arrived at Edinburgh Airport around two hours before my 8.50am flight. I was met with the dreaded ‘Flight Delayed’ wording plastered all over the departures board. My flight was now due to arrive in Bristol at around 2.35pm. The police advice for the football match was to arrive in Cardiff before 2.30pm…
If the flight did go ahead then we still had to meet our Airbnb host, buy train tickets and get the hour long train to Cardiff. I was panicking! EasyJet provided us with a very vague “safety issue” as the root cause of the flight delay. They also provided us with a £6 (€7 / $8) food voucher and information on what happens if a flight is delayed or cancelled. It could’ve been worse but with no definitive flight information coming, it did nothing to allay the nerves!
Fortunately the flight wasn’t delayed any further and our tickets didn’t end up as very expensive bookmarks! Later that day we met two people who, not wanting to risk a further delay and to miss the match, hired a car and drove the six hour journey!
We arrived in Bristol 4 hours 27 minutes after the scheduled arrival time so we got €250 (£221 / $294) in flight compensation each! This was because the delay was due to an aircraft technical issue, a non-extraordinary circumstance under EU law. Thanks EU261!
So what is the Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004, commonly referred to as EU261?
It’s a regulation in EU law that states the airline carrier must give you compensation, based on certain circumstances, ranging from €250 to €600 for any delays over three or four hours, cancellations, or being denied boarding due to the airline overbooking. The sum given generally depends on the flight distance, the details are outlined in the table below.
Remember that the delay is only based on when you land in your destination and not when you depart. There are however exceptions: air traffic management decisions, political instability, adverse weather conditions and security risks are classified as extraordinary circumstances. In these circumstances you would not be entitled to flight compensation. If you’re denied boarding you will be entitled to the below compensation also.
|Flight Distance||Delay (Hours)||Payment||Refreshment Entitlement|
|Less than 1,500km||3||€250 / £220||If 2 hour delay|
|Between 1,500km and 3,500km||3||€400 / £350||If 3 hour delay|
|More than 3,500km||4||€600 / £520||If 4 hour delay|
If your flight is cancelled then you’re entitled to three options: re-routing to the same destination at the earliest opportunity, re-routing at a later time at your convenience or a refund of the ticket as well as a return flight to the point of first departure, if relevant. The refund is only based on flights not already used so if you’ve flown one leg then you won’t get that refunded unless the cancellation has made the whole journey pointless. You may also be entitled to cash compensation depending on when the communication was issued to you and when you arrive at your new destination.
How to Apply for Compensation
The airlines must make you aware of your rights under EU261 but some make it more difficult to claim than others. Usually you can simply Google the airline and EU261 or flight delay/cancellation and it should be near the top. EasyJet were quick to provide a link to me and processed my flight compensation payment really quickly. The money was in my account within a week or two. If you believe your claim to be valid and the airline has rejected your claim then you can raise it with the UK Civil Aviation Authority and they will help you. The actual claiming is a very efficient process so hopefully you won’t need to escalate it!
Tip: Do not pay a company to submit a claim for you! It takes 5 minutes!
Who else has had to deal with an EU261 / UK261 claim? Any horror stories?