Hero Guides

Hero guide to…claiming compensation for a flight delay/cancellation

It’s pretty easy to make a claim for compensation for a flight delay or cancellation.

Getting the airline to accept your claim and pay the compensation you are due can be a little bit harder, but it is perfectly possible to do this yourself without the need for (expensive) solicitors and there is definitely no need to use one of the many flight delay claims companies, which will take at about 25% to 30% of your award if you win your claim.

In fact, you’ll most likely receive your compensation much faster if you have a legitimate claim and you DON’T use one of these no-win no-fee firms.

If you don’t succeed with your claim and you want to chase your airline through the courts for compensation, you can always turn to a ‘no-win, no-fee’ firm later.

I have succeeded in making two claims for compensation for flight delays, one from (the old) Thomas Cook and one from TUI. Both airlines initially denied my claims but both paid out, eventually.


Are you entitled to compensation for a cancelled or delayed flight?

The answer is almost certainly yes if your flight was cancelled or delayed by three hours or more unless the airline gave you at least 2 weeks’ notice.

There’s a bit of EU legislation called EU261 that states that all EU airlines and any airline flying from the EU must compensate passengers for cancellations or long delays unless passengers were given sufficient warning.

This law still applies to flights from the UK and to passengers flying on UK-based airlines, even though we’ve left the EU.

EU261 does not cover flights to the EU on non-EU airlines. When flying on a non-EU airline, you’re only eligible for compensation when flying from the EU. Under this law, EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Note that it’s the time that your flight arrived at your intended destination that’s important here, not the time it took off as pilots are often able to make up some lost time en-route.

But if you touch down three or more hours late, you could be in for a big wad of cash.


flight delay cancellation compensation


You won’t always get compensation for a flight delay or cancellation

There are certain ‘exceptional circumstances’ when airlines are not obliged to pay compensation because the delay or cancellation was caused by something outside their control.

This includes bad weather, air traffic control delays or an accident involving another airline. It is also likely to include Government lockdowns, although this has yet to be tested in the courts. In these circumstances, the airline should get you another flight as soon as possible or refund you within seven days.

Technical faults and wildcat strikes by an airline’s own staff are not valid reasons for airlines to avoid paying compensation, although airlines and regulatory authorities are still arguing about whether airlines should compensate passengers for flight delays and cancellations caused by pre-arranged strikes, such as those at Ryanair recently. This one is likely to be battled out in court so watch this space.

You won’t be due compensation if your flight is cancelled and the airline offers you a new flight that leaves no more than two hours before the original scheduled departure or arrives less than four hours after the original scheduled time.

Also, if your flight is re-routed, your compensation might be reduced. This EU website has more details.

If you’re not sure whether you have a valid claim for a flight delay, it’s worth applying to the airline anyway.

How much flight delay or cancellation compensation are you due?

That depends on the length of the flight, not the length of the delay.

For flights of up to 1,500km it’s fixed at €250, for flights of more than 1,500km within the EU and all other flights between 1,500 to 3,500km it’s €400. For longer flights it’s €600.

How do you claim flight delay or cancellation compensation?

Airlines are obliged to include a claim form on their websites, although they often bury this, making it hard to find. The fastest way to locate the form is to use the search function on the airline’s website.

Download the form, fill it in, providing as much information as possible about your delay and timings, and send it back to the airline with your request for compensation. And then wait.

The airline has up to 56 days to respond to your claim. In my experience, they don’t usually respond any sooner.

Predictably, claims are often rejected, even those where the passenger is definitely due compensation.

Airlines will often claim that the delay is caused by bad weather or air traffic control delays, hoping the passenger won’t be able to prove them wrong.

If this happens to you, don’t give up. Most importantly, don’t run to one of those flight compensation claim firms I mentioned earlier. There’s really no need.

The ADR will ask for evidence from the airline’s flight log, so if the delay was caused by a technical fault but the airline has claimed it was weather-related or something else to try to wriggle out of paying flight delay compensation, they’ll be rumbled.


What if the airline refuses my compensation claim?

Most airlines operating in the UK have signed up to an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution provider (ADR) which will consider a passenger’s claim if it is rejected by the airline.

I took my complaint against TUI to the ADR as the airline had claimed that the delay was caused by the closure of Gatwick airport, which they said was an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ outside their control. In fact, the flight was already delayed by due to a technical fault several hours prior to Gatwick’s closure.


flight delay cancellation compensation

How do you complain to an ADR?

Airlines are supposed to give you details of their ADR schemes when they reject your claim, but in my experience they don’t bother.

However, you can easily find a list of which schemes are used by which airlines on the CAA website.

It’s very easy to submit your claim to the ADR, but you will have to upload all the documentation you received from the airline and any evidence you have to back up your claim.

The ADR scheme will examine your case and ask for evidence from the airline to back up their reason for refusing compensation.

Crucially, the ADR will ask for evidence from the airline’s flight log, so if the delay was caused by a technical fault but the airline has claimed it was weather-related or something else to try to wriggle out of paying flight delay compensation, they’ll be rumbled.


How long does it take?

Unfortunately, this process can – and usually does – take several weeks. But if you have a legitimate claim, you will usually be successful.

If your flight delay or cancellation claim is successful so, the ADR will instruct the airline to pay you directly. Airlines usually abide by this ruling – but they might still take several weeks to pay. acrylic nail kit

If the ADR doesn’t rule in your favour, you still have the option to take your case to one of those flight claim compensation firms, or seek your own legal advice.

If an airline is not a member of an ADR scheme, you can always take your claim directly to the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK, which should tell you if you have a valid claim before you engage a solicitor.


Have you had any luck getting compensation from an airline, or has your claim been unfairly rejected? Let me know.








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Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of TravelMole.com, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the info! Great read!

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