The Resolver guide to flight delays, cancellation and compensation

7 min read
June 12, 2023
Flight delays, cancellation and compensation -  A Resolver Guide

One of the biggest issues we help our users deal with is compensation for flight delays and cancellations.

Before the pandemic, a jaw-dropping 135,000 used Resolver to complain about flight disruptions. That number only increased when Covid kicked in and so many people had their holidays put on hold by travel restrictions.

We may be past the worst of the pandemic, but the issue of flight delays and cancellations is never going away. In the last week alone, over 3,000 people have got in touch to seek help with a cancelled flight.

The right to compensation is enshrined in law for cancellations – though not for everything and all circumstances. 

Here we give our overview of this area and advice on how to prepare for any disruption to your travel plans. 

What’s changed after Brexit?

The Government initially suggested that there would b some changes to the EU flight delay and cancellation rules (EC Regulation 261/2004) post-Brexit. In fact, the only significant change is that compensation is now in Sterling, rather than Euros.

On a casual glance, this might look like compensation amounts have been reduced but that’s just the difference in the exchange rate.

You can check out the UK law here: The Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 

When can you claim?

If your flight has been delayed, what you’re entitled to is dependent on how long the delay was and what distance you are flying. 

  • The flight must be delayed by more than three hours and the delay is counted from the time the flight is meant to arrive – not when it takes off. (‘Arrival’ counts as the point at which the cabin crew open the doors – not when the plane touches down).
  • The flight must take off from the UK or European Union or be from an airline based in these areas.
  • Connected flights count, even if you switch to a non-EU airline halfway through your trip.
  • The issue must be ‘within the control of the airline’. So bad weather or air-traffic control disputes are going to leave you without any compensation. However, problems caused by staffing issues and striking airport workers are generally considered to be ‘foreseeable’ – so you should be able to claim. 

If you can’t get hold of the airline, you can claim through Resolver for free.

Airlines can be a bit funny about the information they need to assess a claim, so to be on the safe side, Resolver recommends including everything including your booking reference and flight number, along with the details you used to book the flights, like your email. This shouldn’t all be necessary, but realistically, it will save time in the short term. 

How much can you claim for?

Before Brexit, you’d get compensation in Euros. However, now the rates are in Pounds, which is why they might seem lower than before.

  • If the flight is up to 1,500 km and is more than three hours late, then you can claim £210.
  • If the flight is between 1,500 and 3,500 km and is more than three hours late, then you can claim £340.
  • If the flight is more than 3,500 km and leaving the EU, or is an EU airline flying into the UK and is between three and four hours late, then you could get back £250. 
  • If the flight is more than 3,500 km and is more than four hours late, then you could expect up to £500.

Compensation for cancellation follows similar patterns but also depends on when the flight was cancelled. Check our Resolver’s rights guide for the full list. You can also insist on a replacement flight (where possible) and this could shift to another airline if yours doesn’t have an alternative. 

What if I’m stuck waiting for a delayed or cancelled plane? 

If you end up stuck waiting at the airport for a long period of time, there are certain things you are entitled to. If you find a member of airline staff who can help, here’s what you can ask for:

  • Food and drink vouchers. There are commonly given out to delayed passangers – but only after a certain amount of time has elapsed: two hours for short-haul flights, three for medium-haul and four for long-haul. Remember that even in cases where the airline isn’t at fault, they should give you vouchers. Don’t get too excited though, they are rather limited and not for a huge amount. 
  • Communications. You should be reimbursed for the cost of making calls related to the situation, such as speaking to your insurer, arranging alternative accommodation or informing waiting relatives of your delay.
  • Accommodation. If you’re delayed overnight the airline should cover the cost of a hotel and the transfer there. They usually choose the hotel for you, so don’t get too excited. If you are forced to book your own don’t go five-star – think reasonably priced and ask the airline if you are unsure of what options are available.  

The key thing to remember is to keep all bills and receipts for things you are forced to pay for while dealing with the situation. 

What is a direct loss and can I claim for money I’ve paid out? 

The rules around compensation for costs you incur as a result of flight cancellations and delays are less clear, but there are a few legal principles that might apply if you are seeking compensation for your losses. 

A direct loss is money that you’ve lost as a direct result of the situation. For example, having to book another plane ticket if the airline can’t find you an alternative. These losses are by no means compensation guaranteed. If the airline feels you’ve booked an upgraded seat for example, then it may pro-rata a refund depending on the prices at the time. This doesn’t mean it’s fair though – so push back if you are unhappy. 

We have heard lots of reports of people forced to take £100 cabs as a result of their flights being cancelled. We really do sympathise with people in this situation – however, though it’s a ‘direct’ loss in the sense that you’ve had to fork out the cash to get home, the airline is likely to argue that you could have got a train/bus/ferry or another method of transport that was less expensive. So don’t pay out the big bucks without checking with the airline first. 

You might also ‘indirectly’ lose money as a result of the situation. For example, you might have lost a day of paid work. These losses are much harder to quantify but it doesn’t mean you can’t claim for them. You should make it very clear that the loss is as directly connected to the situation as possible – and be able to prove it. 

To give you an example, you might miss out on a house purchase because your solicitor doesn’t send the deposit on time. There’s clearly an error there and compensation may be applicable – but that doesn’t mean you get a free house. 

What about lost, delayed or damaged baggage?

You’re entitled to compensation for delayed, lost or damaged baggage, but you may well get more through making a claim on your insurance policy. 

If you have a problem with checked luggage then your airline can usually guide you through the process. The key thing is to report it as soon as possible. In fact, timescales for claiming can be as low as seven days, so don’t wait around – report any baggage problems straight away at the airport. 

What you get is variable, depending on what you’re claiming for. So you could for example, get:

  • Essential clothing items, toiletries and other key things you need to get by.
  • The cost of replacing the luggage itself in full or in part. 
  • Costs for collecting if you have to go and get the item from the airport. 

There’s usually a cap on the maximum that they’ll pay out, so don’t think that Louis Vuitton suitcase range will be matched. We always recommend keeping valuables on you too, as compensation for expensive items in your luggage isn’t always available in full or in part. 

Airlines can be real sticklers for paperwork with these claims, even if it’s their fault. So keep your boarding card, proof of reporting, forms and anything related to the claim. 

Still not happy?

From compensation claims to refund requests, there’s been a bit of a backlog with airline complaints over the last few years. If the airline – or airport – doesn’t resolve your complaint to your satisfaction, then the complaint can be escalated to one of the many dispute resolution schemes that airlines and airports must be signed up to. 

You can find a list of the schemes here. They aren’t quite the same as an ombudsman and there’s a bit of a mixed response when it comes to feedback from people who have used them – but they are a way to take your complaint further that doesn’t involve legal action. 

If you make a complaint using Resolver, we will escalate the case to the appropriate dispute scheme if you tell us the matter is not resolved.


We’ve got loads more holiday tips and advice at And we’re always looking for more – so why not get in touch with yours at 

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