How to – Get flight delay compensation

4 min read
August 07, 2019

Here’s our definitive guide to claiming flight delay compensation!

With the holiday season about to take off, millions of us are heading to the shops to find some beachwear that isn’t too tight and the right factor sunscreen. For most of us, the trip to the airport will be full of the usual annoyances and stresses – but should be uneventful. But a few unlucky travellers will be hit by flight delays.

In the four and a half years Resolver has been around, we’ve helped sort out almost half a million complaints about flight delays and cancellations. In fact, it’s our second highest area of complaint after PPI problems.

None of us wants to be in the situation where we’re stuck in an airport staring out of a window looking for a flight that isn’t coming. But you have rights to compensation – even if they are quite complicated on first glance. What’s really surprising is most people don’t realise they can seek compensation for flight delays up to six years after the delay. But sooner is better, of course.

Here’s how it works.

If your flight has been delayed, what you’re entitled to depends on how long the delay was and what distance you are flying. Don’t worry about figuring out what rules apply to you. Check out the Resolver website to find out how it works and use our free complaint too.

When can you claim?

  • The flight must be delayed by more than three hours and the delay is counted from the time the flight is meant to arrive and not take 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 half way 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).

How much can you claim for?

  • If the flight is less than 1,500km and the flight is more than three hours late, then you can claim €250
  • If the flight is between 1,500 and 3,000Km and the flight is more than three hours late, then you can claim €400
  • If the flight is more than 3,000km 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 €300. (If it is more than four hours late, then you could expect up to €600.

Here’s some tips to help you if you need to make a claim.

  • Make sure you know precisely how long your delay is – you could keep a record to send with your claim by taking pictures on your smartphone
  • Don’t take no for an answer – if you believe the airline is obliged to pay out you can take it to a dispute resolution scheme – we’ll tell you how on the website.
  • You might be offered compensation such as miles or vouchers – you don’t have to accept these as you are entitled to any compensation in cash

Is it fair?

Flight delay compensation was introduced after the EU got fed up with the industry not introducing its own compensation scheme for delayed travellers. But it is a blunt tool. You could have paid £20 for a flight and get £300 compensation. That clearly is disproportionate, so I have a bit of sympathy for the airlines.

However, the airlines have got very defensive about compensation and have (arguably) made it hard to claim, with online forms and hard-to-contact claims teams all designed to put you off taking things further. There’s no reason why an airline needs your booking and reference number, when it already has this information. Humour them and provide it anyway.

This situation has been made worse by claims management companies who have aggressively moved in to this market and started claiming en masse for delays and taking a cut of the compensation. This is money for nothing. Do not use a claims management company! It’s really not hard to make a claim and you can do it for free yourself or through Resolver.

And finally, a few quick tips if you do find yourself stuck in a terminal from hell.

  • Be realistic. Most flight delays aren’t the fault of the airline. So you won’t be covered for things the airline can’t control. But find out from staff about what you’re entitled to – like food, refreshments, phone calls and in the case of overnight delays, accommodation.
  • Keep the kids calm. Keeping the kids occupied if you’re delayed can be stressful. Take some disposable items like colouring books to keep them occupied so you’re not weighed down before you board.
  • Plan ahead. Make sure you’ve got some flexibility built in with your booking with your hotel too. Call ahead to confirm your booking and write down their contact details, just in case. If you’re not booking a hotel as part of a package, then make sure you’ve checked out the cancellation policy before you book – and book direct from the hotel if you can.

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