Flight delays or What I am entitled to and how to get compensation

Delayed flight

When travelling by air, there may be times when your flight is significantly delayed by hours. In this case, it is a good idea to know what you are entitled to and what compensation you can claim from the airline.

Compensation in air transport is set out in Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council, the original text of which can be found at eur-lex.europa.eu.

Just need to get money for a delayed flight? Apply for compensation up to 2 years in advance.

When are you entitled to compensation for flight delays?

Not all delayed flights automatically fall under the above regulation and so compensation can be claimed. In order to even start discussing compensation, your flight must :

  • originate at an airport in the territory of a Member State
  • end at an airport in the territory of the Member States and be operated by a European airline

Member State means all 27 countries of the European Union, including Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Mayotte, St Martin and the Azores, Madeira or the Canary Islands. Member countries also include Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.

Another condition is the length of the delay itself, which depends on the length of the flight. Compensation is payable for delays of:

  • 2 hours for flights up to 1 500 km
  • 3 hours for flights between 1 500 km and 3 500 km
  • 4 hours for flights over 3 500 km

For financial compensation, the 3-hour delay rule at the airport of destination applies.

What I am entitled to in the event of a flight delay

Every passenger is entitled to the following compensation free of charge in the event of a delayed flight:

  • refreshments proportionate to the length of the delay
  • 2 telephone calls and emails
  • hotel accommodation if the delay is overnight
  • financial compensation up to a maximum of 600 eur

It should be added that the entitlement is not automatically offered and for most airlines you will have to contact them yourself. This is especially true for accommodation claims and almost always for financial compensation.

Refreshment entitlement

Every airline has an obligation to take care of passengers if it expects a delay of at least 2 hours, or 3 hours for medium and 4 hours for long-haul flights, regardless of the cause of the delay.

Passengers are usually given vouchers for a baguette with water or vouchers with a nominal value of approx. 15 eur or are directly offered specific refreshments at the departure gate.

Entitlement to accommodation

If your flight is significantly delayed and you are facing a night in the airport, don't be afraid to call to claim your free accommodation. The airline is obliged to provide and reimburse passengers for accommodation, including transfer to a hotel and, of course, meals.

If you are turned away by the airline and your flight is delayed for at least 8 hours during the night, you can check in at your own expense and claim reimbursement later - keep proof of payment.

Claim free financial compensation for flight delays

Claim for financial compensation

The biggest attraction of a delayed flight of 3 hours or more or a cancelled flight is the right to financial compensation of up to 600 eur per passenger. There are a few exceptions to this compensation.

The first is that the delay time is calculated at the airport of destination. This is the difference between the scheduled arrival and the actual arrival. Arrival is defined as the aircraft being parked on the tarmac and the doors being opened for passenger disembarkation.

Financial compensation is not payable if the airline could not have influenced the delay, e.g.:

  • bad weather
  • bird strike
  • strike by airport staff or air traffic control
  • war and political unrest

However, an aircraft breakdown or an airline staff strike are not emergencies.

The amount of financial compensation to be received by each passenger on a delayed flight is determined by the distance of the flight, as follows:

  • 250 eur / 220 eur for flights up to 1 500 km
  • 400 eur / 348 eur for flights between 1 500 km and 3 500 km
  • 600 eur / 531 eur for flights over 3 500 km

For flights over 3 500 km, if there is a delay of 3-4 hours, the airline has the right to reduce the compensation by 50%, i.e. by 300 eur.

Claim free financial compensation for flight delays

How to claim financial compensation for flight delays

In the case of financial compensation for flight delays, more than anywhere else, theory is completely at odds with reality. Be patient and assertive when making your claim. Airlines are very happy to make excuses for anything and, what's more, they can ignore you completely.

To apply you will need:

  • an electronic ticket (confirmation of purchase of the ticket or tour in an email)
  • boarding pass
  • confirmation of flight delay

The delayed flight form is issued by the carrier at the airport, or a photo of the arrival board with your delayed flight on it will suffice, or take a print screen from the Flightradar24 website.

Then fill in the claim form or send it to the airline's customer service email and wait. In the email, please state directly that you are requesting compensation of EUR XX for a delay of more than 3 hours in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council. Do not forget to include your bank account details including IBAN and SWIFT formats.

Where to apply for compensation with selected airlines:

We say straight away that recovering compensation from airlines such as Smartwings (Travel Service), Ryanair, Wizz Air, easyJet and others is unrealistic for individuals.

Applying through an agency

If you want to save yourself time and hassle, or if the process is too complicated for you, simply apply to a specialist agency for compensation.

Apply for free financial compensation for a delayed flight

Once your claim for compensation has been verified, all you have to do is sign a power of attorney for the solicitor and then you are just waiting for the compensation to be paid. The agency only charges a commission of one-fifth of the amount recovered. You pay nothing up front, even if your case is ultimately dismissed.

You can file a claim up to 3 years in arrears, but ideally you should settle matters immediately because of the evidence of delay.


No traveller can avoid a delayed flight sooner or later. If you're facing a lengthy delay of hours, you know what you're entitled to and how to get compensation from the airline.