Q&A: Flight Delay Compensation

Travel Advice

Q&A: Flight Delay Compensation

The excitement of going on holiday is a feeling we all love to experience, but when a flight is delayed, or, worse still, cancelled, our excitement can quickly turn into anger and disappointment. Reader, John Hardacre wrote to me and asked if I was aware if he could receive any compensation, after being delayed for six hours on a flight leaving London Heathrow airport. In short, yes, if you’re delayed more than three hours or your flight is cancelled, EU rule 261/2004 means you’re often entitled to compensation, but they’re many factors that you have to take into consideration before claiming.

Flight delay compensation for EU flights only

For a start, it must be the airlines fault that you were delayed, and where the delay is out of the airlines hands, i.e. bad weather, security or safety issues, the airline does not have to pay you compensation. Bear in mind that compensation is only for EU flights; an EU flight is where the flight departed from an airport in the European Union, regardless of the airline or where the airline landed at an EU airport. So a delayed London Heathrow to New York flight qualifies, regardless of the airline. Yet for New York to London Heathrow, you are entitled to compensation flying on an EU airline like Virgin Atlantic, but not on Air New Zealand. Confusing I know.

It is also worth noting that compensation for delays is only due on flights arriving over three hours or more late. How long the delay and the distance travelled determines how much you could be entitled to.

Useful resources to read

Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert has written an extensive guide, which helps you through the process and also provides template letters for you to use when claiming. The European Union have launched an app so that travellers can check their rights while at the airport, which is a fantastic idea.

While flight delay compensation is a great step forward, it does annoy me that airlines have a get out clause, where they can blame any delay on technical issues under ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and as consumers how are we to know if this is truly the case? Recent court cases have ruled in favour of the consumer, so it is worth keeping abreast of developments, and seek legal advice if you’re unsatisfied with the result of your compensation claim.