Am I entitled to flight delay compensation?

Photo of Cathy ToogoodPhoto of Cathy Toogood
By Cathy Toogood

9 November 2018 | Updated 17 May 20246 min read

Has your flight been delayed? You may be entitled to flight delay compensation under the Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Regulations 2019.

How much money you’re owed – if any – will depend on the airline you’re flying with, the destinations you’re travelling between and the length of the delay.

Our handy guide simplifies your legal rights and explains what compensation you might be entitled to, as well as how you would go about claiming it.

When am I entitled to flight delay compensation?

To be eligible for compensation, your flight must have arrived at your destination at least three hours later than scheduled. It also needs to be covered by UK law. These are flights that either:

  • Depart from the UK, EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland
  • Arrive in the UK on an EU or UK airline
  • Arrive in the EU on a UK airline

You’re unlikely to receive compensation for delays caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

How much compensation can I claim?

The compensation you’re entitled to is determined by the length of your flight and how long the delay is. The table below outlines the different levels of compensation you can claim per person following a flight delay.

The delay is calculated by the time your flight arrives at your destination, not your departure time.

Length of flightDelay to destinationCompensation due
Under 1,500kmMore than 3 hours£220
1,500km to 3,500kmMore than 3 hours£350
More than 3,500kmMore than 3 hours but less than 4 hours£260
More than 3,500kmMore than 4 hours£520

Airlines may try to offer you vouchers instead of a cash compensation; you don’t have to accept them.

What are ‘extraordinary circumstances’?

Extraordinary circumstances are those deemed to be outside the airline’s control and which, even if the airline had taken reasonable measures, would have delayed the flight. They include:

  • Extreme weather such as snow or thunderstorms
  • Natural disasters, such as the volcanic ash cloud that grounded flights in 2010
  • Industrial strikes by airport staff, ground handlers and air traffic control
  • Manufacturing defects

Airline staff strikes, staff shortages and technical faults are not considered ‘extraordinary circumstances’ but it's unclear whether IT glitches come under the umbrella. You can still try your luck with a compensation claim – if you don't ask, you don't get, after all.

It’s also important to remember that even if a long delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances and you are not therefore entitled to compensation, your airline must look after you and offer a welfare package.

Am I entitled to further assistance?

If your flight is delayed by more than two hours, your airline may have to offer you a ‘welfare package’ that includes food, drink, phone calls and, if you are delayed overnight, accommodation plus transport to and from where you are staying.

When your airline is obliged to offer you this welfare package depends on the distance you are travelling in kilometres. The table below outlines how long you must be delayed before you’re entitled to assistance:

Flight lengthDelay
0 – 1,500km (eg Manchester to Frankfurt)More than two hours
1,500 – 3,500km (eg Newcastle to Majorca)More than three hours
3,500km+ (eg London to Delhi)More than four hours

If your airline does not offer to provide the welfare package itself – for example, in the form of meal vouchers or by booking accommodation for you – talk to a representative at the airport to find out what it considers ‘reasonable costs’ to be and get an agreement that you can sort out your own welfare.

If you do arrange your own accommodation or buy meals, keep all your receipts to make claiming back any costs you have incurred as easy as possible.

How do I claim compensation?

You should first talk to your airline and find out what caused the delay. Make a note of all the details so you can be clear on the facts later and keep your tickets as well as any relevant receipts.

You should then follow the procedure as advised by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). When you are ready to claim, the airline’s website will let you know how best to contact it. We’ve put pulled together some quick links for popular airlines below:

You may also be able to claim compensation via the post. British Airways, for example, provides an address for letters.

The CAA also has advice on what information to include when communicating with an airline. If you are communicating by post, use our flight compensate claim template to make the process as easy as possible.

Should I use a claims company?

You might be tempted to use a claims company, but these firms charge a fee for their services and are entirely unnecessary for most passengers in claiming compensation.

The claims process is straightforward, so why part with any of the sum you are due? The CAA’s passenger portal should help to resolve any problems.

I’ve previously made a claim but haven’t received anything – what should I do?

If your airline has refused to pay out, you may be able to escalate your complaint via an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body.

More than 30 airlines are signed up to a CAA-approved ADR body, which deal with flight delays, cancellations and denied boarding issues; EC1107 matters (issues relating to passengers with reduced mobility); and lost, delayed and damaged baggage issues.

If your airline isn’t part of one of these schemes, you’ll need to get in touch with the relevant regulator (like the CAA in the UK). You can find more information on the CAA website.

You have six years to claim compensation in England and Wales, and five in Scotland. It’s important to be aware that you will need copies of your original letters and/or receipts to pursue your claim.

What are my rights if my delayed flight is with a non-UK/EU airline?

As The Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Regulations 2019 only protect passengers travelling with a UK/EU airline or out of a UK/EU airport, you won’t have exactly the same rights. Check the policy of the airline you are travelling with.

TravelSupermarket’s top tips

  • In the event of any delay or cancellation, talk to your airline for guidance on why you have been delayed and how to claim your welfare package – don’t spend anything yourself that you expect to get back without clarifying it with your airline.
  • To make a successful claim, keep all relevant receipts as well as your tickets, and write down as many details as possible at the time of your delay so you don’t forget any key facts.
  • Always take out a travel insurance policy that includes protection for travel delays to cover you for any extra costs you may incur – such as not being able to turn up to your booked accommodation.

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