Flight delayed? How to claim compensation

Many Brits scrimp and save in order to afford their annual holiday, but a delayed flight can quickly take the enjoyment out of a getaway, not to mention denting your wallet in some cases.

Flight delay compensation

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However, you may be entitled to compensation so check out our guide and find out what and how to claim.

Denied Boarding Regulation
If you are travelling with an EU-based airline, or one that is flying from an EU airport, you are protected by the Denied Boarding Regulation. This means that the airline is obligated to give assistance should your flight delay reach a certain point.

However, this is only the case where you have a confirmed booking and checked in on time (or 45 minutes prior to scheduled take-off if no check-in time is given). It also only applies to those departing to or from an EU airport with a 'community carrier' that has its headquarters within the EU.

What am I entitled to?
Under the Denied Boarding Regulation, you may be entitled to free phone calls, refreshments, accommodation or a refund, depending on the length and reason for the delay.

For example, if the distance you were due to travel was less than 932 miles, the flight must have been delayed for at least two hours before you are entitled to compensation. For those travelling further than 932 miles within the EU, the duration of the delay is at least three hours. For flights outside of the EU, the delay must be at least three hours, provided your journey is between 932 and 2,174 miles, and for any other flight, the minimum delay time is four hours.

As long as you fall into one of the above categories, you are entitled to two free phone calls, faxes or emails, free meals and refreshments as appropriate, and free hotel accommodation and transfers where an overnight stay is required. Should you decide not to travel and the delay lasts for five hours or more but the flight is not cancelled, you can claim a refund for the cost of the ticket.

Extraordinary circumstances
Unfortunately, there are situations where you are not eligible for financial compensation. If the airline claims that the delay was caused by what are known as 'extraordinary circumstances', they are under no obligation to offer compensation.

Guidelines published by the European Commission state that an extraordinary circumstance must be classed as unpredictable, unavoidable and external. As a general rule, these extraordinary circumstances must be situations that are beyond the airline's control, such as security risk, political instability or weather that prevents travel. It's worth noting that strikes are also commonly included as extraordinary circumstances, and technical problems that were not as a result of a lack of routine maintenance.

If you disagree with the airline - for example, if they claim that severe weather is the cause but other airlines are flying - you are perfectly within your rights to challenge their decision, and the Civil Aviation Authority may be able to help.

However, given the conditions mentioned under the Denied Boarding Regulation, you may still be entitled to meals, refreshments and accommodation.

What financial compensation can I claim?
Provided the delay was not down to extraordinary circumstances, under the Denied Boarding Regulations, you are entitled to varying amounts depending on the length of the wait and the distance you were due to travel as follows:
  • For a distance of up to 932 miles and a three-hour delay, 250.
  • For any EU flight over 932 miles or any other flight between 932 and 2,175 miles, and a delay of more than three hours, 400.
  • For a distance of more than 2,175 and a delay of between three and four hours, 300.
  • For a distance of more than 2,175 miles and a wait of more than four hours, 600.
These levels are set to change from June 2014, with a minimum delay duration of five hours for EU flights or those shorter than 2,175 miles.

If you believe you are entitled to compensation, write a letter to the airline as soon as possible, stating the date and scheduled departure time of the flight, as well as the time you were forced to wait, and ask that you be compensated the amount as set out above under the Denied Boarding Regulation.

Have you successfully claimed for a flight delay? Were the airline happy to pay up or did you struggle to get compensation? Leave your comments below...
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