Delayed Flights Plane Transportation

How to claim compensation for delayed flights (Part 2: Process)

The easy step-by-step guide to help you claim your rights

Photo: Perito Moreno Glacier, Calafate, Santa Cruz (Patagonia, Argentina) ©

Delayed Flight. Step-by-Step procedure to claim your rights

I assume you’ve already read the previous post, so after following the check list you know your rights in case of a delayed flight.

As I told you I had to do the research from scratch by myself back home (that’s why I’m posting photos from Argentina as memories, because I did all the complain on line from my computer). Now it’s time for you to know how to claim your rights, step by step!

Photo: Bahía López, Circuito Chico, Bariloche, Río Negro (Patagonia, Argentina) ©

Step 1: Check the lenght of your delay

You have all the relevant information about your journey in the ticket, such as the reservation code and your flight’s data (airline, flight number, departure and arrival airports, scheduled departure and time, etc.)

To know precisely the scope of your rights you need to know, among other things, the lenght of the delay. You do so just comparing the departure and arrival time included in your ticket with the real ones.

  • Time of departure: check your flight status at the airline website, or at the departure airport website (using your flight’s date, time and number). I recommend you to make screen captures (and of course to save them). You are also supposed to receive an email from the airline if your flight is expected to be delayed (also keep it). If you are at the airport, look at the flight monitors, and if possible take a photo capturing the data of the delayed flight (and again, save it).
  • Time of arrival: is the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, assuming that at that moment the passengers are permitted to leave the airplane (as ruled by the Court of Justice of the European Union). Just in case, I want you to know that the airline should also register the time of arrival (on the basis of, for example, a signed declaration made by the flight crew or handling agent); and they should provide it to you free of charge upon request.
Photo: Cachi, Salta (Argentina) ©

Step 2: Check the distance of your flight

There are several Mileage Calculators which you can find on-line, I’ve tried Web Flyer, link here. Just enter departure and arrival airports and you will know the distance of your flight.

The Interpretative Guidelines on Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 set rules to measure the distance in case of connecting flights:

  • In case of several connecting flights, the “final destination” is the one on the ticket used for the check-in; or
  • In case of directly connecting flights, the destination of the last flight;
  • In case of long delay at the final destination, the distance which determines the compensation to be paid should be based on the “great circle” distance between the place of departure and the final destination (i.e. the whole “journey”, and not by adding the “great circle” distances between the different relevant connecting flights composing the “journey”).
Photo: Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego (Patagonia, Argentina) ©

Step 3: Check which are your rights

First I recommend you to take a look at my previous post and to do the 4 steps’ check “How to claim compensation for delayed flights (Part 1: Rules)”, link here:

  • 1. Does it apply to you?
  • 2. What are your rights in case of a delayed flight?
  • 3. What exactly can you get?
  • 4. When you don’t get a compensation?

I also prepared a table to make the checking easier:

ASSISTANCE2hs or more (flights up to 1500 km), expected delay

3 hs or more (intra-UE flights of more than 1500 km, or other flights between 1500 and 3500 km), expected delay

4 hs or more (any other flight), expected delay
Food and refreshments, depending on the waiting time;

2 phone calls/ faxes/ emails;

Hotel accommodation and transport to the hotel/ accommodation (if you need to stay overnight)

5 hs. or longer, long delay at departure
Right to ticket reimbursement (cost of the non-flown section; or of the total ticket, if the trip makes non sense for you after the changes due to the delay)

If a connecting flight is delayed, you have the right to be offered a return flight, as soon as possible, to the first point of departure.
COMPENSATION3 hs or more (delay at arrival);

3 hs. or more (delay at arrival), because of missing a connecting flight due to any previous delay (Single Ticket)

4hs or more (delay at arrival)

Flights of 1500 km. or less

Intra-UE flights of more than 1500 km.
Extra-UE flights between 1500 and 3500 km.

Flights of more than 3500 km.
REDUCED COMPENSATION: 1) If you reach your final destination with a delay of 2, 3 or 4 hours, after accepting a re-routing, your compensation may be reduced by 50%; 2) If a flight from/to a non-UE country located further than 3.500 km is delayed between 3-4hs., your compensation may be also reduced by 50% (300).

As a passenger, you also have right to information, since Regulation EC 261/2004 provides that the airline must give you a written notice setting out the rules for compensation and assistance, and that shall also explain you your rights.

Photo: Valle Encantado del Río Limay, Neuquén (Patagonia, Argentina) ©

Step 4: Claim it!

Right of Assistance

If you are entitled to claim Right of Assistance, do it immediately!!!!.

The airline might give you vouchers to use them at the airport. Ask anyone from the company operating the flight if you’re not offered any help.

If they don’t help you at the airport, keep all the receipts for expenses, because you can obtain reimbursement of the expenses incurred from the airline, provided they were “necessary, reasonable and appropriate”.

Right to Reimbursement and to be Offered a Return Flight

You don’t have to take the flight if it’s delayed for 5 hours or more. It doesn’t matter whose fault the delay is or the distance of the flight. So if you don’t want to take the flight, you have to immediately claim the Right to Ticket Reimbursement: full refund of the non-flown section; or a full refund of the total ticket, if the trip makes non sense for you after the changes due to the delay (in my opinion you will usually have to claim the full refund of the total ticket later, but if you try to do it at the airport there is nothing to loose!).

If your connecting flight is long delayed, you have the Right to be offered a Return Flight as soon as possible to the first point of departure.

Talk to someone from the airline as soon as you decide you don’t want to take the delayed flight to claim your rights.

Right to Compensation

For claiming a Compensation due to a long delay at arrival you need to contact the airline operating the flight (even if you booked it through another airline). I suggest to do it as soon as possible, before it’s to late; the expiration of the term to start the procedure depends on each country’s regulations, but as far as I know runs from 1 to 6 years from the date of the flight.

You can ask for help about how to claim your rights at the airport, remember that you have Right to Information.

If you cannot get any help at the airport, I recommend to check the airline web page, specially customer service, and to look for their procedure to claim compensation, which is usually on line. In case of doubt send them a written message and keep a copy (screen capture is enough if you do it on their web).

Once you know where and how to complain, you need to write your claim, including flight details and booking reference numbers. If you need to fill a form on-line, I recommend to write a word document, to save it, and to copy-paste it afterwards (I didn’t do that and lost everything I had written after clicking “send”). Save your case reference.
This is my suggested structure for drafting your letter of complaint:

  1. What you claim: compensation for long delay, and/or reimbursement of expenses.
  2. Personal data (name, last name, passport number, postal adress, phone number, email adress).
  3. Booking reference.
  4. Flight details: operating airline, flight number, date, time, itinerary.
  5. Facts: explain what went wrong, what you asked or requested, and what the airline answered, and provided or not (be clear and concise).
  6. Attached copies of relevant documents: tickets, receips of expenses, proof of the delay, etc. (always keep the originals).
  7. Compensation and/or reimbursement claimed (say exactly how much money) and include the reason why you are entitled to that compensation in accordance to Regulation (EC) 261/2004.
  8. Closing.
  9. Signature (I would also include my passport number and country).

I insist, be sure to keep copies of your claim and of any response from the airline. If you call the airline, ask and write the Name and Surname of the person answering your call, and take some notes of the conversation (including date, hour, telephone number and a summary of your requests and answers). If you claim on-line, take screen captures (as I said, you don’t usually get a copy after clicking “send” in the on-line form and you loose all the info you submitted). If you send e-mails, keep copies. If you contact the airline via postal address, also keep copies and proof of mail deliveries.

If you don’t feel like writing, there is a EU complaint Form for Air Passenger Rights, which can be used to lodge a complaint with an airline and/or a National Enforcement Body, for Passenger rights in case of denied boarding, downgrading, cancellation or long delay of their flight under Regulation (EC) 261/2004, link here. I didn’t use it because I didn’t know of its existence when I needed, I could have saved time and inspiration!.

The airline shall reply the complaint within 6 weeks of receipt.

Photo: Viaducto la Polvorilla (Tren a las Nubes), San Antonio de los Cobres, Salta (Argentina) ©

If the airline doesn’t reply after 6 weeks, or if your are not satisfied with their response, you shall send the EU complaint Form for Air Passenger Rights to the National Enforcement Body (NEB) in the Member State where the incident took place. If the incident took place at an airport of departure outside the EU, you may contact the National Enforcement Body in the Member State of flight destination (worth to mention that generally they cannot take binding decisions on airlines in respect of individual complaints).

If you get a response but are still not satisfied, even following the answer from the competent authority, you can pursue the matter in Court or through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Photo: El Bolsón, Río Negro (Patagonia, Argentina) ©

That’s it for now. I hope you liked reading this post and find it clear and useful! In the next one, I will explain which are your rights in case of cancelled flights.

If you have any feedback, comment, or question please let me know. I’ll be very happy to hear from you!

Virginia, a traveling lawyer
Link to my Instagram

Delayed Flights Plane Transportation

How to claim compensation for delayed flights (Part 1: Rules)

The easy step-by-step guide to help you master the relevant regulations

Photo: Flying from Argentina to Chile, over the “Cordillera de los Andes” ©

Flight Problems?

It happens to every traveler sooner or later: You have been waiting for hours at the gate without any information until you hear the voice from the loudspeaker: “Attention all the passengers for flight OOO from YYY to XXX, I’m very sorry to inform you that it has been delayed…”, or what is even worse “…it has been canceled…”

Now it’s important to keep calm and know your rights, because you are often entitled to a compensation.

Photo: Seine river, Paris (France) ©

Guess what, it happened to me as well on my flight from Paris to London, which was delayed 40 minutes. Generally, such a delay is not a big deal, but in my case it was, because I didn’t know if I would be able to catch my next flight to Argentina (which was departing from a different terminal than the arrival one, and would be 14 hs. long). Neither a flight attendant helped me on the plane, nor could somebody give me any information when I asked about the delay and how to avoid loosing my next flight. When I could finally leave the plane, after landing, and was desperately running and trying to find out how to change terminals, a flight attendant from another airline helped me (I even had to take a train!). I managed to reach the check-in area for my final flight, but my electronic boarding pass wasn’t working, I looked around but there was nobody there… I went back, found someone, who sent me to the ailines’ help desk, where I was informed that the flight was closed and that -even though the plane was still there!- there was no chance for me to board, no matter what good reasons or urgency I expressed.

Photo: Eiffel Tower, Paris (France) ©

So I missed the plane! and then? No more flights until the next day… and they didn’t know if there was any seat available for me… how nice!!! I took a deep breath and stayed calm, patiently waiting… After what I perceived as literally ages, I was informed that they could find room for me and make a reservation. They gave me my new tickets, a small bag with some personal stuff I would need, bus tickets airport-hotel-airport, and a voucher for a night at a nearby hotel. No further information. It was very late and I was hungry and exhausted, but had not realized it yet. Once at the hotel, which was very nice, they offered me free dinner (I was lucky, since they were starting to remove the buffet from the dining area), and I could take a shower, wear the very big white t-shirt the airline gave me (which looked like a dress on me!), and get some rest. Before falling asleep I made plans to go to the city center the next day and bought online tickets for the Heathrow Express (fastest but not cheapest way for the journey Heathrow-London-Heathrow).

Photo: Tower Bridge, London (U.K.) ©

Needless to say how much I enjoyed that unexpected day in beautiful and (not surprisingly) rainy London, and I could also take some pictures that I can now share with you. I had lunch at a small kiosk near the Tower Bridge, where I also entered in some small talk with the cashier (who turned out to be a lawyer, as me!), and who had similar experiences with flights delays; because of him, I got to know that I could claim a compensation… and that was the beginning of the story, and of this blog!

Photo: Houses of Parliament, London (U.K.) ©

Back at the airport, I went to the airline’s customer care desk to get information and, as you can guess, to complain a little bit, especially after getting to know that the new flight was also delayed!!!. I couldn’t believe it… then after the “good News”, they gave me the leaflet “Your rights. When there is a problem with your flight” (which was useful to do the claiming by myself), and a voucher for food and drinks (that I spent enjoying tea and fantastic cookies at the best tea shop in the UK). Finally back home, I analyzed the European Regulations, to find out how to make a proper claim to the airline by myself, and guess what?! I realized I was entitled to get the maximum compensation for missing a connecting flight due to a delay, and I had €600 on my bank account, 45 days after starting the online procedure!

I just want you to know that you may be entitled to claim a compensation and that you can do it yourself! I’ll guide you through the whole process. The first step is to know the regulations and what rights you have.

The Rules

There are a many regulations protecting passenger rights, but for people traveling from/to/in Europe, the most relevant is the following:

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 Common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.

You can find the full text of the Regulation here. Also the Interpretative Guidelines on Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 are very important, link here.

Check 1. Does it apply to you?

You need to meet one requirement from each category: A, B and C.

A. You shall be a Passenger traveling:

  • on a scheduled flight, or
  • on a non-scheduled flight, including those forming part of package tours (except if the package tour is cancelled for reasons other than the flight being cancelled).

B. Your flight shall:

  • depart from an airport located in a EC Member State; or
  • arrive to an airport situated in a EC Member State, from an airport located in a third country, and if the operating airline is a Community carrier (unless the passenger received benefits or compensation and were given assistance in that third country).

C. You shall face one of these events:

  • denied boarding against your will;
  • flight cancelled; or
  • flight delayed.

Let’s first look at the most common problem: delayed flights. I will explain the other cases in future blog posts.

Check 2. What are your rights in case of a delayed flight?

If you meet the requirements from Check 1 (A+B+C), then you need to know which are your rights, in order to get what you’re entitled to. The benefits vary depending on the event, flight distance, and the duration of the delay.

Depending on the type of delay, you might have different rights:

  • Delayed Departure: You may have the right to assistance, to reimbursement and to be offered a return flight, but the scope of those rights depends on the duration of the delay and the distance of the flight (as I will explain below).
  • Delayed Arrival: You may have the right to get a compensation if you arrived at your final destination with a delay of more than 3 hours (unless the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances, which I will mention later). The amount of the compensation depends on the duration of the delay and the distance of the flight (see below).

Often, both types of delay happen simultaneously. In this case, you may get all the benefits listed above.

Check 3. What exactly can you get?

Now it’s time to check the duration of your delay and the distance of your flight to know precisely what your rights are (and then how high you compensation might be).

A. Right of Assistance

If the airline expects that the flight will be delayed beyond the scheduled departure time, as follows:

  • 2 hours or longer for flights of 1.500 km or less,
  • 3 hours or longer for flights within the European Union of more than 1.500 km,
  • 3 hours or longer for all other flights between 1.500 and 3.500 km,
  • 4 hours or longer for any other flight;

you should get:

  • meals and refreshments in proportion to the waiting time (sometimes they give you a voucher that you can use at the airport shops and restaurants, which happened to me several times; don’t expect enough for a fancy meal, in that case you will have to pay the difference), and
  • 2 free telephone calls, emails, faxes or telex (does anybody still use telex?);

if your flight is delayed even longer and you need to stay overnight, you should also get:

  • hotel accommodation and transportation between the airport and the hotel, if you need to stay overnight due to the delay. Airlines should also ensure, that accommodation is accessible for people with disabilities and their companions.

B. Reimbursement and return flight

In the event of a long delay at departure (5 hours or more), you have the right to get the reimbursement of the ticket and, if you have a connecting flight, the right to be offered a return flight to the airport of departure as soon as possible.

C. Compensation

If your flight is delayed at arrival beyond the scheduled time, then you are entitled to a compensation, in case of: 

  • delay of 3 hours or more to reach the final destination (unless the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances, see below);
  • missing a connecting flight within or outside the EU, caused by a delayed flight which departed from an EU country (that was my case!), and if the arrival at the final destination is delayed for more than 3 hours (the airline operating the connecting flights can be EU or non-EU). In this case, it doesn’t matter how long the delay of the first flight is, as long as it is the cause for loosing the second flight and if you are flying on a Single Ticket (I highly recommend to book all the flights as a single ticket; even if is usually more expensive, it means the airline shall not only compensate you in case of delay and missing of a connection, but that should also find you a new flight).

In case of a long delay on arrival at the final destination in an EU country coming from a non-EU country, with connecting flights operated successively by non-EU and EU airlines or by EU airlines, the right to compensation will only take in consideration the flights operated by EU airlines. 

If you accept a flight to a different airport from the one in the original booking and there is a delayed arrival, you are entitled to compensation. The time of arrival used for calculating the delay is the one included in the original booking, or in the destination agreed upon with the airline. Transport costs between the alternative airport and the one in the original booking or agreed destination should be paid by the airline.

1.500 km or less€250
More than 1.500 km (within the EU).
Between 1.500 and 3.500 km (all other flights)
More than 3.500 km€600
Table: Overview of compensation depending on distance

If the airline has offered a re-routing and you reach your final destination with a delay of 2, 3 or 4 hs., the compensation (as listed above) may be reduced by 50%.

If a flight of more than 3.500 km from or to a non EU country is delayed between 3- 4 hs., the compensation my be reduced by 50% (€300).

Check 4. When you don’t get a compensation?

I used the words “may” and “should” a lot in the paragraphs above, because there are several reasons which can exempt the airline from paying a compensation.

Extraordinary circumstances for a delay or canceled flight

Extraordinary circumstances, such as air traffic management decisionspolitical instabilityadverse weather conditions, security risks, or any strike that affects the operation of the airline may lead to more than one cancellation or delay of arrival at the final destination. These cases exempt the airline from paying compensation, proven that: a) there is a link between the extraordinary circumstances and the delay or the cancellation, and b) the delay or cancellation could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

A world-wide pandemic (such as the Corona virus!) is also an extraordinary event, link to important regulations refered to COVID-19 in my post “How to claim compensation for cancelled flights (Part 1: Rules)”, check “The Rules” heading, link here.

On the other hand, most technical problems which come to light during aircraft maintenance or are caused by failure to maintain an aircraft, or a collision of the mobile boarding stairs with an aircraft are not considered extraordinary circumstances.

Note that the airline must prove that the circumstances are extraordinary, so, in case of any doubt, I would always try to get a compensation (in the worst-case scenario, you will just waste some time and get a “no”).

Missing a flight because of something within your control

You are not entitled to compensation if you missed a connecting flight due to delays at security checks, or if you did not respect the boarding time of your flight at the airport of transfer. Generally speaking, you have no right of compensation if you missed a flight because of your fault (so try to always be on time, it is better to wait a little bit than to loose a flight).

That’s it for now. I hope you liked reading this post and find it useful! In my next post, I will explain how to actually claim your rights in case of flight delay. You will see that you can do it by yourself!

If you have any feedback, comment, or question please let me know. I’ll be very happy to hear from you!

Virginia, a traveling lawyer
Link to my Instagram