Passengers rights – delayed flight

What rights does a passenger have in case of a delayed flight?

A delayed flight causes lots of problems for passengers who are in a hurry for their next appointment, for those who go on holiday or simply visit their family living abroad. However, not everyone knows that they might be entitled to, among others, compensation for a delayed flight – even up to €600.

Do you know your rights?

In what circumstances are you entitled to compensation for a delayed flight?

You can get compensation for a delayed flight when the delay amounts to at least 3 hours. It is counted from the planned time of arrival at the final destination and actual time of arrival (moment when the plane door is opened after arriving at the final destination). The time of departure is only relevant if the customer decides not to fly. Then, if the delay exceeds 5 hours, they may decide not to fly without losing the right to compensation. However, airlines are not always responsible for the cause of the delay. Under the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, in cases of extraordinary circumstances the carrier’s liability is excluded.

What determines the amount of compensation?

The maximum amount of compensation for a delayed flight amounts to €600.

However, please keep in mind that if your disrupted flight is qualified for compensation, its amount depends on:

  • the distance:
250 €for flights up to 1,500 km,
400 €for all flights over 1,500 km within the European Union and for the remaining flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km,
600 €for all remaining flights over 3,500 km.

Please also pay attention to what airline was operating the flight and in what area:

  • Flight route outside the EU: Airline registered in the EU and Airline not registered in the EU – not entitled to compensation
  • Flight route with the departure from the country outside the EU territory and arrival in a country within the EU territory: Airline registered in the EU – entitled to compensation, and Airline not registered in the EU – not entitled to compensation
  • Flight route with the departure from the country within the EU and arrival in a country outside the EU territory: Airline registered in the EU and Airline not registered in the EU – entitled to compensation
  • Flight route within the territory of the EU: Airline registered in the EU and Airline not registered in the EU – entitled to compensation

The same rules also apply to Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, and to flights departing from territories administratively dependent on one of EU countries, i.e.: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Mayotte, Saint Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands, or if flights to these places were operated by an EU carrier. The following are not Member States of the EU: Faroe Islands, Isle of Man and Channel Islands.

  • delay time: passenger is entitled to compensation only when the delay time was at least 3 hours for all of the cases mentioned above.

How do you get compensation for a delayed flight?

Compensation claim for a delayed flight should be submitted to the airline (in written form, by e-mail or through the form on the carrier’s website) or through a company which specializes in obtaining such compensation.

In what form should you file a complaint?

It can be filed in a number of ways:

  1. by registered letter with return receipt sent to the air carrier,
  2. electronically, to the airline’s e-mail address,
  3. through a form that you can find on the carrier’s website
  4. or with our help – with no risk in case of losing the case.

We would like to note that filing a complaint not always will necessarily guarantee payout of compensation. To avoid liability, carriers can try to use extraordinary circumstances as an excuse. They can also offer understated compensation, even though everyone has the right to full compensation in the amount they are entitled to, depending on the flight distance.

What should you do when the airline does not admit your complaint?

When the airline rejects the complaint or admits it only partially, the next step is to file a complaint to a competent National Aviation Authority for the departure place of your flight. Proceedings before this body may take up to 6 months.

Eventually, you can also appeal to the court. In this case, average waiting time for the decision on flight disruption might even take up to 1 year. It entails additional costs and the proceedings will take a lot of your time.

If you file your claim with us, you don’t have to worry about anything. When acting on behalf of our customers we complete all the formalities and always seek successful enforcement of full compensation.

The procedure and form of compensation payout

Receiving compensation for a delayed flight might involve not only filing the complaint to the airline but also appealing to the National Aviation Authority and then to the court (you can also appeal directly to the court, without appealing to the NAA),which is more time-consuming and entails additional costs. It means that there is no single, fixed procedure for receiving compensation. There are a few ways and each of them depends on various factors.

The carrier should pay compensation in cash. The carrier can also offer another form of compensation, such as a travel voucher; however, to receive this kind of compensation, you have to give written consent to it, which disqualifies you from applying for compensation under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.

Compensation can also be decreased by 50%. This happens when the airline offers you an alternative flight and its arrival time does not exceed the arrival time of the originally booked flight by:

2 hoursfor flights up to 1,500 km,
3 hoursfor flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km,
4 hoursfor longer flights.

If you do not want to apply for compensation all by yourself, remember that our experts know exactly how to deal with every carrier and what actions should be taken in each case.

When should you file the complaint?

It is best to file the complaint as soon as possible since limitation periods for compensation claims for a delayed flight vary depending on which country the carrier is registered in, and they might amount to as little as one year, e.g. in case of airlines registered in Poland, such as PLL LOT.

Documents required for filing the complaint

When you file your complaint, in order to be able to prove that you were present at the disrupted flight, you should keep at least one of the following travel documents that has to include information such as the passenger’s details, flight number, date of flight and time of the scheduled departure, the documents being:

  • booking confirmation,
  • flight ticket,
  • boarding pass.

How long do you have to wait for compensation?

Time of receiving compensation depends on how fast the carrier processes the complaint; therefore, it cannot be determined exactly. Usually it takes around 30 days. However, based on our experience, the probability of a successfully processed complaint and payout of compensation at the stage of filing the complaint to the airline is not high and usually appeal measures are necessary.

What other rights does a passenger of a delayed flight have?

When your flight is delayed you have the right to:

  • meal and refreshment – when the delay is of at least 2 hours. If the airline did not provide adequate meals and refreshments, you can buy them at your own expense and apply for reimbursement.
    Documents required when the airline did not provide meals and you bought them yourself: proof of payment for meals and refreshments, containing dates corresponding to the period of the flight delay.
  • ticket price reimbursement when the delay is of at least 5 hours or, in case of a connecting flight, partial reimbursement for the segment of the journey already completed and for the segment which was not completed due to the delay if resuming the journey would not serve any purpose any more. In case of connecting flights you have the additional right to a return flight to the original place of departure,
  • accommodation – if the delayed flight is scheduled for the next day or later. If accommodation is not provided, you have the right to pay for it yourself within a reasonable price range.
    Document required when the airline did not provide accommodation and you paid for it yourself: proof of payment for the hotel, containing dates corresponding to the period between the originally scheduled departure time and the actual departure time,
  • transport from the airport to the place of accommodation and from the place of accommodation to the airport. If transport is not provided, you have the right to pay for it yourself (e.g. taxi, bus, train).
    Document required when the airline did not provide transport and you paid for it yourself: receipt for using services such as taxi, train, etc.

Additionally, you have the right to:

  • two free phone calls,
  • two teletype messages,
  • two fax or e-mail messages.

If the airline did not provide you with adequate care, you can apply for reimbursement, provided the costs are reasonable.

Recovery of reasonable costs

The term “reasonable costs” indicates that every passenger is fully entitled to reimbursement of the costs they had to cover because of the delay and which are mentioned in Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, i.e. the right to reimbursement of all costs paid by the passenger for the accommodation, transport from and to the airport, meals and refreshments and, in case of a delay of more than 5 hours, reimbursement of the ticket price.

Are there any exceptions that can result in the carrier withholding payout of compensation?

Yes, there are – the extraordinary circumstances described in Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 constitute such exceptions.

Extraordinary circumstances – what does it mean exactly?

The European Commission’s website provides you with an example list of extraordinary circumstances which exclude the carrier’s liability to compensation payout, such circumstances being for instance:

  • bad weather conditions,
  • political instability in the country where the flight takes place,
  • security risks,
  • strikes of air traffic controllers.

The list was created jointly by executive bodies of the Member States which are responsible for the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.

Connecting flights delay – are you entitled to compensation?

In the event when the passenger misses the flight or the second booked flight is cancelled, the same rights apply as those mentioned above. The airline should provide an alternative flight and adequate care. You can read more about it in section “What other rights does a passenger of a delayed flight have?.

How do you count the amount of compensation for a delayed flight with a layover (connecting flight)?

For the flight distance in case of a connecting flight you should take into consideration all respective flights from the place where the journey starts to your destination, i.e. the arrival place of the final flight. The distance of individual flights is not important, nor is the fact which one of those flights was delayed. The crucial factor is an overall delay time, counted from the scheduled arrival time to the time of actual arrival. If the delay is at least 3 hours, you might be entitled to compensation.

Downgrading and compensation

Downgrading refers to forcing a passenger to travel in a lower class than the one they bought their ticket for. In such a case the airline should reimburse you:

  • 30% of the ticket price for flights up to 1,500 km,
  • 50% of the ticket price for flights within the European Union longer than 1,500 km and flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km outside the European Union,
  • 75% of the ticket price for the remaining flights not mentioned above, including flights between a European territory of Member States and French overseas departments.

Ticket price which should be considered while counting the amount of reimbursement is:

  • ticket price itself (excluding taxes and other fees indicated on the ticket unless the requirement to pay them, as well as their amount, results from the class the ticket was bought for),
  • for connecting flights, ticket price only for the segment where you were accommodated in a lower class.

Important!

When you were accommodated in a class higher than the one on the ticket, the carrier has no right to demand from you any additional payment!

Compensation in case of a technical defect in the plane

If your flight is delayed due to a technical defect in the plane, you have the full right to apply for compensation. Technical defects are not included in the term “extraordinary circumstances” unless the defect is a consequence of events not attributable to the airline, such as a bird strike or defects resulting from actions of another passenger.

Charter flight delay and compensation

Booking a trip, including flights, in a travel agency does not exclude your rights to apply for compensation if your flight was delayed because of the airline’s fault, except for the delays caused by extraordinary circumstances. You also have to remember that it is the carrier’s and not travel agency’s obligation to inform you about the cause of the delay. Moreover, even if the rest of your trip progresses or progressed very well, do not give up on filing the complaint to the airline.

Can you apply for compensation by yourself?

Of course, you can apply for the compensation for flight disruption by yourself. However, we would like to note that the airline might offer you a friendly settlement for the problems that arose during the journey. If you accept such a settlement (in a written form), you will no longer be able to apply for compensation.

To be sure that you will not lose your right to apply for compensation, do not accept from the carrier things like:

  • flight vouchers,
  • bonus points.

Also, do not agree to reducing the amount of compensation!

Important!

Adequate care provided to you by the airline during the flight disruption does not exclude your right to compensation.

Compensation for a delayed flight – legal basis

The main legal basis is JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Ninth Chamber) of 4 September 2014, Reference for a preliminary ruling – Air transport – Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 – Articles 2, 5 and 7 – Right to compensation in the event of a long delay to a flight – Length of delay – Concept of ‘arrival time’

It is complemented by the Regulation whose provisions, on the basis of the above mentioned Judgment, apply to flight delays:

Regulation No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights

Other flights – what can you do?

First of all, keep your travel documents and try to get information on the reason of the flight delay. You also have the right to demand being provided with meals, refreshments and accommodation, if your next flight is scheduled for the next day or later, as well as transport from and to the airport in the event you get accommodation. If you covered all the costs yourself, keep the receipts or invoices so that the carrier could reimburse you.

We do not recommend accepting settlements since according to the law everyone should receive the full amount of compensation for the disruption.

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