Flight Delay Claims

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A Complete Guide to Claiming Flight Delay Compensation in the UK

Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: Feb 19, 2024
8 minutes read
  • How flight delay compensation works
  • Amounts of compensation for a delayed flight
  • Criteria for claiming delayed flight compensation

With flight delay compensation, you’re entitled to a payout if you were delayed for longer than three hours. Your rights are also protected if your flight was cancelled. When it comes to your rights and flights, you might not be clued up about what you’re entitled to. For example, the airline must supply you with food and drink if your flight is delayed by a certain length of time.

This article will go through what airlines are obligated to do in the event of a flight delay or cancellation. It will also detail what you can expect to receive as flight delay compensation and how you can go about claiming this. If you’ve been affected by the stress of long waits at the airport, see if you qualify for delayed flight compensation.

Ready to start your flight delay claim? Use our online form to select your flight. It only takes a minute.

Silhouettes of air passengers waiting and a plane taking off

What Is Flight Delay Compensation?

In the aviation world, compensation for a delayed flight is available for flights that have arrived at their destination three or more hours later than intended. Flight delay compensation is not about when the flight leaves, but when it arrives as time can be made up on the journey. It’s not a case for refunding the price of your ticket, but compensation for the inconvenience experienced.

In order to claim flight delay compensation, you need to be on a qualifying flight that is either UK or EU regulated. The UK duplicated the EU regulations that offered flight protection rights, which means that thanks to regulation UK 261, you can claim compensation for a delayed qualifying flight. It’s been a part of UK law since Brexit.

Which Flights Qualify?

Aeroplane Vector

In order to be eligible to claim flight delay compensation, you need to have been on a UK or EU registered flight to or from your destination. This means that you can claim with British Airways but not Air India. If your outbound flight is a UK or EU registered airline, you can claim for a delay with them. However, if your connecting or return flight is a non-EU airline, you can’t claim under the UK 261 regulation.

What Are the Delayed Flight Compensation Rules?

The airline must be at fault if you’re to become eligible to claim flight delay compensation. This means that if the delay was within control of the airline, you can be entitled to a payout. It’s also down to arrival times, not the length of time you spend waiting at the airport.

Flight Time Icon

What Counts as a Qualifying Delay?

Issues in control of the airline that qualify for UK flight delay compensation include:

  • Staff lateness, particularly crew or pilot

  • Sickness or airline strikes

  • Cancellation for underbooking

  • Routine technical problems

What Doesn’t Count?

You won’t be able to receive flight delay compensation if any issues are outside of the airline’s control. These include:

  • Bad weather

  • Strikes by airport staff (including air traffic control)

  • Political issues

  • Security issues

  • Decisions from air traffic management

  • Unusual technical problems

What Are Your Rights at the Airport?

If you find yourself stuck at the airport after having checked in for your flight, you may not know what your rights are. Even before you become eligible for compensation, you might qualify for other benefits. If your flight is delayed for the following time frames, the airline has to provide you with several compensating measures.

  • Less than 1,500km – 2 hour delay

  • 1,500–3,500km – 3 hour delay

  • More than 3,500km – 4 hour delay

Before you claim for UK flight delay compensation, there are some things that airlines are obliged to do if your flight is delayed or cancelled. This includes clear communication and accommodation, if necessary.

Departure Board Vector

The airline needs to keep you up to date with what’s going on. Whether this means emails, texts, updates on social media or face-to-face interaction, you need to be kept in the loop with what’s happening.

Depending on the delay, you are also entitled to food and drink. Short, medium and long flights delayed by the hours outlined above qualify for food and drink privileges. If the airline can’t supply you with anything, you can be reimbursed. The short flight time delay for food and drink is less than the criteria for claiming flight delay compensation.

When it comes to accommodation, an overnight delay entitles you to a hotel, along with accompanying transport from, and back to, the airport. If you do need to buy anything yourself, it’s important to keep all receipts and any records to do with costs incurred.

A flight that’s delayed for longer than five hours can be refunded regardless of the issue. You don’t have to board a flight that’s been delayed for so long. If you no longer wish to travel at this point, the airline can refund you all flights, including outbound, connecting flight and any returns run by them. By choosing this option, you can no longer apply for flight delay compensation.

Compensation for Delayed Flights: How Much Can I Get?

The amount you can receive for flight delay compensation depends on the distance of your flight and how long the delay was. Flights up to 1,500km, e.g., Heathrow to Amsterdam (370km), qualify for £210 compensation, providing the flight was delayed by 3 hours or more.

Flights between 1,500km and 3,500km, such as Heathrow to Morocco (2,460km), that are delayed for 3 hours or more are entitled to flight delay compensation of £340.

Any flights over 3,500km, such as Heathrow to Egypt (3,520km), are entitled to £250 compensation for a delay of 3 hours or more. If delayed for longer than 4 hours, this increases to £520. This also counts for internal EU flights over 3,500km.

You can see how flight delay compensation compares in the interactive graph below.

It’s important to remember that the delay is worked out based on when the plane lands, not when it takes off. Also, compensation is calculated per person, but not for any air passenger who travels for free.

To work out how long your flight delay was, you will need to keep an eye on the time. The cut off point is when one of the plane doors is open after landing. You need to note when the flight departs and the exact time the flight arrives at its final destination at the point the first door opens. If it arrives at its destination more than three hours late, you are entitled to flight delay compensation.

How Far Back Can I Claim Compensation for a Delayed Flight?

In theory, you can only claim flight delay compensation for any delays that have happened in the last six years. This is simply because of the statute of limitations, which means that if you need to take an airline to court, legal proceedings can only be initiated within a six year time period. After this, it’s unlikely the airline will pay compensation.

This means that in 2024, you can claim flight delay compensation for the following years:

  • 2024

  • 2023

  • 2022

  • 2021

  • 2020

  • 2019

  • 2018

Anything further back than this is unlikely to qualify, or just get rejected by the airline. In Scotland, this is limited to five years. See if you can claim from Ryanair.

How Do I Make a Claim for Flight Delay Compensation?

Departure Lounge Isometric

You have several options for claiming compensation for delayed flights. You can either claim through the airline, escalate it to the Civil Aviation Authority or use a claims management company.

The first two options require good book-keeping skills, evidence and details of what you’re entitled to. UK flight delay compensation from the airline needs copies of tickets and receipts, an explanation of what happened and what you would like them to do. Depending on their response, you may need to record everything that’s responded to in case they don’t decide to compensate you.

If the airline has rejected your claim, you can escalate it to an independent organisation. Most airlines are part of an alternative dispute resolution scheme which you can apply to. You can check if they’re a member on their website or the Civil Aviation Authority’s website. If not, you may be able to bring it to the attention of the Civil Aviation Authority’s attention.

Claims Management Company

If all of this sounds like too much work, or you don’t have full details or evidence about your claim, you could use a claims management company. They work on your behalf to get you the flight delay compensation that you’re entitled to. As they process claims like these on a daily basis, they know just what to look for and how to make sure claims are processed quickly and efficiently.

It’s also useful to use a claims management company to get flight delay compensation if you don’t have the time, knowledge or experience to make a claim against an airline. They can tell you if you have a claim and will handle all correspondence for you, so you can get on with your life without having to worry about gathering any evidence or responding to emails or calls on time.

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