If you are flying within the European Union (EU) and your flight is delayed by more than three hours, or gets cancelled altogether, EU law is on your side. Under EU rule 261/2004, you are entitled to up to €600 in compensation. Here’s what you need to know.
Under the EU rules, your airline must compensate you for delayed flights, but eligibility and compensation amounts depend on a number of factors. These include where you are flying from and to, the airline that is operating the flight as well as the duration of the delay itself. Here are some key facts to remember if you’re planning to seek compensation:
The flight must be ‘EU regulated’
Knowing if your flight is EU regulated will be simple in some cases. If you’re flying from London to Milan, for instance, it’s clearly going to be an EU regulated flight. However, if you’re flying to another continent, or perhaps flying into the EU from elsewhere, things can get a bit more complicated.
An EU regulated flight can be:
A flight that departed from an EU airport, regardless of the airline
A flight that is headed for the EU and the carrier is an EU airline
So, for example, a flight to the US departing from Heathrow which is severely delayed will be eligible for compensation regardless of whether it’s on a UK airline such as BA or Virgin, or a US airline like United or American Airlines.
Coming back, however, a flight landing in Heathrow late would need to be operated by an EU airline in order to be eligible for compensation. So your BA or Virgin flight would be eligible, but your AA or United one would not.
Under this ruling, EU airports include those who are not in EU nations, such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway.
Where it gets a bit more complex is where you’re using a codeshare flight and are dealing with different operators. Maybe you booked JFK to Manchester via Heathrow, and the JFK to Heathrow is operated by American Airlines, while the Heathrow to Manchester is on BA.
In this situation, the CAA says that the courts would consider whether this is one flight or two, and also if the delay was caused in the UK or in the US. It’s a complex issue, and one which your claims court will need to decide.
The delay must be the fault of the airline
Compensation will only be payable if the airline was at fault. Things like understaffing or equipment failure all count as airline issues, but natural disasters such as hurricanes do not. The European Commission released a set of guidelines relating to flight delay compensation, but the issue of blame can still often be a grey area.
The delay must be three hours or more
Not only does your delay have to exceed three hours, it has to exceed three hours at the time you arrive at your destination. And believe us, it is possible for airlines to make up a good chunk of lost time on some flights.
Airlines often build in a bit of time to their schedules so that their on time performance is good. This means that you could, potentially, leave one airport three and a half hours late, but arrive just two hours and fifty minutes later than expected. In this situation, your compensation would not be payable.
The time your flight ‘arrives’ is defined by the European Court of Justice as the moment when the plane opens at least one of its doors. If you’re not sure what your exact arrival time was, there’s a handy tool at 3FlightDelay which might be helpful.
Actually, you have all the time in the world to make a claim. Well, not all of it, but a good bit of breathing room certainly.
In theory, you could claim back right now for a flight as long ago as 2005, when the regulations came into force. However, in the UK there is something called the ‘statute of limitations’ which means claims cannot go back further than six years. In Scotland this is five.
So, for most flights since 2013, you should be able to make a claim. You can always try for older cases than this, but it’s likely you’ll have a hard job winning this battle. As with many things in life, sooner is usually better.
However, if you think you have a valid claim, it is your right to seek payment for the inconvenience you’ve been caused. Let us know how you get on!
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