Travel & Holidays > Guides

What to do if your flight is delayed

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Jul 18, 2016

Thousands of us experience it – a delayed flight that can ruin the start of a holiday or wreck a return trip.

The truth is that your travel plans are more likely than ever to be disrupted because the numbers are on the rise.

Last year 27% of all charter flights were late –  up from 23% the year before. The average delay went up too, from 17 to 18 minutes.


Queueing after delays will be a common experience for many passengers


That doesn’t sound too bad, but if you’re caught out by a more lengthy delay than the average, what are your rights?

Good news here. 

A recent European Court of Justice ruling has taken away one of the get-outs airlines often used to wriggle out of paying.  

That was the excuse of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ – basically, something they couldn’t have seen coming.

The court ruled that THIS excuse can now no longer be used when there is a technical glitch with the plane.

So, what compensation you can hope for depends on the cause of the delay, how long it is and how far you are flying.

If you fly with an airline that’s based in the EU, or one that isn’t but is flying from an EU airport, you’re covered by the Denied Boarding Regulation.

This law kicks in if: you have a confirmed booking, you checked in within good time, you’re flying from an EU airport, or flying into an EU airport with an airline that is based in the EU.

Here’s what you’re entitled to:

There are conditions, see below, but if you’re delayed, here’s what you could be entitled to:

* Two free phone calls, faxes or emails
* Free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay
* Free hotel rooms if an overnight stay is involved
* OR you could choose not to travel at all and have a refund on your ticket if you are delayed for five hours or over, but the flight is not cancelled.


For all this, one of the following must apply:

Your flight is under 932 miles and delayed from two hours or more; it’s a flight of over 932 miles and still within the EU and is delayed for three hours or more; a flight that isn’t within the EU but is between 932 and 2,174 miles.  Or any other flight that’s delayed for three hours or more. 


What about travel compensation?

This all boils down to the reason for the delay.

This is where airlines often try the old ‘extraordinary circumstances’ excuse.  That’s what the new Euro ruling has made it harder for them to do.

But if they can prove this, then you won’t get a penny. It’s worth challenging if the reason doesn’t seem that extraordinary, i.e. something that could have actually been reasonably foreseen.

Flights up to 932 miles (1,500km), three hours or more delay – €250

Flight within the EU over 932m, or any other flight between 932m and 2,175m (3,500km), delayed for more than three hours – €400.

A flight of over 2,175m (3,500km), delayed between three and four hours – €300.

A flight of over 2,175m, delayed for over four hours – €600.

If a long-distance flight of more than 3,500km is delayed for between three and four hours, an airline can cut the compensation of €600 it must pay by 50%.

If you're not getting a fair deal from your airline, then make a complaint via us and we'll fight your corner.

So next time you fancy snapping up a last minute cheap holiday abroad, make sure you think about what might happen if there are delays.


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