EU 261 Flight Compensation
A Complete Guide to EC261/2004
Have you had a flight delay or cancellation and want to make a compensation claim under Regulation EU261? Flight Patrol are leading experts in EU261 claims – we’re on hand to help you get the flight compensation you’re entitled to.
Passengers have rights when travelling by air in certain conditions thanks to a European regulation EC 261/2004 also know as EU261.
This regulation applies to any flight that departs from the EU on any airline, or to any flight arriving in the EU on an EU-based airline.
If a qualifying flight is delayed more than three hours the passengers are entitled to as much as 600 euros each depending on the distance of the flight and actual delay time.
This is still a relatively new area of law with cases being defended by airlines in court while the law continues to be tested. So far, the majority of key EU261 cases have been won in favour of passengers.
This guide will explain what the Regulation is, when it applies, and what rights you have when you’ve been delayed, denied boarding, or your flight was cancelled.
What is Regulation EC261/2004
Introduced in 2005 the Regulation was designed initially to prevent airlines from overbooking flights and denying boarding to passengers when there were too many people for the flight by making them pay compensation in such circumstances. This is still a common practice among airlines and if you’ve been affected then you are eligible to claim compensation.
The regulation was later extended to cancelled flights and long delays (over 3 hours depending on the distance of the flight). When two key cases were won in the UK at the Supreme Court on technical faults and limitation, this opened up the area of law for people to claim as far back as 6 years for almost all long delays.
What Flights does EU261 Cover?
The regulation covers flights departing from the EU, even if the airline is based outside the EU – such as Emirates. It also applies to any flight arriving in the EU on an EU based airline such as Lufthansa.
This means that if you fly from London to Dubai with Emirates, you would be covered under EU261 for the outward leg to Dubai but not on the return journey into London as the airline is not an EU airline.
To be covered for both legs of the journey you would need to be travelling with an EU airline like British Airways. This might affect your decision about which airline to use when booking flights that go outside of the EU!
Denied Boarding under Regulation EU261
Airlines have a policy of booking more people onto their flights than there are seats. This is because their experience shows a certain number of people don’t turn up and they want to maximise their revenue by keeping the plane full.
In instances where everybody does turn up, this can result in the airline asking for volunteers to take a later flight. If no one volunteers they will pick someone to miss out – this is known as denied boarding.
If you have been denied boarding due to the flight being overbooked then you are eligible for denied boarding compensation of up to 600 Euros – depending on the distance of the flight and the delay time.
It’s important to note that if you volunteer to take a later flight then you aren’t entitled to claim compensation under EU261 and you should negotiate some compensation directly with the airline as a condition for volunteering.
EU261 compensation for denied boarding is only applicable in situations where there aren’t any volunteers or if there are some volunteers but not enough to free up the seats needed and the airline then has to choose passengers to miss out.
If you volunteer to take the next flight then you won’t be able to claim compensation but the airline still has to provide you with care and assistance while you wait – this means food and drink and overnight accommodation (if necessary). You can also usually negotiate some additional vouchers or compensation at the time of volunteering.
Delayed Flights under Regulation EU261
Delayed flights are also covered under EU261 as long as the criteria for where the flight departs and arrives are met.
Flights can be delayed for a wide range of reasons but some of the most common are:
- Technical problems
- Crew sickness or staff shortages
- Bad weather
- Crew going over their hours
- Problems that affected an earlier flight
Under the regulation, if a flight of under 1,500km is delayed for more than 2 hours then the airline has to provide ‘care and assistance’ (more on that later). When the delay hits 3 hours then compensation should be paid to the passengers.
The crucial figure is when the flight arrived – the delay is calculated based on the arrival time, not the departure time. If a flight departs 3 hours and 5 minutes late but the pilot makes up 10 minutes on the light and it arrives 2 hours 55 minutes late then compensation would not be due.
For a full breakdown on claim amounts for delayed flights see below.
Cancelled Flights under Regulation EU261
EU261 also applies to flights that are cancelled. This was also part of the initial regulation back in 2005 and was extended to cover delays when airlines were indefinitely delayed flights instead of cancelling them to avoid paying out compensation.
Payments and conditions are slightly different for cancelled flights depending on the details of any replacement flight and the length of the delay and flight distance. If you are at all unsure about what you could be claiming then use our free flight cancellation calculator and we’ll give you an instant answer as well as handle your claim for you if you wish.
The amounts you can claim for cancelled flights depends on how long before the scheduled departure the airline informed you of the cancellation. If you were told more than 2 weeks before departure then you aren’t entitled to any compensation under EU261.
For a full breakdown of how much you can claim for cancelled flights, see our tables below.
EU261 Care and Assistance
If your flight was delayed more than 2 hours then EU261 has got you covered (depending on the distance travelled). For short flights under 1500km then EU261 kicks in with ‘care and assistance’ once the flight is delayed on departure for 2 hours.
The Regulation sets out what passengers are entitled to as part of the care and assistance clause. This includes:
- Food and drink in reasonable relation to the waiting time
- Two free emails, phone calls, telex or fax messages
- Overnight accommodation (where necessary)
- Travel to and from the airport and accommodation
The airline should pay for all the above but if they don’t, keep receipts and evidence of what costs you’ve incurred and we can add them into claims we take to court – or you can claim these expenses back from the airline directly separately to the compensation claim.
How to claim Compensation under EU261
The easiest and simplest way to claim EU261 flight compensation is to submit your flight details through our flight compensation claim form and our expert team will liaise directly with our contacts at the airlines to recover your compensation quicker than anyone else.
All our claims are handled electronically so you don’t even need to speak to us if you don’t want to! We simply force the airline to pay out and take them to court if they won’t. We then pay the compensation into your account when we recover it.
There’s no up-front cost to use our service and with our no-win no-fee guarantee, even if we don’t win your claim, there’s nothing to pay so there’s no risk at all!
We’ve recovered compensation for many passengers who have had their travel plans disrupted by airlines. We often take on claims where people have tried to claim direct themselves and failed.
How much Flight Compensation Can I claim?
Claim amounts for delay or cancelled flights under EU261 do vary depending on the distance of the flight and the length of the delay. There are also different amounts for cancelled flights depending on how much notice you were given of the cancellation.
The maximum compensation is 600 Euros for flights over 3,500km where the delay on arrival is more than 4 hours.
If your flight was cancelled then there are several different claim tables than might apply to your specific circumstances – if you’re not sure what to claim from the airline then use our flight claim form, and we’ll let you know what you’re entitled to.
If you want our excellent and friendly team to recover your compensation for you then simply put your flight details in our claim form and we’ll handle everything from there on your behalf. We’ll even pay you the compensation by bank transfer so the whole process couldn’t be quicker or easier!