How long does a flight have to be delayed to get compensation? Debt Recovery

According to the law, delayed flight passengers must now be treated the same as cancelled flight passengers

This means that:

  • If your flight is delayed more than two hours, the airline must give you food, drink and phone access. Under Article 9 Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 – Right to Care, the airline should pay particular attention to the needs of people with reduced mobility and anyone accompanying them, as well as to the needs of unaccompanied children.
  • If delayed overnight, you are entitled to a free hotel stay.
  • If delayed more than three hours, you are entitled to the following compensation: £220 for a flight of less than 1500km, £350 for between 1500-3500km and £520 for journeys greater than 3500km. These sums are payable per passenger and you are now entitled to cash payments if you wish.
  • If a delay of more than three hours causes you to miss a connecting flight, compensation is payable and the airline must book you onto another flight.

If you are offered re-routing to your final destination on an alternative flight, provided the arrival time doesn’t exceed the scheduled time, compensation will be paid but reduced by 50%.

What are my rights if my flight is cancelled?

  • No compensation will be due if your flight is cancelled two weeks or more before the departure date.
  • If cancelled more than five hours prior to departure, but within the two week period, you are entitled to a refund or a new flight.
  • In the case of a refund, you are entitled to get your money back for all parts of the ticket you haven’t used. So, if your outbound flight is cancelled, you can get a refund for the return leg too. However, any other money spent, such as on accommodation, cannot be recovered and in these circumstances, you should check your travel insurance policy.

Eligibility to claim delayed and cancelled flight compensation:

  • Your flight must be departing from an EU airport
  • Your flight must be arriving into an EU airport and the airline be based in the EU
  • You must have a confirmation reservation on the flight
  • You must have checked in at the time stipulated or no later than 45 minutes before the published departure time

When don’t airlines have to pay delayed and cancelled flight compensation?

The burden of proof is always on the airline. However, they are not required to pay compensation in ‘extraordinary circumstances’, so are unlikely to pay compensation for delays caused by something outside their control. For example, freak weather, a bird strike, terrorism, a security matter or sabotage. The English Court of Appeal held that a ‘technical problem’ did not constitute an ‘extraordinary circumstances’, so compensation would be payable if that was the cause of your delay.

Case: TAP Portugal v Flightright

The case of TAP Portugal v Flightright provides a useful insight into the courts’ interpretation of ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

Shortly before the flight the co-pilot was found dead in his hotel room. Shocked by this event the whole crew declared themselves unfit to fly. As no replacement staff were available the flight was cancelled. The passengers were in Stuttgart travelling to Lisbon.

A replacement crew left Lisbon bound for Stuttgart and eventually the passengers were transported to Lisbon on a replacement flight, hours later. The airline refused to pay compensation on the grounds that the death of the pilot was unexpected and therefore was an extraordinary circumstances.

The courts held that that the pilot’s death was not an extraordinary circumstances. The death is one of inherent risk in the airline’s activities. The airline should have also kept a certain number of replacement staff available. Anything relating to the staff of the airline falls within the normal exercise of that airline’s activities. This is not an outside event and this does not fall within the concept of extraordinary circumstances within the meaning of that provision.

What should I do if I want to claim delayed or cancelled flight compensation?

You shouldn’t need a solicitor to claim delayed or cancelled flight compensation. You can usually do this yourself by contacting your airline and following their claims procedure. If your claim for compensation is rejected and you do not agree with the reason given, check whether your airline is a member of an alternative dispute resolution body or speak to the Civil Aviation Authority. In extreme circumstances, it may be possible to take the airline to court.