It’s the notification that every frequent traveller dreads – a flight delay or cancellation. After spending a tonne of cash, you’ll be hours or DAYS late getting to your destination. Worst of all, you risk missing an important family event or business meeting.
Often, it happens when extraordinary circumstances (e.g., weather, labour disruptions) aren’t present. When an airline can’t pull itself together, you deserve compensation. That’s why the European Parliament passed European Regulation No. 261/2004. Under it, this law entitles passengers to compensation for delays of three hours or more.
Sadly, airlines often do the cynical thing – they fail to inform the travelling public of their rights. If someone does attempt to assert them, they’ll find the compensation process to be overly complicated. Should they make it to court, they are forced to overcome experienced legal teams.
In this fight, you’ll need a vicious dog on your side. Since 2010, FlightRight has served as an ardent advocate for thousands of travellers. With their team of seasoned lawyers, they’ve secured settlements for more than 98% of clients. In the rare case where they fail, the client pays nothing, making it a no-lose situation.
Are you ready to assert your legal rights as a traveller? To see what you can do when your flight has a delay, follow the steps we’ve laid out below.
Are you eligible for compensation?
Before you can earn a penny of compensation from an airline, you need to be eligible for it. According to European Regulation No. 261/2004, travellers delayed three hours or more by circumstances within the airline’s control are eligible for monetary compensation.
Note that anything beyond the airline’s locus of control (e.g., weather, strikes, etc.) does NOT count. Also, this law calculates delays based on arrival time at your destination. If you leave three hours late and get to your destination two hours late, you aren’t eligible.
Lastly, your flight has to depart from an EU airport OR be an EU-headquartered airline landing at an EU airport. If your trip doesn’t meet either condition, your claim will fail.
The amount you’re eligible to receive depends on the length of your flight. Short-haul flyers (1,500 km or less) can get up to €250. Medium-haul routes (1,500 to 3,500 km) will get you €400. And if your long-haul flight travels further than 3,500 km, you can earn up to €600.
You are also entitled to comfort measures at your point of departure. These kick in if your flight is delayed by more than two (short-haul), three (medium-haul), or four hours (long-haul). Should airlines exceed these thresholds, they must provide food/drink, and facilitate up to two phone calls, e-mails, or faxes.
Get confirmation of the cause of the delay from the airline
Once you have determined that your airline owes you compensation, head to their customer service desk. Then, in a cordial/professional manner, ask the agent the reason for the delay. Whenever possible, ask for it in writing. Doing so will give you nearly undeniable proof of your case.
Keep all receipts
If your airline fails to provide meal and drink vouchers, fear not. If you have a case for compensation, they are still legally obligated to comp these expenses.
Keep all receipts from any meals or purchase of non-alcoholic beverages. If you provide them to FlightRight, you have a high likelihood of being reimbursed for them.
Don’t sign waiver forms
Airlines know they are in the wrong for many flight delays. However, European Regulation No. 261/2004 gives consumers up to six years to file a compensation claim. As such, many companies will offer compensation below what is guaranteed by law to protect their bottom line.
To claim it, they require customers to sign a legally-binding form. This document waives their rights to claim any further compensation in return for the package on offer. Most flyers don’t take the time to read before they sign, as airlines compose it in thick legalese.
If you endorse this binding document, you are signing away your rights to full compensation. Don’t do it – FlightRight virtually assures you’ll get everything you’re entitled to.
After five hours, you can ask for a refund or transfer home
After five hours, the objective is lost for many travellers. They won’t arrive in time for their important business meeting, or to catch that football match.
Are you in this predicament? If so, you’re within your rights to claim a refund or a transfer to your point of origin. You can also ask them to arrange alternative transport. For instance, if you need to get to Paris from London, they could book you on a different airline.
Stranded overnight? Get free hotel accommodation from your airline.
Sometimes, things go from awful to worse. When flying, this often manifests itself in cancelled flights. Frequently, you won’t be able to get out until the next day.
Should this happen, European Regulation No. 261/2004 requires airlines to provide you with complimentary overnight accommodation. This comp includes transport to/from the airport – be sure to ask your taxi driver for a receipt.
Most of the time, airlines will do this themselves. As such, always approach your airline’s customer service desk before making any arrangements. If you book accommodations yourself, keep all receipts AND receive written assurances from the airlines that they will cover these expenses.
Assert your rights, then relax
Air travel can be stressful at any time of year. With drum-tight connections, razor-thin operating margins, and other complications, a single delay can cause untold havoc.
However, by knowing your rights AND asserting them, you can remove much of the jitters from this experience. Whilst you can never get your time back, you’ll receive just compensation for being inconvenienced.
So, head to the airport bar, have a pint and relax. Fresh crews will arrive. Technicians will fix mechanical issues. And, volume delays will sort themselves out. Soon, you’ll be on your way. And, if you have a legit case, you may soon be up to €600 richer!