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Your Ultimate Guide (Flight Delays etc.)

Embarking on a journey by air always holds the promise of new adventures and unforgettable experiences! And yet… amidst the excitement of travel, unexpected disruptions such as flight delays and cancellations can quickly dampen our spirits. But enter Regulation 261/2004, commonly known as EU261 — a beacon of protection for travelers within the European Union! (EU261 Compensation)

If this is your first encounter with this law, consider yourself fortunate. Shockingly, nearly 90% of air travelers remain unaware of this regulation, missing out on the opportunity to claim compensation for flight delays or cancellations in Europe. Which is a shame because it’s SO easy and fast to file for an EU261 compensation.

⚠️ It helps to note that an EU261 compensation is separate from the compensation you may receive from your own travel insurance for a flight delay or cancellation. So imagine getting DOUBLE the compensation from your own travel insurance AND from the airline because of the EU261 law — amazing, right?

So without further ado, I will delve into the intricacies of EU261 in this article, shedding light on the rights and perks that you can claim should you encounter a problem with your flight while in the EU zone!

» Quick Travel Planning

What is EU261?

EU261, formally known as Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 or EC261, is a European Union law established in 2004 to protect the rights of air passengers of ALL nationalities.

Unlike some regions where airlines determine their own policies for handling flight delays and cancellations, EU261 ensures that ALL passengers are entitled to certain protections and compensation. This law mandates that airlines must provide assistance and compensation to passengers facing any of the following:

  • Flight delays
  • Flight cancellations
  • Denied boarding
  • Missed connecting flights

Thanks to EU261, air travelers flying within Europe enjoy enhanced rights and protections compared to other parts of the world.

– – –

What Flights Fall Under EU261?

As a general rule, if your flight departs from or arrives at an airport within the European Union (EU) and experiences a delay or cancellation, you’re eligible to file a EU261 compensation claim.

Additionally, the law extends coverage to flights departing from or arriving at airports in Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, and nine special territories associated with EU member states. These territories, also referred to as the outermost regions, include French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe, La Réunion, Saint Martin, Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands.

Flying from the UK? Despite the UK’s departure from the European Union in early 2020 following Brexit, it has implemented a law, UK261, which closely mirrors the EU261 regulations.

Perhaps you’re wondering: does EU261 still apply if I’m flying with a non-EU airline? The answer is yes! To clarify when the law applies and when it doesn’t, refer to the table below.

Flight Itinerary EU Airline Non-EU Airline
EU airport → EU airport
EU airport → non-EU airport
Non-EU airport → EU airport X*
Non-EU airport → non-EU airport X

*In certain instances, you may still be eligible for compensation under EU261, so it’s worth attempting to file a claim with the airline.

– – –

What Flights are NOT Covered?

The airline reserves the right to withhold EU261 compensation if the delay, cancellation, or denied boarding was due to ‘extraordinary circumstances,’ including…

  • Bad weather (i.e.: snowstorms, windstorms, low visibility)
  • Strikes of the airport personnel, traffic control, or employees
  • Air traffic control restrictions (including runway closures)
  • Political and civil unrest
  • Terrorism

However, despite some airlines listing technical issues as grounds for withholding compensation, such problems are NOT considered extraordinary circumstances because the maintenance of the aircraft is the airline’s responsibility. Therefore, if a mechanical issue causes a flight delay or cancellation, the airline may still be liable to pay you compensation.

NOTE: Flights that are FREE or on reduced fares (usually not available directly to the public) do not apply for the EU261 law.

– – –

What are Other Eligibility Requirements?

For as long as you have a confirmed flight reservation on the flight concerned, and one of the following conditions apply to you, EU261 applies:

  • You arrived for check-in at the designated time specified in advance through written communication by the airline, tour operator, or authorized travel agent (or, if unspecified, no later than 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time).
  • You were transferred by an airline or tour operator from the flight for which they held a reservation to another flight, regardless of the reason

• • •

Your EU261 Rights

Flight Delays

…then you can claim EU261 compensation for the flight delay which can range between €250 to €600 per passenger depending on the distance of your journey. There’s really no need for a flight delay compensation calculator, because the allocation is easy to see as seen in the table below:

Flight Delay to Your Final Destination Flights Less Than 1,500km Flights Between 1,500km to 3,000km Flights More Than 3,500km
Less than 3 hours No compensation No compensation No compensation
3 hours or more (never arrived) €250 €400 €600

In the event of lengthy flight delays exceeding 5 hours, you have the right to get reimbursement within seven days, covering the full cost of the ticket for any unused portions of the journey or for parts that no longer serve the passenger’s original travel plan. Additionally, if applicable, a return flight to the initial departure point should be arranged at the earliest opportunity.

In addition to this monetary compensation, under EU261, passengers are entitled to have the “right to care” from the airline. This includes the following provisions:

  • The right to be informed on why the flight is delayed and when you are expected to take off
    • In the event of any flight disruption, airlines must furnish you with this information in written form. The airline is also obligated to display the EU261 text at its check-in counter and provide each affected passenger with a written notice detailing the rules for assistance and compensation.
  • 2 FREE phone calls, emails, or fax messages
  • FREE complimentary food and drinks
  • FREE hotel accommodation if the flight has been delayed overnight as well as the transportation expenses between the airport and the hotel (advisable to keep the receipts for these transportation expenses)

– – –

Flight Cancellations

If your flight is canceled, you are protected under EU261 or EC261 provided you meet the following conditions:

  • You were the one who purchased the tickets
  • The flight cancellation occurred less than 14 days before the scheduled departure date
  • The canceled flight was supposed to leave from an EU airport or operated by an EU carrier
  • It was the airline’s fault and not an extraordinary circumstance

Once you meet all of the above conditions, you are granted the following rights:

  • Full refund of your used and unused tickets (for example, a connecting flight that you can’t reach because of the cancellation)
  • Access to an alternative flight; this replacement flight offered must depart at the earliest opportunity
  • Right to compensation of up to €600 (see table below)
  • “Right to care” similar to the one for flight delays

The following compensation applies when an airline proposes an alternative flight

Notice Short Flights (less than 1,500km) Medium Flights (1,500km to 3,500km) Long Flights (More than 3,500km)
7-13 days’ notice €125 – new flight arrives less than 2 hours after the old flight
€250 – new flight arrives more than 2 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
None – new flight departs less than 2 hours before the old flight and arrives less than 4 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
€200 – new flight departs more than 2 hours before the old flight, and arrives less than 3 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
€400 – new flight departs more than 2 hours before the old flight, and arrives 3 to 4 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
€400 – new flight arrives more than 4 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
€300 – new flight departs more than 2 hours before old flight, and arrives less than 4 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
€600 – new flight arrives more than 4 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
Less than 7 days’ notice €125 – new flight arrives less than 2 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
€250 – new flight arrives more than 2 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
None – new flight departs less than 1 hour before the old flight and arrives less than 2 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
€200 – new flight departs more than 1 hour before the old flight, and arrives less than 3 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
€400 – new flight arrives more than 3 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
€300 – new flight departs more than 1 hour before old flight, and arrives less than 4 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival
€600 – new flight arrives more than 4 hours after the old flight’s scheduled arrival

The following compensation applies when an airline does NOT propose an alternative flight OR if you refused the offer

Notice Short Flights (less than 1,500km) Medium Flights (1,500km to 3,500km) Long Flights (More than 3,500km)
For flights between EU & non-EU cities €250 €400 €600
For flights between two EU cities €250 €400 €400

– – –

Denied Boarding

In the event of denied boarding, you are also eligible to receive EU261 compensation. Most of the time, before denying boarding, airline staff will seek volunteers to relinquish their seats in exchange for negotiated benefits. If an insufficient number of volunteers is found, the airline will proceed to deny boarding to passengers. Your entitlements in such circumstances are as follows:

  • “Right to care” similar to the one for flight delays
  • Re-routing at the earliest possible time or a later date of your convenience
  • Refund of the ticket cost
  • Monetary compensation

When it comes to monetary compensation, it will depend on your flight’s total distance:

Flights Less Than 1,500km Flights Between 1,500km to 3,000km Flights More Than 3,500km
€250 €400 €600

• • •

EU261 Compensation: How to Claim?

Even if you’re eligible for compensation under EU261, unfortunately, it’s not automatically granted — you’ll need to file a claim yourself, but rest assured, it’s simpler than it sounds!

For instance, I successfully claimed mine with Aegean Airlines by filling out their contact form, and they responded within a few days (after following up and nudging them too via Twitter). Together with their response, they proceeded to transfer the compensation to my bank account.

While it’s true that the ease of the claim process can differ depending on the airline, you can be confident that if your flight meets the criteria, you’ll eventually be compensated. After all, the EU imposes stringent penalties on airlines that fail to comply with the regulation, ensuring accountability.

Now, before delving into the various methods of claiming your settlement, let me first offer some valuable tips once you encounter a qualifying event under EU 261.

  • Gather as much information and proof for as much as you can.
    • Start saving or taking screenshots of all communication related to your concerned flight.
    • Ask the airline staff about the reason for the delay. Be sure to record the time; for instance, if your flight is delayed, make a note of the actual departure time.
  • Ask the airline to respect your right to care.
    • Especially for delayed flights, make sure to ask about your right to access free food and drinks. If the delay extends overnight, request accommodation. To reach the accommodation, you can either request a taxi from the airline or keep track of any taxi expenses incurred (retain the receipts) and seek reimbursement later.

Once you’ve completed these steps, you can proceed to make a claim using ANY of the following methods:

Personally Complain to the Airline

This initial step is essential for YOU to do. It’s crucial to exhaust this option first before considering the other alternatives.

  1. To lodge a complaint with the airline regarding your extended flight delay, flight cancellation, or deboarding, begin by conducting a Google search using your airline’s name along with the term ‘EU261’ (e.g., search for “Aegean Airline EU261”).
    • Each airline manages complaints differently: some offer readily accessible automated online forms, while others may require you to email them. If unsure, locate their customer service contact details and proceed accordingly. (You can even try contacting them via their social media channels).
    • If you’re looking for a flight delay compensation letter sample template, you can use this: [click]
  2. Once you’re done doing step #1, it also helps to complete this form: ‘Air Passenger Rights-EU Complaint Form‘.
    • This preliminary screening service aims to assist you in obtaining information on how to contact your respective airline, particularly if you encounter difficulties in finding their contact details.

If the airline fails to respond within a few weeks or up to a maximum of two months, you can then explore the following options…

– – –

Lodge a Complaint to National Authorities

As previously mentioned, if the airline fails to respond within two months or if you are unsatisfied with their reply, you can proceed to the next step of your flight compensation claim, which involves filing a complaint with the relevant national authority in the country where the operating airline is based.

The official website of the European Union offers a list of links to each country’s national consumer bodies: [link]. In this scenario, you should submit your complaint to the National Enforcement Body in the Member State where the incident occurred. Provide them with the complaint you previously sent to the airline and explain the situation: either the airline did not respond, or you find their response unjust.

The national authority will then offer you a non-binding legal opinion on how to proceed with your claim. Please note that if the incident occurred at an airport outside the EU, you should contact the national enforcement body in the Member State of your flight destination.

If you are an EU national, you can also explore these other options:

  • Utilize impartial out-of-court entities like conciliation services, mediators, arbitrators, and ombudsmen or complaint boards. They will review your case and suggest a resolution, or enforce one if a mutual agreement between you and the airline cannot be reached.
  • If you purchased your ticket online, you have the option to lodge your complaint through the EU online dispute resolution site. This service is free of charge, and they will handle your dispute accordingly.
  • Finally, if the airline refuses to compensate you and you decide to take legal action, you can opt for the European Small Claims procedure. This entails submitting your compensation claim to a competent court, which could be the place of arrival or departure for flights between EU countries (operated by one airline), or the courts in the country where the airline is registered.
    • To initiate this procedure, you’ll need to complete form A and include any supporting documents such as receipts or invoices. Upon receiving your claim, the court will assess it, and if any necessary information is missing, they will request you to complete form B. Keep in mind that there is a court fee associated with the European Small Claims procedure, but this fee will be reimbursed if your case is successful.

– – –

Hire a Company to Get the EU261 Compensation for You

I highly recommend attempting to file a claim on your own FIRST to ensure you receive the full compensation. Besides, based on my own experience and in most cases, this process can be quick and straightforward especially when the airline concerned is from the EU (examples being like RyanAir, EasyJet, Lufthansa, Air France, and many others).

However, I understand that this may not always be feasible with other airlines; plus, it could be a hassle for you to do option #2 of lodging a complaint with national authorities. Time is valuable, after all!

In such cases, there are several companies specialized in handling EU261 claims on behalf of passengers, albeit for a fee. These fees can be quite significant, often reaching up to 25% to 30% of your claim amount! For families or larger groups, this percentage can result in a substantial sum — but then the upside too is that they can really help; plus, if they fail in claiming a settlement, you don’t have to pay anything at all to them.

But if this is the only remaining option you’d like to take, a quick Google search will reveal numerous options, but if you ask me, AirHelp consistently ranks as one of the top companies for EU261 compensation claims.

• • •

Deadlines to Claim EU261 Compensation

EU countries have varying regulations regarding the timeframe within which you can claim compensation, as the regulation does not establish a uniform limitation period across the EU.

The time limit for claiming compensation depends on the location of the airline’s headquarters:

Deadline Country
10 months Latvia
1 year Belgium, Poland
2 years Croatia, Iceland, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland
2 years & 2 months Italy
3 years Austria, Czech Republic*, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany**, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden***
5 years Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Spain, Scotland
6 years Cyprus, Ireland, UK (except Scotland)
10 years Luxembourg
No limit Malta

*Czech Republic: It’s crucial to inform your airline about the flight delay within 6 months of the incident. Once notified, your claim remains active for up to 3 years.
**Germany: The period expires on the last day of the third year.
***Sweden: The limitation period resets each time a claim is made. Therefore, for any subsequent claims, the limitation period would be 3 years from the date the last claim was filed.

• • •

EU261 Compensation Form of Payment

Your EU261 compensation can be disbursed in various forms such as cash, electronic bank transfers, bank orders, or bank cheques. Alternatively, if agreed upon, it may be issued in the form of travel vouchers or other services.

At times, airlines may initially propose vouchers rather than cash. However, it’s essential to note that EU261 ensures cash compensation, which you’re entitled to if preferred.

IMPORTANT TIP: Upon receiving a response from the airline, ensure that the offered compensation aligns with your situation before proceeding further.

• • •


When should I submit my EC261 compensation claim?

As soon as possible! If feasible, reach out to the airline on the day of the delay itself. Acting promptly increases the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Can an airline refuse my EU261 compensation claim?

Certainly, the airline has the authority to reject your claim, especially if the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances. However, if you feel your claim was unfairly denied, you can explore the alternative methods I outlined in this article.

Are connecting flights covered for EC261 compensation?

Certainly. If your journey is booked as a single itinerary, any flight departing from an EU airport qualifies for flight delay compensation under EU261 regulations. It’s important to understand as well that your final destination will be considered in regards to EU261 eligibility.

What if my flight was booked with miles—is it eligible for EU261?

Regardless of whether you booked using credit card points, redeemed an award ticket with frequent flyer miles, or paid with cash, EU261 still applies. The only exceptions are tickets acquired for free or at reduced fares not typically available to the general public.

I traveled with my baby, can I also get flight delay compensation?

It varies. According to the EU regulation, passengers are eligible for compensation if their flight is delayed by more than three hours. However, passengers traveling for free are exempt from claiming compensation. For instance, if an airline allows parents to bring infants along at no cost, compensation cannot be sought for the infant. However, if you paid for a seat for your baby, even at a reduced rate, you can request compensation.

Are hotels and meals covered by EU261?

side from cash compensation, EU261 mandates provisions for hotel accommodations and meals. This provision, known as the “right to care,” obliges airlines to offer meals and refreshments proportionate to the waiting time. While other international airlines include similar provisions in their contracts of carriage, this is rather a guaranteed entitlement in Europe.

My airline placed me in a lower class, different from the ticket I purchased. Can I still ask for compensation?

Absolutely. Within seven days, the airline is required to refund you:
– 30% of the ticket price for flights up to 1500 kilometers.
– 50% for intra-community flights exceeding 1500 kilometers.
– 75% for flights between European territories and French overseas departments.
– Furthermore, 75% for flights not covered in the previous cases.

We traveled as a group, can I ask for compensation for all of us?

Yes, you can, but it’s preferable to file for compensation separately for each individual.

How do I write a letter of compensation for flight delay?

Check out this sample template I made: [click]

• • •


I hope this comprehensive guide helps you claim the compensation that’s rightfully yours!

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