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Ist ihr Flugzeug verspätet haben Sie Anspruch auf Entschädigungsleistungen, Bild: alice-photo / shutterstock

Flight Delay Compensation

Flight delays aren’t just annoying because you mess up your schedule and you may have to spend several more hours in the uninviting environment of an airport. It is also often difficult to exercise one’s own passenger rights when it comes to compensation claims against the airline. You can get support in claiming your compensation from specialized providers such as AirHelp.

What rights do I have if my flight is delayed?

The European Union’s Air Passenger Rights Regulation awards passengers flight delay compensation in the event of significant delays, which can range from €250 to €600, depending on the route. The compensation claims for delays of more than three hours are divided as follows:

  • Short-haul flights (e.g. Mallorca) up to and including 1,500 kilometres: 250 euros in compensation
  • Medium-haul flight between 1,500 kilometers and 3,500 kilometers: 400 euros compensation
  • Long-haul flight outside the EU from 3,500 kilometers: 600 euros compensation (for a long-haul flight within the EU, maximum 400 euros compensation)

It is true that compensation claims can be asserted from a delay of three hours. A claim for compensation arises if connecting flights are missed as a result of the initial delay. If you are two hours late, you are entitled to a free supply of drinks and snacks, as well as access to free means of communication, especially e-mail and telephone. In the event of a delay of more than five hours, you have the right to withdraw from the trip with a full refund of the ticket price. If you still want to continue the journey and a flight to the desired destination is not possible until the next day, you are entitled to reimbursement of hotel costs. You can also reclaim the transfer costs to a hotel (there and back) from the airline.

The EU’s Air Passenger Rights Regulation applies not only to flights within the EU, but to all flights departing from the EU, regardless of the location of your airline. If your flight departs from outside the EU, the regulation only applies if the selected airline is based within the EU. The EU regulation also applies to flights departing from Switzerland, Norway or Iceland. Note that especially in Switzerland, the European legal situation is not necessarily adopted and judges there often rule in favor of the airlines.

If the EU Passenger Regulation does not apply, your compensation claims are often in a bad position, as comprehensive regulations such as those in the EU usually do not exist. Most airlines have developed their own regulations that regulate how to proceed in the event of significant flight delays and under what circumstances the affected traveler may be able to get money back. If your flight starts outside the EU and the airline you have chosen is based in a third country, then it is worth taking a look at the airline’s general terms and conditions.

What to consider when claiming compensation

Only about 2/3 of the flights delayed by more than three hours in the EU are entitled to compensation from the airline. Whether you can claim compensation depends on whether the airline itself is responsible for the delay. If this is not the case, e.g. in the event of unusual storms or bird strikes, there is no claim for compensation against the airline. Important: Staff strikes are also usually attributed to these “extraordinary circumstances”.

Special case: cancellation of a flight as a result of the COVID19 pandemic

If your flight has been cancelled due to national measures to contain the COVID19 pandemic, the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation No. 261/2004 stipulates that the airline must refund the full ticket price to the customer within seven days. Reimbursement is often made in the form of vouchers. However, this form of reimbursement is only permissible with the passenger’s documented written consent. Since airlines want to retain their customers, the vouchers often have a value that is higher than the price of the original tickets. You have to weigh up whether you want to accept the voucher or ask for your money back. If you accept the voucher, you must expect that it could expire in the event of the airline’s insolvency . If you insist on a refund of the money, you may have to deal with some bureaucracy if the airline does not agree to the repayment immediately.

Although air travel conditions have now largely returned to normal, this point could become more relevant again with the emergence of new and possibly more dangerous variants of the pandemic coronavirus.

What do I need to do to claim my rights after a significant delay to my flight?

Rights in the event of flight delays
In the event of a delay caused by the airline, you have various rights at your disposal, Image: David Prado Perucha / shutterstock

If you would like to claim financial compensation in the event of a delay to your flight, you should consider a few points right from the start, the following of which will later help you to claim your legally guaranteed passenger rights.

Already at the airport, you should have the delay documented with its exact duration or the reason for the cancellation of your flight by the airport staff. Keep proof of financial expenses for drinks and snacks. It is also advisable to actively approach other passengers and ask them for their address or at least a reachable telephone number, so that you have witnesses later. This can be especially important if there is a legal dispute with the airline.

If you wish to make a claim for compensation, please send a letter by post (ideally registered mail + acknowledgement of receipt) to the airline’s branch in your country, preferably by registered mail. In the case of package tours, the claim must be addressed to the tour operator.

In this letter, list exactly at what time the flight should have taken off at which location, when and at what destination the flight should have arrived. Furthermore, you inform them of the delay with which the flight ultimately took place.

By following the tips described here, you have a good chance of being able to enforce your rights against the airline.