Compensation for Cancelled Flights

As Coronavirus continues to spread throughout Europe, many flights have been cancelled and further cancellations are sure to follow. In some cases, flights have been cancelled due to a lack of people flying. When this happens, passengers may be entitled to compensation. There is one condition: the airline must have informed you about the cancellation less than 14 days before departure.

You know what it’s like: you’ve scrimped and saved for that special trip, booked the accommodation, packed your bags and even managed to get the kids in the car. There is nothing to prepare you for the disappointment of reaching the airport and finding out that your flight has been cancelled. Whether you’re in this situation or simply asking yourself, “What happens if my flight is cancelled?” it may come as some comfort to know that you have rights! Under the EU Regulation Nr. 261/2004, air passengers are entitled to a ticket refund or replacement flight and, in some cases, flight cancellation compensation.

Our free compensation calculator will let you know if you are entitled to compensation and our team of legal experts are ready to help you claim it.

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What are my rights in the event of a flight cancellation?

  • You could either get your ticket refunded or get a replacement flight
  • You can get compensation if the airline informed you 14 days or less before the flight was scheduled to depart
  • The compensation amount is between €250 and €600
  • Food and drinks provided by the airline after 2 hours delay

What should I do if my flight is cancelled?

  • Make use of the complimentary food and drinks at the airport
  • Get the airline to confirm the cause of the cancellation in writing
  • Collect proof, such as receipts of expenses, vouchers and alternative tickets
  • Determine your compensation with our online calculator

When Do I Receive Compensation for a Cancelled Flight?

When an airline cancels your flight, you are legally entitled to receive either a full ticket refund for the price of the original flight or a replacement flight. If your flight was cancelled after you arrived at the airport, you also have a right to care. This includes two free phone calls, fax messages, or e-mails. You should receive light refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time and hotel accommodation when the cancellation necessitates a stay of one or more nights.

If your flight is brought forward, this is considered to be the same as a cancellation and as such you are entitled to claim a compensation. In general, the earlier the airline alerts you to your rearranged flight times, the more likely it is that the new schedule differs from the original flight without the airline having an obligation to compensate you. The price you paid for your ticket bares no relevance to your claims and passengers who travelled on package holidays are also able to claim.

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If the airline informed you about the cancellation at short notice, you might also be entitled to compensation. The EU Regulation Nr. 261/2004 states that airlines should inform customers about cancellations at least 14 days prior to departure. If the airline fails to notify you in a timely manner, you could be entitled to €250 – €600 (per passenger) according to the distance of the flight. The same applies to flights that are brought forward at short notice.

Tip: We recommend checking the “spam” folder of your email inbox as the airline’s cancellation notification might have ended up there.

In order to claim compensation for a cancelled flight, the airline has to be responsible for the cause of the cancellation. Your flight must have been scheduled to depart from the EU with any air carrier, or land in the EU with an EU air carrier. Additionally, you need to have presented yourself at the airport with sufficient time to check-in and board your flight. This final condition does not apply if your flight was cancelled before you even reached the airport.

The following table provides a detailed overview of the circumstances under which air passengers may be entitled to compensation:

Notification prior to departure Alternative flight lands at the destination Right to compensation
More than 14 days before Departure/arrival Irrelevant
7 -14 days before Departs no more than 2 hours earlier/arrives less than 4 hours later
7 -14 days before Departs more than 2 hours earlier/arrives more than 4 hours later
Less than 7 days before Departs no more than 1 hour earlier/arrives less than 2 hours later
Less than 7 days before Departs more than 1 hour earlier/arrives more than 2 hours later
Less than 14 days before No alternative flight offered

If your flight qualifies based on the above notification periods, you have the right to compensation if the following conditions are also met:

  • The airline was responsible for the cancellation
  • You checked in for your flight on time
  • Your flight was due to depart within the EU or land in the EU, for the latter the airline needs to have its headquarters in the EU
  • You encountered these problems on a flight operated in the last 6 six years

Provided the above conditions are met, you’ll be eligible to the following compensation:

  • Short distances – up to 1500km – Passengers are entitled to €250 compensation
  • Medium distances – Between 1500km and 3500km – Passengers are entitled to €400 compensation
  • Long distances – More than 3500km – Passengers are entitled to €600 compensation
flight cancellation compensation uk chart

Compensation claims for flight cancellations based on distance

Cancellations: Ticket refund or replacement flight?

Airlines are required to inform you of a cancelled flight as quickly as possible and must also offer you a replacement flight. Even if you are not entitled to compensation (e.g. the airline informed you more than 2 weeks earlier) they must also offer you a replacement flight or refund the full price of the ticket at the price at which it was bought.

You can choose the following options:

  • Reimbursement of the initial ticket price
  • Alternative transport by air or rail within a reasonable time frame
  • Alternative transportation at a later date (depending on availability)
  • A return flight to your departure point as soon as possible

Flight cancellation as a business traveller?

If you suffered a flight cancellation while travelling on business you’ll be the one who receives the compensation, not your employer. Likewise, if you’re travelling as a state official, the EU regulation states that you’ll be the one owed compensation from the airline. It is the individual passenger who endured the inconvenience of the delay who receives the benefit – not the person who paid for the ticket. This stands no matter the ticket price.

Important: you can claim up to €600 in compensation, even if you have already been reimbursed for the price of your ticket. If the airline provides you with refreshment vouchers, this doesn’t alleviate their responsibility to issue your compensation.

Recent flight cancellations

Are you looking to claim cancelled flight compensation for a flight that has just been cancelled? The following table displays the most recent flight cancellations from across Europe. Select your flight and follow the onscreen instructions to submit your compensation claim. It only takes two minutes to submit a claim, our team of dedicated legal experts take care of the rest.

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How Long Are Compensation Claims Valid?

In the UK, compensation claims are valid for up to six years. The 6 year period begins from the end of the year in which the incident occured. This means that if your flight was cancelled on 01.01.2014, you have until the end of 2020 to enforce your claim – that’s almost 7 years!


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Something to watch out for: the amount of time you have to claim for cancelled flights varies from country to country. In Germany, for example, claims must be enforced within three years. In Sweden, it’s two months. Our Flightright team can advise you if you would like to know how much time you have left to enforce a claim.

Think back — maybe you had a flight delay or cancellations that you had forgotten all about? You can check all your previous flights in our free online compensation calculator and we will let you know if you are eligible to claim compensation for any of your cancelled flights.

What Are “Extraordinary Circumstances”?

Sometimes flights are cancelled for reasons beyond an airline’s control. When this happens, the airline is not legally obliged to pay compensation. Such events are known as “extraordinary circumstances” and include, but are not limited to, incidents such as medical emergencies, bad weather conditions and air traffic control restrictions.

Even when a flight is cancelled as a result of extraordinary circumstances, the airline needs to prove that it took all reasonable measures to avoid the cancellation. In cases where airlines did not do everything within their power to minimise the disruption, air passengers may still be entitled to claim compensation for the cancelled flight.

In many cases, it’s not as simple as black and white. Airlines often attribute the cause of cancellations to “extraordinary circumstances” but a thorough legal assessment from our legal experts reveals that air passengers are, in fact, entitled to compensation.

How Can I Ensure That My Future Flights Are Secure?

We can’t help you to load your car but we can certainly take a load off your mind. Simply enter the details of any upcoming flights into our online compensation calculator and we will keep an eye on them for you.

In the event that any of your flights are delayed or cancelled, we will provide you with relevant information about your rights and let you know if you are entitled to cancelled flight compensation.

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Checklist: This is what you are entitled to if your flight is cancelled

  • You may be entitled to compensation if you found out about the cancellation less than 14 days before departure
  • You can either be reimbursed for the price of your ticket or get the airline to offer you an alternative connection as soon as possible
  • From 2 hours on waiting at the airport you are also entitled to refreshments and snacks

Requirements:

  • You have checked in for your flight on time (generally no less than 45 minutes before departure).
  • You encountered these problems on a flight operated no more than 6 years ago.
  • Extraordinary circumstances like strikes or bad weather release the airlines from their obligation to pay compensation
  • The flight took off in the EU (from any airline) or landed in the EU (provided that the airline is headquartered in the EU).
  • You can claim compensation even if you have travelled with a tour package or had a business trip
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