Last Updated on December 22, 2022
Few things are as annoying than having your flight delayed or canceled when you’re on vacation. In Europe you can be well compensated…
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
By Jim Ferri
There’s usually nothing more stressful on a vacation or short holiday than having your flight delayed or canceled, especially when you have to make a connecting flight overseas or in another country.
In Europe, flying on several different airlines in different countries on a trip, this can be exacerbated.
There are, however, laws to protect you, mitigate your pain, get you on your way. You will often be compensated your for flight delays. You just need to know what to do and how to do it.
European Union Law Requires Compensation From All EU Airlines
You are covered under European Union law if you fly any airline within the EU, or any EU airline to or from Europe.
You are also covered on non-EU airlines flying from Europe to the US, but not vice versa.
For example, if you’re flying an American carrier from Paris (or any other European Union city), European law covers you. But you’re not covered if you fly an American or other non-EU carrier from the USA to Europe.
On the other hand, the law also covers carriers arriving from Iceland, Norway, or Switzerland. That’s noteworthy since those countries are not members of the European Union.
Compensation for Delays, Cancellations and Overbooking
When your flight is delayed, canceled or you’re denied boarding due to overbooking, you are entitled to either 1) transportation to your final destination by any comparable means, or 2) a refund of your ticket. If you choose the refund you must also be transported free of charge back to your initial departure point.
If your flight is delayed for more than five hours you’re entitled to a refund. But if you accept a refund the airline does not have to provide you with any onward travel assistance.
Compensation only begins if you arrive at your destination airport three hours late regardless of any delay on ground at your embarkation airport. This means that even though you may have departed four hours late, and en route your pilot made up the time, and you then arrived less than three hours after your scheduled arrival, you won’t collect a penny.
Carriers must also provide you with “reasonable” refreshments once a short-haul flight delay reached two hours, a medium-haul three hours, and a long-haul four hours. If the delay is overnight you must be furnished with hotel accommodations.
How Much Will You Collect
There’s also financial compensation for denied boarding, cancellation or delayed arrival of more than three hours. It is all based upon the distance of your flight.
Within the EU, if your flight is 1500 km or less (about 930 miles) you must receive compensated of €250. Over 1500 km compensation increases to €400. Between a European Union airport and a non-EU airport the same rates apply.
If the distance is more than 3500 km (about 2175 miles) the compensation rate is €600. This distance, of course, covers any EU-airline flight between the USA and Europe.
If the carrier offered you an alternative flight with a similar schedule, however, compensation may be reduced by 50%.
And, as you may guess, all airlines don’t always make it easy for you to collect.
The Fine Print About Flight Delay Compensation
There’s always fine print. If your flight is canceled you won’t receive any flight delay compensation if the cancellation was due to “extraordinary circumstances.” Those circumstances include bad weather, air-traffic-control problems, or political instability.
Compensation is also denied if 1) you were informed of the cancellation two weeks prior to your scheduled flight, or 2) you were offered an alternative for the same route with a schedule similar to your original flight.
Be aware that although you may not be eligible to receive flight delay compensation if your flight was canceled due to extraordinary circumstances, the carrier must still offer you either 1) rebooking at a later date of your choice, subject to seek availability; 2) an alternative means of transportation to your destination at the earliest opportunity; or 3) refund the unused portion of your ticket.
Compensation for Luggage
When your registered luggage is lost, delayed, or damaged you may also be entitled to compensation up to about €1220. The key, however, is the damage wasn’t caused by an inherent defect in the luggage itself.
When your luggage is damaged you should file a claim within seven days of receiving it. If it was delayed you have 21 days to file your claim.
If you’re carrying expensive items in your luggage you may be able to obtain a compensation limit higher than the aforementioned, but only if you make a special declaration in advance to the airline, at the latest during check-in. The EU recommends that you take out private travel insurance on your valuables.
Collecting Your Flight Delay Compensation
Although the law does cover you in many instances, it’s not always easy to get a refund or be compensated.
Inside the EU use should submit a Air Passenger Rights EU Complaint Form to the airline (always keep a copy for yourself).
If you’re not satisfied with flight delay compensation from the airline, or you have trouble getting any compensation, you can complain to the National Enforcement Body in the EU country where you encountered the issue.
If the incident involved a EU airline, but took place at an airport outside the EU, you should send a complaint to the relevant National Enforcement Body in the EU country to which you were traveling.