Flight Delayed

Flight Delay Compensation

Flight delay compensation is something most people don't know exists. We just seem to accept the flight delay, get angry, and just...deal with it. Did you know you could be entitled to up to €600? 

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It happened to me. I had to jump through some hoops to get compensation. Now there is a much easier way, and most people don't know about it.  

In this post you will learn what to do at the airport if your flight is delayed, baggage delayed, flight is overbooked, or you are denied boarding. EC 261 regulation protects you for flights with EU carriers or flights going to Europe.

Things like lost luggage on US flights or other international flights fall under the Montreal Convention

Know Your Rights

Knowing your air passenger rights could help you be prepared in case anything goes wrong, and getting compensated for it. Knowledge that could save you a lot of frustration. 

In this article you will learn what potential compensation you are entitled to if your flight was delayed, cancelled or overbooked, and how to get it. Even if it happened within the last three years.

Included below are a few tips on what to do at the airport so that you can have the best possible outcome, both at the airport and after if you try to file a claim for compensation. 

Did you know that 5 Billion Euros are left unclaimed each year?

What Could I Get Compensated For?

In this article, I'll show you what compensation you could be entitled to, and how to get it. Things you could be compensated for are:

  • Flight delays
  • Overbooked flight
  • Flight cancellations
  • Missed connections
  • Denied boarding
  • Delayed baggage
  • Damaged baggage
  • Lost baggage

If you have had one of the above happen in the last three years, why not check quickly if you could be compensated?

 In minutes you could see if you have a case and get a claim in, and it doesn't cost you anything to check.

Then you don't have to read my detailed description below that I worked so hard on. Feel guilty yet? I wouldn't. Just check if you have a claim and get on with your day.

Compensation for Flight Delays

Have you had a flight to or from Europe, within Europe or with an EU airline (even outside Europe) and experienced a flight delay in the past three years? 

What compensation are you entitled to when your flight has been delayed? What are your passenger rights when it comes to flight delay compensation?

The basic qualifiers for flight delay compensation are:

  • The flight occurred in the last three years
  • You checked into the flight at least 45 minutes in advance
  • The flight arrived three or more hours later than scheduled*
  • The airline is responsible for the delay (operational or technical difficulties, not weather)

*A flight departing late doesn't determine a delay because they can make up the time in the air sometimes. This is also why you should document the the time the doors open upon arrival, not the the landing time. It could still take 15 minutes to get to the gate and the doors to open.

How to Get Flight Delay Compensation

If the airline has provided you with meals, refreshments and travel vouchers, it doesn't mean you aren't entitled to flight compensation. 

Did you travel for business? The good news is that flight delay compensation is for the passenger, not the person/company that paid for the ticket. After all, who was inconvenienced?

Here is a chart of what you potentially could be entitled to according to EC 261:

Flight Distance

Delay < 3 hours

Delay 3-4 hours

Delay more than 4 hours

Never arrived

All flights less than 1500 km or less

€0

€250

€250

€250

Flights within EU over 1500 km

€0

€400

€400

€400

Non-internal EU flights between 1500 km and 3500 km 

€0

€400

€400

€400

Non-internal flights over 3500 km

€0

€600

€600

€600

There are some other things in Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 that factor into if your claim will get you anything.

Airlines might give you some push back. So let the experts help you.

Those experts are: 

AirHelp is a company that specializes in helping you get the compensation you deserve. 

They are up to date on everything that is EC 261, and they will do all the work for you.

It's so easy for you. They submit claims on your behalf.  

  • They'll tell you quickly if you are eligible.
  • They will handle all the communication with the airline.
  • There's no risk. They will only charge a fee if they are successful in getting you compensation.
  • They have helped 10 million people receive compensation.

Did you know you could get up to €600 compensation for a delayed, cancelled or overbooked flight? #airtravel #Europe #traveltips  

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Overbooked Flight / Denied Boarding Compensation

Being denied boarding because of your own behaviour? That's on you. 

Denied boarding due to an overbooked flight? There could be up to $700 USD in it for you.

Overbooking flights is still something that airlines do. This means you could be denied boarding on a flight. 

EU Flights - Denied Boarding

First airlines are required to look for volunteers. They will offer compensation for passengers to give up their seat. That compensation can vary, and go up if no one is volunteering. 

If they do not have enough volunteers, then they can start denying people boarding involuntarily. In this case, passengers are entitled:

  • Right to Compensation
  • Right to Reimbursement or Re-routing
  • Right to Care

Right to Compensation

Compensation for denied boarding is based on the factors below:

Flight Distance

Potential Compensation

All flights less than 1500 km or less

€250

Flights within EU over 1500 km

€400

Non-internal EU flights between 1500 km and 3500 km 

€400

Non-internal flights over 3500 km

€600

Reference: EC 261 Article 7

Right to Reimbursement or Re-routing

You should be a offered a choice of one of the following:

A) Reimbursement within 7 days  for:

the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought,​

for the part or parts of the journey not made,

and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to your original travel plan. 

This should be in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank draft, cheque or with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services.

and

Return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity

B) Re-routing

under comparable transport conditions, to your final destination at the earliest opportunity

C) Re-routing

under comparable transport conditions, to your final destination at a later date at the passenger's convenience, subject to availability of seats

Reference: EC 261 Article 8

Right to Care

  • Meals and refreshments in proportion to the waiting time
  • Two telephone calls, fax or telex messages, or emails
  • Hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the hotel, if a stay of one or more nights

Reference: EC 261 Article 9


US Flights - Denied Boarding Compensation (DBC)

In the US they have certain rules that apply to "bumping" passengers.

When you are not entitled to compensation:

  • Aircraft Change
  • Weight and Balance (planes with <60 seats for safety reasons)
  • Downgrading (full refund may apply)
  • Charter Flights
  • Small Aircraft (<30 passengers)
  • Flights departing a foreign location (for Europe see above)

If you involuntarily get bumped and is not under one of the above situations, you could qualify for compensation if:

  • You have a confirmed reservation,
  • You checked-in to your flight on time,
  • You arrived at the departure gate on time, and
  • The airline cannot get you to your destination within one hour of your flight’s original arrival time.

You could qualify for:

Length of Delay

Potential Compensation

0 to 1 hour arrival delay

No compensation

1 to 2 hour arrival delay

200% of one-way fare (no more than $675)

Over 2 hour arrival delay

400% of one-way fare (no more than $1350)

For full information of US Bumping Rules click here

Every country has different rules in regards to overbooking and bumping. Make sure you keep all your travel documents and take notes of what happens. This could help you potentially get compensated.

It costs you nothing to check with AirHelp if you are entitled to denied or overbooking compensation.

Flight Cancellation Compensation

A flight is considered cancelled when it never leaves the tarmac. 

You could be eligible for flight cancellation compensation if:

  • The flight was scheduled to leave the EU
  • Scheduled to land in the EU (and their headquarters are located in the EU)
  • If the airline informs you less than 14 days before the schedule flight
  • and obviously you are a passenger with a reservation on that flight

Airlines can re-route you without having to pay for compensation if: 

  • They give you more than 14 days notice
  • Between 7 and 13 days notice if:

They can re-route you as long as the flight departs no more than two hours before the original scheduled time of departure or;

arrives less than four hours after the original schedules time of arrival

  • Less than  days notice if:

They can re-route you as long as the flight departs no more than one hour before the original scheduled time of departure or;

arrives less than two hours after the original schedules time of arrival

Have you had a flight cancelled within the last three years? 

Check if you are eligible. 

Missed Connection Compensation

My first time flying to Europe by myself, I was sixteen. My flight landed in Toronto (my first stopover) at the same time my next flight to Germany left.

I was a little panicked, but once I talked to the airline they whisked me through backdoors, through terminals, up and down stairs, and got me on another flight to Berlin. 

Airlines should help you help you get another flight if they make you miss a connection.

If you are flying to or from Europe, you could be entitled to compensation.

Travel Tip!

Try not to book connecting flights too close together. Never less than an hour. Give yourself time to get to your next gate at an unfamiliar airport.

If you have to collect baggage and check it again (sometimes for customs purposes), it could take longer than you think. 

The booking site Kiwi.com is good at informing you of connections and whether they are guaranteed by the airline. If not, they guarantee the connection. 

Compensation for a missed connection is a little trickier. There are a couple of factors to determine eligibility. Basically a lot of the previously mentioned factors can cause you to miss a connection, like delayed flights, cancelled flights or overbooked flights. 

Missing a connection because you lost track of time in the airport lounge, well........that does not qualify. 

Let's start with the basics. 

Flight Departing From 

Non-European Air Carrier

European Air Carrier

Airport IN Europe

Airport OUTSIDE of Europe

If you have a green thumbs up in the chart above, the other factors are:

  • The missed connection occurred within the last three years.
  • You missed your connection due to a flight delay, cancelled flight, or overbooked flight.
  • You were delayed at your final destination three or more hours.
  • The disruption that caused the missed connection was within the airline's control (this includes airline strikes, mechanical, but not things out of their control, like weather, medical emergencies, air traffic control strikes).
  • Your connections were part of the same booking.

Connections Part of the Same Booking

Both parts of your flight have to be on the same reservation. Sometimes site booking flights may give you "two one-way fares". So when you are booking a flight, keep an eye out for that. 

Often connecting flights on the same airline will be on the same reservation. This could apply to Alliance airlines too.

You'll often see, "Lufthansa flight operated by Air Canada." The whole trip you won't see a Lufthansa plane or staff member, but it's under Lufthansa for the booking.

You could receive compensation for being delayed from the first flight, not because of the missed connection. 

So watch for terms like "self-transfer" or "two one-way fares". Those will be your hint that they may not qualify.

Expedia Warning

Example of an Expedia Warning when booking

If your booking reference number is the same for all your flights, then it should be considered the same reservation. 

Rather than guessing, check if you eligible for any missed connections within the last three years.

You could be eligible for between €250 - €600.

My Flight is Delayed - What to do 

No one likes when their flight is delayed. It's happened to me. It's happened to my friends. It happens to everyone at some point. 

I was delayed for two days and stuck in Frankfurt. At the time, I didn't know my passenger rights. But I did learn a lot from it. 

It was pure chaos. Two hundred plus people, at midnight, standing in the Frankfurt airport, and one airline representative.

Flight Delay

Flight Delay in Frankfurt

This poor representative had to try and shuttle all of us onto buses, that would take us to our hotel for the night. 

I saw what didn't work. Thinking that this one guy had the power to do anything at that time. But there were several people who took their anger out on him, because they "had to get home". Yeah well, so did the rest of us. 

What You Should Do

  1. 1
    Be patient

Imagine if at your job someone threw 300 angry, tired people at you. They are working to fix the situation the best they can.

  1. 2
    Listen

Listen to what you are told and write it down. Find out what the airline is doing for you, how long they anticipate the delay being. Often there will be limited staff to announce what is going to happen. Get close to them.

  1. 3
    Ask

Ask why you are being delayed. Is it weather, is it mechanical? This will be important later. If you missed the announcement or couldn't hear them, ask them again. Be informed. 

  1. 4
    Document everything

Write down everything that is said. Take a picture of the flight board showing delay. Write down your arrival time (when the plane doors open). Keep all communication (emails, texts).

  1. 5
    Be polite!

"You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

Be honey (sweet), not vinegar (sour). Getting mad and taking out your frustration on the people that are trying to help you out is the wrong approach.​

The counter people didn't cause your delay, they are trying to solve it. Let others be the sour jerks, while you get better info and service because you are the nice one. 

Here is a great infographic to help you.

What Am I Entitled to at the Airport?

When an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure for:  

  • Flights less than 1500 km in distance; more than two hours
  • A flight within the EU of greater than 1500 km in distance, or any other flight of greater than 1500 km but less than 3500 km in distance; more than three hours
  • A flight not within EU of greater than 3500 km in distance; more than four hours

You should be offered free of charge:

  • Meals and refreshments in proportion to the waiting time
  • Two telephone calls, fax or telex messages, or emails
  • Hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the hotel, if a stay of one or more nights

Air carriers are pretty good at offering these. If they haven't offered it, (politely) ask for it. 

Delays Over Five Hours

If the delay is five hours or more, under EU 261 you can wait it out or you are entitled to:

  • Abandon your journey and receive a refund on all unused tickets 
  • A refund on tickets used already if the flight no longer serves any purpose in relation to their original travel plan
  • And, if relevant, a flight back to your original point of departure at the earliest opportunity.
  • If your flight is delayed to leave the following day, then you are entitled to accommodations and transportation to them.

When I was delayed for two days in Frankfurt, the first night we all were bused to a hotel. We only had our carry on. At the hotel they provided us with a toothbrush and toothpaste and a meal in the restaurant. 

The second night, I stayed in a different hotel, they allowed me to pull one piece of checked luggage. I had two pieces, one suitcase, one hockey bag. I had to give them one baggage claim ticket. Luckily I guessed right. 

Were you on a delayed flight leaving Europe, within Europe or with a European carrier? You could be eligible for up to $700 USD in compensation.


Travel Tips!

  1. Carry emergency toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry on. 
  2. If you have multiple checked bags, especially if travelling with children, write down on the luggage claim stub which bag is which. 

What Airlines May Offer You For Delayed Flights

EU 261 states that any compensation may be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank draft, or cheque. 

You may be offered flight vouchers as compensation.

With the signed agreement of a passenger, you may also be paid in travel vouchers or other service. Don't sign anything or accept an offer that could waive your passenger rights for a flight delay. 

Delayed Baggage - What to do

Delayed baggage can be a big nightmare when you are travelling. The last thing you want to do is change your vacation or business trip just to buy new clothes or items you need for your trip. 

Sometimes your baggage takes a different flight than you do. Coming home, you can deal with it. Heading out, not so much. 

It's always a good idea to pack toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry-on, just in case of a flight delay or delayed luggage.

Beat the System

Some people like to travel with only a carry-on. This is one way to avoid a delayed, lost or damaged bag. Just get out of your seat, grab your bag and off you go.

Here's a great one that can actually fit a ton of stuff. By far my favourite.
Avoid checked bag fees, delayed, lost or damaged baggage with this Top Rated Carry-on Bag.

Carry on sized backpack fits airline restrictions

Carry on sized backpack fits airline restrictions

Obviously no one can predict when your baggage gets delayed. Knowing what to do at the airport is key.

Here are your steps to follow if your baggage is delayed.

Delayed Baggage on EU and International Flights 🇪🇺

  1. 1
    Keep all relevant documentation; boarding pass, checked baggage claim tags
  2. 2
    Tell the airline as soon you realize your baggage isn't there.
  3. 3
    Fill out a PIR (Property Irregularity Report). You should be given a file reference number. Hang on to this and the PIR.
  4. 4
    Track your luggage. This is where your file reference number comes in.
  5. 5
    Keep your receipts. For any necessary items you buy (e.g. emerg. clothes, toiletries)  
  6. 6
    File a Claim Once your luggage shows up.

When you file a claim, it is for compensation for the necessary items (no there isn't a thing like a necessary Coach purse). This is why you need to keep your receipts.

You have 21 days from the time you receive your baggage to make a claim.

Delayed Baggage on US Flights 🇺🇸

  1. 1
    Keep all relevant documentation; boarding pass, checked baggage claim tags
  2. 2
    Tell the airline as soon you realize your baggage isn't there.
  3. 3
    Fill out a PIR (Property Irregularity Report). You should be given a file reference number. Hang on to this and the PIR.
  4. 4
    Request a checked bag fee rebate for the airline. They may not give you one. If they don't, add it to your claim if you file one. ​​​​​
  5. 5
    Track your luggage. This is where your file reference number comes in.
  6. 6
    Keep your receipts. For any necessary items you buy (e.g. emerg. clothes, toiletries)  
  7. 7
    File a Claim Once your luggage shows up.

When you file a claim, it is for compensation for the necessary items (no there isn't a thing like a necessary Coach purse, sorry). This is why you need to keep your receipts.

With most airlines you have up to 45 days from the date of your flight. This is even if your baggage hasn't arrived yet. Keep in mind each airline may have a different policy.

Lost Baggage Compensation

At a certain point your baggage goes from delayed to lost. Airlines should compensate you any replacement items that you purchase in that time.

It order get the best possible outcome, here are the steps you should take to make sure you cover all your bases. 

Baggage Travel Tips!

  1. Carry emergency toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry on. 
  2. Take a picture of your baggage before your flight. This way it's easier to show what your baggage looks like and the condition it was in before you turned it over to the airline. 
  3. Don't put valuables in your checked baggage. If you can't help but to, have a list of the items and their value. 
  4. Make a checklist of everything in your baggage. One, you have a list to double check before you leave. Second, if your baggage gets lost you know what to claim. 

When is Baggage Considered Lost?

In the US, most airlines would consider a checked bag lost after 5 to 14 days. The difference in days being because each airline's policy will be different. 

For international flights, under the Montreal Convention a bag is considered lost after 21 days

Lost Baggage Compensation on US Domestic Flights

In the US, airlines are responsible for compensating you for your bags’ contents.

This is subject to depreciation and up to a maximum liability amount of up to $3500 USD.

Lost Baggage Compensation on International Flights

International flights will generally fall under the Montreal Convention, and airlines are responsible for compensating you for your bags' contents. 

The maximum liability amount is up to 1311 SDR (special drawing rights).
SDR what? Don't worry about that, it's the equivalent to about $1600 USD. 

Filing a Lost Baggage Claim

How do you maximize your chances of getting lost baggage compensation?

When you first realize that your baggage is delayed (not lost yet) you should have followed the steps in the Delayed Baggage - What to do section above and have a PIR (Property Irregularity Report)

Armed with the PIR, here are your next steps.

  1. 1
    Make sure you have your file reference number. You would have gotten this with the PIR when your bags were delayed.
  2. 2
    Collect all your receipts for your "necessary items" you purchased. (e.g. underwear, toiletries)
  3. 3
    Compile a list of items that were in your lost luggage. If you have  an itemized list and proof of purchase it will help get compensation.
  4. 4
    File your Claim with the airline.

Was your luggage lost on a flight? You could be eligible for between $1600 - $3500.

Damaged Baggage Compensation

We've all seen footage on how baggage handlers throw our baggage around like they work in a Nerf factory. 

I had my new hybrid suitcase get a puncture in it on it's first trip. I went straight to the airline, and they told me to claim it next time I travel. Not how it should work, but I just thought naively, "oh okay". Stupid. 

Baggage gets beat up. You could get compensation for damaged baggage. 

Baggage Travel Tips!

Take a picture of your baggage before your flight. This way it's easier to show what your baggage looks like and the condition it was in before you turned it over to the airline. This could help you when making a claim.

Damaged Baggage - US Domestic Flights

  1. 1
    Make sure you have your boarding pass and checked baggage claim tags. Your booking reference number should work too. 
  2. 2
    Report your damaged luggage before you leave the airport. It's best to do it before you leave, but some airlines may allow you to do it after. Check their policy.
  3. 3
    Fill out a damage claim form or PIR (Property Irregularity Report). Sometimes it can be done online. 
  4. 4
    Show your bag to the airline. They will decide whether it should be repaired or replaced, replace damaged items, or compensate you. They will negotiate a solution with you. 
  5. 5
    File a claim for damaged items in your bag. Whether they cover items inside the bag is hard to say. You really have to present a good case that the airline is responsible. 

Airlines are responsible for your baggage and it's contents while it's under their care. You could be compensated for up to $3500

They aren't responsible for previous damage or if you pack your bag improperly and things get damaged. 

In the US, they often have a list excluded items that aren't covered. Things like electronics, fragile items, perishables or other valuables. 

According to the US DOT website, airlines can't exclude liability for damage to parts of your bag, like wheels, handles, and straps.

Again, take a picture of all the key parts of your bag before you check it. The wheels, handles, straps, and body.Then you will have a better case.

The wheels on one of my suitcases got destroyed by the cobblestone streets of Europe. Airlines know this stuff happens. So it's up to you to prove that it happened while in their care. 

Damaged Baggage - International Flights

  1. 1
    Make sure you have your boarding pass and checked baggage claim tags. Your booking reference number should work too. 
  2. 2
    Report your damaged luggage before you leave the airport. For EU flights you have 7 days to file a claim, but it's best to do it before you leave.
  3. 3
    Fill out a damage claim form or PIR (Property Irregularity Report). Sometimes it can be done online. 
  4. 4
    Show your bag to the airline. They will decide whether it should be repaired or replaced, replace damaged items, or compensate you. They will negotiate a solution with you. 
  5. 5
    File a claim for damaged items in your bag. Whether they cover items inside the bag is hard to say. You really have to present a good case that the airline is responsible. 

Have you had lost or damaged luggage? 


Have you had an experience with a flight delay, lost luggage, or missed connection?

Tell us about it in the comments below! We'd love you hear your tips. Let's keep it positive though. Let's not trash airlines and shame people. That doesn't help anybody. 

What would you have done differently?
What would you recommend people to do be proactive?

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