Flight delayed, what now?

Has your flight been delayed? This is very annoying. What should you do in this case, and - above all - what are you entitled to? You can find the answer to your questions here:

What is meant by a delayed flight?

Not every delay justifies a claim. The European 261/2004 regulation officially considers a flight delayed in the case of a delay of:

  • at least 2 hours for a journey of up to 1,500 km.
  • at least 3 hours for a journey exceeding 1,500 km within the European Union, or a journey between 1,500 and 3,500 km to or from a non-European country. 
  • at least 4 hours for a journey exceeding 3,500 km to or from a non-European country.

Please note: Regulation 261/2004 does not apply to flights departing from a non-EU member state and operated by a non-EU airline.

Good to know: you don’t meet any of the above categories? In this case, you can still appeal to the Montreal Convention. On the basis of this Convention, you can claim compensation from the airline up to a maximum of 4,150 special drawing rights (+/- € 5,315), but you have to prove the actual damage you suffered, which is not always easy.

What are you entitled to in case of a delayed flight?

Your flight is delayed, and it falls under one of the categories above? In this case, you are entitled to the following services from your airline:

  • meals and refreshments in proportion to the waiting time
  • two free-of-charge phone calls, e-mails or fax messages
  • An overnight stay at a hotel and transport to the hotel if the airline books you on another flight. 

Please note: the airline is also obliged to provide this in the case of force majeure.

Has your flight been delayed by more than 5 hours? In this case, the airline should offer you the option of cancelling your flight and having your money refunded. Has the delay caused you to miss a connecting flight that was included in your original booking? And continuing your journey doesn't really make sense any more? In this case, you are entitled to a free-of-charge return flight to your first point of departure.

What damages can you claim for a delayed flight?

If your flight is delayed by more than 3 hours (on arrival), you are entitled to a flat-rate financial compensation on the basis of various judgements of the Court of Justice of the European Union. This compensation amounts to:

  • € 250 for flights up to and including 1,500 km
  • € 400 for flights exceeding 1,500 km within the European Union, and for other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km
  • € 600 for all other flights

Please note: Has your flight been delayed due to force majeure or exceptional circumstances? Then you are unfortunately not entitled to compensation.

Good to know: Was the damage you suffered higher than this fixed amount? Then you are free to ask for a higher compensation for your delayed flight, according to the Montreal Convention. On the basis of this Convention, you can obtain compensation of up to 4,150 special drawing rights (+/- 5,315 euro), but you have to prove the actual damage you suffered.

What is force majeure?

Was your flight delayed due to force majeure? In any case, the airline has to offer you meals, refreshments, phone calls and a hotel until the actual flight. The airline is not required to pay you compensation, however.

But what is a case of force majeure? Force majeure includes:
  • political instability
  • difficult weather conditions
  • safety risks
  • strikes external to the airline

Is there a technical problem? The Court of Justice of the European Union does not consider this as force majeure as such.

Good to know: Not convinced by the reason given by the airline? In this case, fill in the complaints form for airline passengers, and appeal to one of the inspection bodies appointed for this purpose by the European Commission and the member states. You should consult the competent authority in the country where your plane should have taken off. Are you departing from a non-EU country? Then you should contact the competent authority in your country of arrival.