If you’re flight is delayed more than three hours or your flight is cancelled, EU rule 261/2004 means you could be entitled to claim compensation. for UK departures UK 261 now applies.

Airlines have been fighting this rule, especially with regard to what constitutes ‘extraordinary circumstances’. A 2014 Supreme Court decision means that airlines now have to pay unless the cause was completely outside their control, extreme weather, volcano, air traffic strike etc.

There are plenty of rules surrounding this and so I’ll try and explain the most important of these here. Please note I’m not a lawyer and so can’t be held responsible for any errors below.

First rule: Claims can go back as far as 17 February 2005, although the further back you go, the harder it may be to claim. How far back depends on the laws of your local country. For example, in England, court claims can only go back six years.

Second rule: The three-hour delay applies to time of arrival and not departure. You’ll need to visit www.flightstats.com to check the status of your flight.

Third rule: Only applies to EU-regulated flights. So if you’re flight was delayed more than three hours or cancelled when departing from an EU country then you can claim. But if you were departing from a non-EU country, you can only claim if the airline is EU-regulated – for example British Airways but not American Airlines.

Fourth rule: The amount of compensation depends on the distance flown. Generally if you were flying within Europe, you’ll be in the less than 1500km bracket, long haul the 3500km bracket – but there is also a 1500 – 3500km bracket. If you aren’t sure you can check the distance on www.webflyer.com/travel/mileage_calculator/

Compensation for Delays or Cancellations

Flights of 1500km or less that are more than three hours delayed on arrival: €250

Flights within the EU over 1500km or for all other flights between 1501-3500km that are more than three hours delayed on arrival: €400

Flights over 3500km that are more than three hours delayed on arrival: €600.

How do I Claim?

Contact the airline. I’ve added links to a few of these below. Ensure that you provide the following details:

  • Flight number, date, time, departure airport, arrival airport – amount of delay or that it was cancelled.
  • Passenger names – each passenger in your party is entitled to compensation.
  • Amount of compensation claimed.
  • It also doesn’t hurt to mention that you are claiming compensation under EC Regulation 261/2004.

Links to Compensation Pages

British Airways

Virgin Atlantic

Thompson Online Form

Lufthansa Online Form


Air France