EU261 Compensation What Are My Rights To Claim Under EU Regulation 261/2004?

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What is EU Regulation 261/2004?

EU261 provides legal rights for passengers to claim compensation when their flight is delayed or cancelled or if they were denied boarding.

EU Reg 261 requires airlines to compensate passengers when flight delays or cancellations result in passengers reaching their final destination more than three hours later than originally scheduled.

To avoid paying compensation for delays, the airline must prove that the delay or cancellation was caused by an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and that it took all reasonable steps to prevent it.

The regulation’s purpose is to compensate passengers for the loss of time and inconvenience they suffered when they experienced significant disruption to their travel arrangements.

The European Commission established EU261 on February 11, 2004, and it became a binding law in each EU Member State on February 17, 2005.

The Regulation can be referred to as EU 261, EU261/2004, EC261, or EC261/2004, but it is the same regulation.

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Does EU Regulation 261 Still Apply In The UK?

The UK Government wrote EU Regulation 261 into UK law at the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020.

The name of the new law is Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 (as amended by The Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019).” It can sometimes be referred to as “UK261.”

UK passengers enjoy the exact same rights as before. Except now, depending on where they are flying, they are protected by the UK law or the existing EU version. Additionally, compensation is now paid in UK Pounds rather than Euros.

When Can I Claim EU 261 For A Delayed Flight?

You will be able to claim flight delay compensation under EU Regulation 261 in the following circumstances.

  • The flight departed within the last six years.
  • The flight was delayed for more than three hours.
  • The delay was not an “extraordinary circumstance.”

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Which Flights Are Covered By EU261?

EU Regulation 261 applies to any flight departing from the EU or UK and any flight arriving in the EU or UK on an EU or UK airline.

When Can I Claim EU261 Compensation For UK Flights?

Under UK law, you will be able to make a claim for EU261 compensation if your flight:

  • Departed from the UK
  • Arrived in the UK on a UK or EU airline
  • Arrived in the EU on a UK airline

Flights Covered By EUReg 261/2004

Departing From Arriving To Can I Claim?
Airport inside UK/ EU Airport inside UK/EU

Yes (Claimable for any airline)

Airport inside UK/ EU Airport outside UK/EU

Yes (Claimable for any airline)

Airport outside UK/EU Airport inside UK/EU

Yes (If on an EU based airline)

Airport outside UK/EU Airport outside UK/EU

No

If you’re unsure if your flight meets these criteria or is covered by EU regulation 261, you can use our free flight delay compensation calculator. It will automatically check your flight details and let you know how much compensation you can claim under EU261.

Just add your flight number and date of travel, and you will instantly find out if you have a valid flight delay claim.

When Can I Claim EU261 Compensation For European Flights?

The EU Version of EU261 applies if you’re travelling in Europe. You can claim compensation if your flight:

  • Departed from the EU and arrived in the UK
  • Departed from the UK and arrived in the EU with an EU airline

Some flights will be covered by both UK 261/2004 and EU 261/2004. In these cases, UK passengers should bring their flight delay claims to the UK court.

Additionally, non-EU citizens, including British citizens, can claim compensation for delayed flights in Europe that do not depart or arrive in the UK. You can claim if your flight:

  • Departed from the EU and arrived in the EU
  • Departed from the EU with an EU airline

In these instances, the claim must be presented to a European court.

What Are My Legal Rights Under EU Regulation 261/2004?

EU Regulation 261 offers protection to airline passengers in several different ways. Your exact rights to claim compensation will depend on several key factors, including what happened to your original flight, how long you were delayed, and the distance of your flight.

In general, passengers’ rights under EU261 fall into three main categories, each of which will be important to you at different points in your delay:

EU261 Compensation For Flight Delays

EU Regulation 261/2004 entitles you to monetary compensation for flight delays over three hours as long as the delay was not caused by what the EU261 classes as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.

Compensation amounts under EU261 for flight delays range from £220 to £520 per passenger.

EU261 Compensation Amounts in UK Pounds

Flight Distance Less than 3 hours 3 hours or more More than 4 hours Never arrived
All flights 1,500km or
less

£0

£220

£220

£220

Internal EU flights over 1,500km

£0

£350

£350

£350

Non-internal EU flights between 1,500km and 3,500km

£0

£350

£350

£350

Internal EU flights over 1,500km

£0

£260

£520

£520

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EU261 Compensation For Flight Cancellations

Your rights under EU261 to claim compensation for cancelled flights will depend on how many days before your departure your flight was cancelled and whether you decided to accept a refund or be re-routed.

If your flight is cancelled less than 14 days before your departure date, irrespective of the reason, you have the right to choose between the two following options;

  • You can choose to receive a full refund for your flight
  • You can agree to be re-routed on an alternative flight at no additional charge, either on the same airline or another airline
  • These options are open to you even if the cancellation is not the airline’s fault

If you chose to be re-routed and arrive at your final destination more than three hours later than your originally scheduled flight, you can claim compensation for the length of your delay.

EU261 Compensation For Denied Boarding

If you are denied boarding a flight because the flight has been overbooked, the airline must compensate you. Your rights to claim compensation under EU261 will include:
The reimbursement of the cost of the ticket within seven days or a return flight to the first point of departure or re-routing to their final destination;

  • Care and assistance to the passenger while they are travelling
  • Compensation as follows£220 for all flights of 1,500 kilometres or less, £350 for all EU UK Internal flights of more than 1,500 kilometres and all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres
  • £520 for all other flights
Meet The Team
Coby Benson Head Of Flight Compensation Team At Bott and Co

Coby Benson

A member of The Law Society, Coby helped establish the flight delay compensation sector in the UK.

His work has been recognised throughout the industry, winning numerous awards, including The Manchester Law Society Associate of the Year. Coby has been a key speaker on Flight Compensation, appearing on Sky News, BBC Radio and national newspapers as a flight delay expert.

Your Right To Care and Assistance During Flight Delays

Article 9 of EU Reg 261 states that airlines must provide passengers with a level of “care and assistance” if their flight is delayed beyond a certain number of hours.

Airline passengers are eligible for “care and assistance” if their flight is delayed at least 2 hours (for flights under 1,500km), delayed at least 3 hours (for flights between 1,500km and 3,500km), or at least 4 hours for flights over 3,500km.

Care and Assistance – Your Rights When Your Flight Is Delayed

Flight Distance Length of Delay
Up to 1,500km

After 2 hours

1,500km-3,500km

After 3 hours

Over 1,500km and between two EU States

After 3 hour

Over 3,500km

After 4 hours

Regardless of the reason for the delay, the airline must provide passengers with:

  • Food and drink in reasonable relation to waiting time
  • Free hotel accommodation when a stay of one night or more is necessary
  • Free transport between the airport and the hotel
  • Two free telephone calls, emails, telex or fax messages

The airline should cover all these costs during the delay as part of their ‘care and assistance’ obligations. However, we see cases where passengers have had to use their own money to buy food and drink or get taxis to and from the airports.

This right applies to delays, even if caused by what the regulation calls an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.

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What Is An Extraordinary Circumstance Under EU261?

Airlines are not responsible to pay compensation for delays or cancellations caused by circumstances that were not their fault. Under EU Regulation 261, these are known as “extraordinary circumstances.”

Such examples of extraordinary circumstances include;

Extraordinary circumstances for flight delays do not include situations where a known technical issue with the aircraft, insufficient staff or crew, an overbooked flight, or bad weather affecting a previous flight causes your flight to be delayed.

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How Do I Claim EU261 Compensation?

We helped establish this area of law by winning multiple landmark cases at the Supreme Court and have since helped hundreds of thousands of UK airline passengers claim flight delay compensation from the airlines. Many of them have been turned down after trying to claim directly with the airline.

Just add your flight details to our flight compensation checker to start your claim with us. Instantly, we will check the eligibility of your flight and tell you how much you can claim. Then, we only need a few more details to submit your claim.

Your claim is handled on a no-win, no-fee basis, so you will pay nothing if we can’t recover your compensation. Find out more about our fees.

If you wish to claim directly with the airline, your next step will be to write to them. Set out exactly what happened with your flight, why you believe you are entitled to compensation, and the amount you wish to claim as per your rights under Regulation EU 261/2004. We have a flight compensation claim template letter you can download and send to the airline if you need help.

There is no set timeframe in which the airline must respond to you, but, in our experience, you should usually receive a response within 30 days, even if it is simply to say they are looking into the matter for you. If you don’t receive a response, you may wish to complain to the Civil Aviation Authority. More information on the complaints procedure can be found on the Civil Aviation Authority’s website.

If you still haven’t progressed, even after consulting the CAA, your only remaining option is to issue Court Proceedings.

Issuing Court proceedings can often be a complicated and lengthy process. We recommend that you seek legal advice before doing so. For many people, this is the stage where they decide to get a solicitor to take over their claim.

When Does EU Regulation 261/2004 Apply?

Created by the European Commission (EC), EU Regulation 261/2004, more commonly known as EU Reg 261, applies to the UK and European Union (EU) countries that, as part of their membership, are bound by the rules and cannot opt out.

Some European countries that are not part of the European Union, such as Switzerland and Norway, have opted into EU Regulation 261 as a benefit to their citizens and travellers in and out of their airports.

See the air passenger rights page on the European Union’s official website for more information.

EU Countries Covered By EU261

EU 261 protects passengers on flights within the following 27 EU nations:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

EU261 Also Covers Flights Outside Of The EU In The Following Countries:

Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion Island, Mayotte, Saint-Martin (French Antilles), the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Is EU261 The Same As UK 261?

Yes, EU261 and UK 261 are the same law. The UK Government wrote EU Regulation 261 into UK law at the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020.

UK passengers enjoy the same rights as before. Except now, depending on where they are flying from and to, they are protected by UK law or the existing EU regulation.