EU Regulation 261/2004 is the law relating to flight delay compensation. It was originally introduced on the 17th February 2005 when it immediately became binding law in each of the EU Member States. However since then there have been a number of test cases and rulings which have given more clarity around what this regulation covers and when consumers can call on it for legal protection.
The purpose of EU Regulation 261/2004 is to enhance and enforce the rights of passengers who are subject to cancellations, delays, denied boarding and downgrading when flying. It was introduced to help compensate passengers for the loss of time and inconvenience suffered when you experience a flight delay or cancellation.
While flight delay compensation was in force in Europe, it was still unknown in the UK until a few years ago when key consumer cases were won by Bott and Co at the highest courts in the land.
EU Regulation 261/2004 is an EU law so it applies to countries in the European Union (EU) and was created by the European Commission (EC) so it’s sometimes called EC261 or EC Regulation 261 – but it’s all the same thing!
All countries that are part of the EU fall under the regulation 261 rules – there is no option to opt out. Some European countries that are not part of the European Union, such as Switzerland and Norway, have opted in to EU Regulation 261 as a benefit to their citizens and travellers in and out of the their airports.
Flight Delay Regulations apply to anybody (regardless of age or nationality) whose flight departs from an airport based in an EU country or whose flight arrives into an EU country and is operated by an EU airline.
That means any flights taking off from the UK, or landing in the UK on an EU airline are always covered.
This also means even American, Middle Eastern, or Asian airlines have to abide by the EU flight compensation rules when leaving from an EU airport.
|Departing From||Arriving To||Can I Claim?|
|Airport inside EU||Airport inside EU||Yes (Claimable for any airline)|
|Airport inside EU||Airport outside EU||Yes (Claimable for any airline)|
|Airport outside EU||Airport inside EU||Yes (If on an EU based airline)|
|Airport outside EU||Airport outside EU||No|
If you’re not sure if your flight meets these criteria or if it is covered by flight delay law, you can use our free checker that will automatically check your flight details and let you know if you can claim. Just type in your flight date and time and you will find out instantly if you have a valid flight delay claim.
These Regulations offer protection in a number of different ways. The exact rights you have will depend on a number of 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 Regulation 261 fall into three main categories, each of which will be important to you at different points in your delay:
Right To Reimbursement or Re-Routing
This is most important whilst your delay is actually happening and your flight is being affected. It’s really valuable to know your rights before you travel so that you’re well informed as to your entitlements should you experience a delay.
If your flight is cancelled then the airline may offer to put you on an alternative flight. If you miss your connecting flight then the airline might book you onto the next flight leaving for your intended final destination. If you are delayed overnight then the airline should put you up in a hotel room and pay for transport to/from the airport.
Right To Care and Assistance
Again, your right to care and assistance from the airline comes into play whilst you are actually being delayed. This right applies to delays, even if they are caused by what the regulation calls an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.
The right to care and assistance kicks in after two hours for flights up to 1500km; after three hours for flights between 1500-3500km; and after four hours for flights over 3500km. This element of the regulation entitles you to:
- Food and drink in reasonable relation to the waiting time
- Hotel accommodation if you need to stay overnight
- Transport between the airport and hotel (if necessary)
- Two telephone calls/telex/fax messages/emails
Right To Compensation Under EU261
This element of your passenger rights will probably become most relevant once you are back home. EU Regulation 261/2004 entitles you to monetary compensation for delays over three hours, or cancellations as long as it is not caused by what the Regulations call an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.
If the airline does not offer you information and advice on claiming flight compensation whilst you’re atthe airport, you should contact them directly to request compensation.
Unfortunately, in our experience the Airlines often do not pay out easily. Below we look at how you can make sure you get the compensation EU 261/2004 says you are entitled to.
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- 100% No Win No Fee Guarantee
- £54m Claimed For Over 158,000 Passengers
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- Payouts Can Be As Short As 30 Days*
The amount of monetary compensation you can claim will depend on whether your flight was delayed or cancelled; how long it was delayed for; and how far you were flying.
If your flight is delayed or if you miss a connecting flight and arrive at your final destination more than three hours later than scheduled then you are entitled to compensation in line with the amounts shown below:-
Flight Delay Compensation Amounts Under EU261
|Flight Distance||Length Of Delay||Compensation Amount|
|Up to 1,500km||3 hours or more||€250|
|1,500km-3,500km||3 hours or more||€400|
|Over 3,500km||3 hours or more & between 2 EU Member States||€400|
|Over 3,500km||3-4 hours||€300|
|Over 3,500km||4 hours||€600|
Flight Cancellation Compensation Amounts Under EU261
If your flight was cancelled less than seven days before departure or if you were rerouted to your final destination then you are entitled to the following amounts:-
Flight Cancellation Compensation Amounts (No replacement flight offered)
|Flight Distance||Compensation Amount|
|Up to 1,500km||€250|
|Over 1,500km and between two EU States||€400|
See our flight cancellation compensation page for more information on your right to compensation in the event of a cancellation.
If you are unsure of the distance of your flight then you can use our free flight claim checker which will check the distance automatically and check to see if you are likely to be entitled to compensation under Regulation 261/2004.
How Do I Claim Flight Compensation Under EU261/2004?
If you want to claim flight compensation the first thing to do is to check whether the cause of your delay/cancellation is claimable.
Regulation 261/2004 states that airlines do not have to pay compensation for delays which are caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’ which includes things such as industrial strike action, extreme weather conditions and terrorism or sabotage.
Your next step will be to contact the airline directly: Write them a letter setting 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’ve got a handy template letter that you can download and use to send to the airline if you need help in doing this.
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.
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 then 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 find that you are still getting nowhere, even after consulting the CAA, your only remaining option is to issue Court Proceedings.
Issuing Court proceedings can often be a complicated and length process. We would recommend that you seek legal advice before doing so and, for a lot of people, this would be the stage where they decide to get a solicitor to take over their claim.
Bott and Co can handle flight compensation claims on your behalf from start to finish on a no-win no-fee basis. In the past we have even taken on claims part-way through where people have come to a dead-end when claiming themselves. This service is extremely helpful for claimants who might not have the time to conduct the claim on their own, or perhaps want the expert input of a lawyer who specialises in compensation due under Regulation 261/2004.
If you would like to instruct Bott and Co to handle your claim then all you need to do is to complete a claim online. We will then assess your prospects of successfully claiming and take your case on if we think it is valid.
If however you do wish to pursue your flight delay claim yourself, there are a number of common pitfalls that you should avoid to maximise your chances of success.
Why Choose Bott and Co?
- We've Claimed More Compensation Than Any Other Flight Delay Law Firm
- The Airlines Can’t Ignore Us – We’ll Take Care Of All Communication And Paperwork For You
- Industry Leading Success Rates
- Just Add Your Flight Details And We'll Do The Rest
How Much Does Bott and Co Charge to Handle My Claim?
Bott and Co work on a strict no-win-no-fee system and we’ll even payout for any Court fees on your behalf. That means there’s absolutely no financial risk to you when claiming with us, and nothing to pay upfront.
If the claim is successful then we will deduct a maximum of 25% + VAT of the total compensation amount plus a £25 per passenger administration fee and pay the remaining amount (approximately 70%) into your bank account.
Our Flight Delay Compensation Services At A Glance
|Services||Bott and Co||You|
|Claim assessed for legal validity under EC Regulation 261/2004|
|Actual flight times provided|
|Claim letter to submit to airline|
|Meteorological conditions checked|
|Free advice by telephone and internet|
|Claim cross referenced against database of previous successful claims|
|Formal legal letter sent to airline|
|Drafting of court proceedings included|
|Representation at court included|
|No need for client to attend court|
|Court fees paid on your behalf (Average £150)|
|Fee paid for an expert report to combat ‘technical defect’ arguments (Up to £750)|
|Fee paid for an expert report to combat ‘weather’ arguments|
|No financial risk – no win, no fee|
How Brexit Affects Your Claiming Rights
Right now you’re still covered by Regulation 261/2004 and you can benefit from the air passenger rights for care and assistance during delays of more than two hours (depending on the distance of the flight) and for claims for compensation of up to €600 for delays of more than three hours (depending on the flight distance).
Flight Compensation, The EU and Brexit
As an EU law not all European countries are covered by the regulation by default. They must also be a part of the European Union, or have opted in to the EU regulation. The referendum in the UK in 2016 was a vote to leave or remain in the EU but it won’t affect the fact that geographically we’ll still be part of Europe.
If the UK does eventually leave the EU then there are a number of different possible scenarios around EU261 and how it will apply in the UK. It’s almost impossible to know for certain what the impact will be.
One course of action is for the government to adopt all EU rules and regulations in bulk to make the Brexit process quicker and easier. This would mean that EU Regulation 261 still applied – similar to how Norway and Switzerland adopted the EU261 rules. The government might decide whether or not to keep the regulation or perhaps to change it, or even get rid of it all together.
If the UK Government decides it doesn’t want the Regulation 261 then that doesn’t mean the rules stop being relevant – it will continue to be an EU regulation, regardless of what the UK’s role in the EU is.
If we abandon the regulation and leave the EU then EU261 will continue to apply to flights in and out of the UK in the same way it applies to countries and airports currently outside of the EU such as the USA or India.
It would mean that any flight arriving into the UK from countries still in the EU would be covered by the regulation. Any flight departing the UK going into an EU country on an EU airline would be covered. We’ve set some examples out below to give you a better idea of what would and wouldn’t be covered.
When Can You Claim EU flight compensation?
It can get complicated quite quickly and you need a decent understanding of geography to work out all the various permutations of arrival and departure locations so we’ve listed some common examples below for the UK both in and out of the EU.
North America and The UK
A flight from North America to the UK, such as Orlando to London, would be covered by EU261 only if it was on an EU airline (BA, Virgin, Air France, for example). If it was on a non-EU airline such as American Airlines, then it wouldn’t be covered as it would be arriving into the EU from outside the EU on a non-EU airline.
If the flight was going the other way, so departing London to Orlando, then it would be covered by EU Regulation 261 regardless of the airline – as all flights departing the EU are covered by the rules of the regulation.
Potential Brexit Impact
We leave the EU and retain the regulation: The rules remain as above
We leave the EU and don’t retain the regulation: Neither the flight from Orlando to London or London to Orlando would be covered by the regulation, regardless of the airline as it would be classed as a non-EU to non-EU flight and BA and Virgin Atlantic would no longer be EU airlines.
Asia/Middle East & The UK
There are increasing numbers of flights to and from Asian and Middle Eastern airports such as Dubai, Delhi and Hong Kong and the UK as these routes grow in popularity.
Direct flights to these locations, as with all worldwide destinations, are covered by EU261 when departing from an EU country, regardless of the airline you fly on.
If you are flying into the UK, or any EU country, from Asia or the Middle East then you would be covered by the EU261 rules only if you were on an EU airline. This means for example, Tokyo to London on British Airways would be covered by the EU Regulation, but on Nippon Airways you wouldn’t be covered as it is a Japanese airline. You would of course be ok leaving from London on Nippon Airways.
Potential Brexit Impact
We leave the EU and retain the regulation: The rules remain as above
We leave the EU and don’t retain the regulation: Neither the flight from Tokyo to London or London to Tokyo would be covered by the regulation, regardless of the airline as it would be classed as a non-EU to non-EU flight.
Australia and The UK
There aren’t currently any direct flights to and from Australia and the UK – although some are planned for 2018.
The rules around connecting flights and delays are being debated in the UK and European courts so at this stage there is no certainty over what can and can’t be claimed for.
If the connecting flight was purchased as part of the same ticket on the same airline and the connecting airport is in the EU then you should be eligible for claiming flight delay compensation under the EU261 rules.
If the connecting route is outside the EU then the airlines are arguing this shouldn’t be covered by the regulation. If the airlines lose this case then it should mean all connecting flights will be covered if the original flight is departing the EU.
Potential Brexit Impact
Until the outcomes of the lead case on connecting flights is decided, it’s almost impossible to know how this part of the EU regulation will be affected if the UK leaves the EU.
EU City to EU City
This is where the rules get a bit easier! Any flight departing from an EU country is covered by the regulation regardless of the airline or destination.
Even European countries not in the EU, such as Norway and Switzerland, have adopted the regulation so you’re also covered departing from their airports too.
If the UK does leave the EU it might choose to adopt the regulation in the same way as Norway and Switzerland, this should mean there would be no change in passenger rights for travellers in the UK.