Flight Delays – How To Claim Compensation

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How To Claim For Flight Delays

If you are looking to claim flight delay compensation then this guide will give you all the information you need to work out if you are entitled to up to £520 for your flight delay.

We are the leading experts on delayed flight compensation having successfully taken the airlines to the Supreme Court twice on behalf of millions of air passengers.

Our claim process is the quickest and easiest way you can recover your compensation with over a hundred thousand people using our simple flight delay calculator each year.

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Flight Delays – The Facts and Figures

When is a flight delay actually a flight delay? When it is delayed by more than 15 minutes, according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Although a flight is technically classed as delayed after the 15 minute mark, it is only after a 3 hour delay that passengers can claim compensation – with care and assistance due from 2 hours.

Consumer group Which? analysed data from the CAA to show that while 37 million passenger journeys were delayed more than 15 minutes, only 900,000 people were eligible to claim compensation for a delay of more than 3 hours.

The BBC’s analysis of CAA data around the same time showed Gatwick Airport had the highest average delay of 18 minutes, followed by Heathrow at a 13 minute average.

If you are one of the 37 million journeys delayed by more than 15 minutes you might justifiably be annoyed – particularly if the delay ended up being as much as one or two hours.

If, on the other hand, you are the one of the 900,000 delayed by more than 3 hours then you should be eligible for a payout of up to £520 in flight delay compensation.

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EU261 And Flight Delays

The delayed flight compensation rules are quite complicated, which can cause problems for passengers looking to claim compensation for delayed flights from the airline.

EU Regulation 261/2004 was introduced by the European Commission in 2005 to protect passengers from poor treatment by airlines when flights were delayed, cancelled, or over-booked leading to passengers being denied boarding.

It was extended to account for cancelled flights and then also to cover delays of more than 3 hours for flights departing from an EU country or arriving on an EU airline into the EU.

EU 261 Is Now Written Into UK Law

The UK Government wrote EU Regulation 261 into UK law at the end of the Brexit transition period. 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).”

UK passengers enjoy the same rights as before. Except now, depending on their travel arrangements, they are protected by either the UK law or the existing EU version.

The regulation stipulates that airlines must payout financial compensation to passengers who experience a delay of more than 3 hours on arrival of up to £520 per passenger.

Anyone can claim compensation for a delay if they are travelling on a ticket purchased at a rate available to the general public – even if it wasn’t you that bought the ticket.

Despite airlines fighting this regulation in many different court cases over the last decade, Bott and Co’s landmark victories have continued to secure air passenger rights in the UK for millions of people.

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What Flights Are Eligible For Flight Compensation?

For a flight to be eligible for compensation under Regulation 261 it must have departed from a UK or EU airport or arrived in a UK or EU airport on an EU airline.

For example, a flight from London to any destination on any airline would be covered by the regulation. A flight to London from New York on British Airways would be covered but the same route on American Airlines wouldn’t be covered as it’s not an EU carrier.

The flight must be delayed by at least 3 hours on arrival at the original destination. This means if you set off 3 hours 10 minutes late and the pilot makes up 15 minutes during the flight, so you arrive 2 hours 55 minutes late – you wouldn’t be able to claim compensation.

Flights Covered By EU Reg 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


You can make a flight delay claim for flights up to six years ago. Any flight delay older than six years can’t be pursued in court, so it’s very unlikely you will be able to make the airline pay out.

It can sometimes take many months, or even years in extreme landmark cases, to reach a successful resolution if the airline chooses to continue defending the claim. However, once court proceedings have been issued, this ‘stops the clock’ on the six year time period.

This is the reason we issue court proceedings as soon as possible – plus it helps to speed the process up and get you your compensation quicker!

How Much Compensation Can I Claim For Delayed Flight?

Flight delay compensation amounts are fixed by the European Regulation and there is a maximum claim payout amount of £520 per passenger, no matter if the delay is 4 hours or 40 hours.

The lowest fixed amount for a delay is £20 for shorter flights. To qualify for the £520 you have to be delayed on a flight of more than 3,500 kilometres (such as Manchester to Dubai) and delayed for at least four hours.

Our unique flight delay calculator will figure out your compensation amount in a matter of seconds. Simply input your flight number and date of travel, or use our flight lookup feature if you can’t remember your flight number.

For UK passengers traveling in and out of the UK, the compensation will be paid in UK Pounds.

UK Regulation 261 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





Internal EU flights over 1,500km





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





Internal EU flights over 3,500km





If you are claiming compensation for flights outside of the UK, the compensation amounts will be paid in Euros.

EU Regulation 261 Compensation Amounts in Euros

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





Internal EU flights over 1,500km





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





Non Internal EU flights over 3,500km





Airlines Should Also Provide Care And Assistance

Article 9 of EC261/2004 states that you are also entitled to ‘care and assistance’ from the airline – even I the flight delay is due to extraordinary circumstances. This kicks in after a delay of two hours if the distance of your flight is greater than 1500Km. In these instances airlines are obliged to provide the following:

  • 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

How To Check If You Have A Valid Flight Delay Claim

There are a number of key things to remember if you want to know if your flight delay qualifies for compensation.

  • Delay must be over 3 hours on arrival
  • Flight must have been within the last 6 years
  • Flight must have departed from the EU or arrived in the EU on an EU airline.

If you are struggling to find this information there are some online tools that can help. Flightstats.com is a website that you can’t use for the purposes of claiming flight delay compensation but you can use for checking the actual arrival times for your flight – this will give you an idea of whether it qualifies for a claim.

Although on the face of it claiming delayed flight compensation should be fairly straightforward because the airlines have a legitimate defence of extraordinary circumstances they have a right to defend each and every case. This might make it difficult to get your rightful compensation if you don’t know the law around Regulation EU261.

You can also use our flight delay calculator online and get all the information you need in one quick calculation done by our database systems. Simply input your flight number and date (or use our flight lookup tool if you can’t locate your flight number) and we’ll be able to tell you instantly whether your flight is eligible for compensation, and how much you’re entitled to claim.

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.

What Are Extraordinary Circumstances?

The only defence the airline has to avoid paying flight compensation is extraordinary circumstances.

Your airline may say that your delay was caused by an extraordinary circumstance. If this is the case for your particular flight, then you may need our legal team to issue court proceedings so we can get a judgment against the airline from the courts.

As the law currently stands, there are a number of unusual situations that are classed as extraordinary circumstances, and therefore not eligible for flight delay claims. These are:

  • Freak weather conditions affecting the flight in question
  • Acts of sabotage or terrorism
  • Unexpected flight safety shortcomings
  • Political or civil unrest (where this is unusual)
  • Hidden manufacturing defects (resulting in recall of a fleet of aircraft)

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How Do I Know If I Can Claim? We Answer Some Frequently Asked Questions

We’ll run through a number of examples of delayed flights, and discuss whether you can claim compensation.

Can I Claim for Delays Caused By The Airline?

Flight delays caused by something within the control of the airline are almost always eligible for compensation under Regulation 261.

Problems with airline check-in systems that cause long delays would be claimable, as explained above. One of the more common airline-related issues is denied boarding due to overbooking. This occurs as a result of the airline selling more tickets than actual seats on the assumption not all passengers will show up.

When everyone does present for check-in and there are too many people for the flight, the airline will have to deny boarding to certain passengers if no-one volunteers to miss the flight. Cases of denied boarding would always be claimable in this situation.

The other common airline-related reason for delays is to do with crew and staffing problems. We’ve won some significant cases in court to do with crew sickness, so delays caused by crew or staff illness are claimable. The only exception would be if the pilot had to divert the flight because of a medical emergency on board.

Often a long delay can result in the aircraft crew going over their allotted hours and therefore being unable to staff the plane. This type of case would be eligible for flight compensation.

Can I Claim For Delays Caused By Bad Weather?

Flight delays caused by weather, or meteorological conditions, can often be eligible for flight compensation if the delay is more than 3 hours on arrival at the intended destination.

As with many aspects of this area of law, it can get complicated very quickly.

Airlines don’t have to pay flight compensation if the delay is due to an ‘extraordinary circumstance.’ In terms of weather-related delays, this would mean the weather conditions would need to be regarded as ‘freak’ – a volcano eruption and ash cloud for example.

Flight Delays Due To Snow

If the delay is due to snow or ice and you were flying to a ski resort in winter, then those conditions wouldn’t be regarded as freak – you would expect snow at a ski resort of course! However, a snowstorm or ice in Barcelona in summer would certainly be an extraordinary circumstance.

Flight Delays Due To Fog Or Wind

Other wintry weather conditions such as fog and wind could also be both eligible for flight compensation or an extraordinary circumstance, depending on the severity and how it affects the operation of the airports in question.

If the fog or wind is so bad that air traffic control at the arrival or departure airport have to reduce the number of flights coming in or out, or even close the airport completely, then this would usually be considered an extraordinary circumstance.

Flight Delays Due To Rain

Delays caused by heavy rain would need to be so bad that there are floods in the airport or there is an air traffic control decision to limit flights or close the airport. Pilots are usually able to land aircraft in very wet rainy conditions, so even very heavy rain shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Flight Delays When It’s Too Hot

Many of us jet off to hotter climates for our holidays and it has been known for temperatures to get so hot that it affects flights coming in or out of particular airports.

In an instance where it is so hot the runway tarmac softens up, air traffic control may decide to close the runway. This would therefore become an Air Traffic Control issue and not necessarily because it is too hot to fly.

Flight Delays Due To Sandstorms

Typically hot destinations such as the Middle East can also experience sandstorms which cause flight delays. These events would be considered an extraordinary circumstance, unless they happened on a sufficiently regular basis to not be classed as ‘freak’ conditions.

Storms can cause problems for airlines and result in delays. Severe turbulence can occur when flying through storms and if the turbulence became so severe that the pilot had to divert the flight then this would most likely be classed as an unexpected flight safety shortcoming and not eligible for compensation.

Flight Delays Caused When The Previous Flight Is Delayed

With all the weather-related situations above it is important to note that even when the delay is an extraordinary circumstance, it usually only applies to that particular flight, and not subsequent ones.

For example, if your flight is delayed from Manchester to Malaga because the aircraft that was due to take you to Malaga is stuck in a snowstorm in Norway, the Norway to Manchester delay might be exempt from flight compensation but you should be able to claim as the weather conditions were ok between Manchester airport and Malaga.

Can I Claim If The Delay Was Strike Related?

Claiming flight compensation for delays caused by strikes is still a subject for debate in the courts so it’s difficult to give definitive answers either way.

To clarify, we are talking about people striking, not bird strikes or lightning strikes.

Air traffic control strikes are not usually claimable, although in areas where they become so frequent that they are no longer ‘extraordinary’ then they might be eligible for compensation.

Strikes by the staff of a specific airline where other airlines are still operating would be claimable under the regulation. This would usually include strikes by baggage handlers and airport staff.

Can I Claim For Delays Caused By A Third Party?

Many third party cause delays are eligible for flight compensation – and there have been a number of cases taken to court by Bott and Co to clarify these points in law.

Before explaining the issues involving third parties that are claimable, it’s important to note there are some situations where a third party cause a delay and are not cases we would take on. These include:

  • Acts of deliberate sabotage (such as damage to an aircraft by another person in an act of sabotage)
  • Terrorism or terrorist activity
  • Other security risks such as civil unrest or war
  • Airport closed due to flood or power cut

Most other third party issues would be eligible for compensation and there are a few more common situations where we’ve made successful claims on behalf of passengers.

For example, if the motorised boarding stairs or the luggage trucks hit the aircraft causing damage that needs to be repaired before travel, then this would be claimable if the delay extends beyond the three hour mark.

Airlines also have problems with their check-in computer systems from time to time and these usually receive lots of media coverage. A check-in glitch would be eligible for compensation if it caused a long delay.

Although not technically a third party as such, bird strikes that cause delays due to planes being repaired, are not eligible for flight delays compensation.

Can I Claim If My Flight Was Delayed By 2 Hours?

Under the rules of the regulation you need to be delayed by more than three hours on arrival at your destination airport in order to claim compensation for a delayed flight. The compensation amount varies between £220 and £520 depending on the distance of the flight and the delay length.

You will be entitled to care and assistance if delayed flights hit the 2 hour mark – even if it’s due to extraordinary circumstances. This is for shorter flights as medium and long haul flights the care and assistance kicks in later (3 hours and 4 hours respectively).

Can I Claim If My Flight Was Delayed By 3 Hours?

If your flight was more than 3 hours delayed on arrival then you are able to claim compensation for up to £520 depending on the distance of the flight and the actual length of the delay.

You would have been entitled to care and assistance from 2, 3, or 4 hours depending on the flight distance and if the flight was more than 3,500km and the delay over 4 hours on arrival then you would qualify for the maximum compensation amount of £520.

To find out your compensation amount based on flight distance and delay length then input your flight details into our calculator and we’ll let you know instantly what amount of delayed flight compensation you are entitled to.

Can I Claim If My Flight Was Delayed By 4 Hours?

If your flight was delayed more than four hours then you will be eligible to claim delayed flight compensation and the airline must pay you unless there were any extraordinary circumstances causing the delay.

If you flight delay is valid then you would be entitled to the maximum compensation for a four hour delay – this means a claim value of £520 if your flight was more than 3,500km in distance.

Can I Claim If My Flight Was Delayed By 5 Hours?

If you are looking at delayed flight compensation for a recent flight delay, the good news is that you are definitely able to submit a claim for a 5 hour delay.

The 5 hour mark is an important one because it is at that point in a delay where, under the regulation, you are entitled to a full refund.

Can I Claim If My Flight Was Delayed By 6 Hours?

Yes. As long as there were no extraordinary circumstances then the airline should pay you delayed flight compensation for a 6 hour delay. You also are entitled to a full refund.

Don’t forget that if you had a delayed flight of more than 3 hours and want to claim compensation, the airline may have a legitimate defence of extraordinary circumstances and they may choose not to pay you.

If this happens then submit your flight details through our calculator and our legal team will investigate on your behalf the real reasons of the delay. We’ve won many cases where the airline told a passenger it wouldn’t pay delayed flight compensation.

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    Claim is settled and you receive your compensation

Can I Claim For Flight Delays On My Travel Insurance?

More travel insurance policies are covering long flight delays and you may need to make a claim for your delay against your policy. However, it’s important to understand that the compensation for delayed flights under the EU261 rules are completely separate to any insurance policies you may have.

The maximum cover amounts in insurance policies often don’t match the amounts set by the Regulation and any claim for EU261 delayed flight compensation doesn’t affect your insurance policy.

Can I Claim For Flight Delays Caused By A Technical Fault?

If you flight was delayed more than 3 hours because of a technical fault then you will be able to claim delayed flight compensation. Following a Supreme Court judgment won by Bott and Co in 2014, technical faults are claimable when they cause the delay.

Can I Claim For A Missed Connection?

There are certain circumstances you can claim delayed flight compensation for a missed connection. The route must have been purchased as one overall ticket, rather than two separate purchases. If this is the case and the first flight is delayed sufficiently that you miss the connection then you are eligible to claim.

It can start to get complicated for connections outside of the EU so if you’re struggling, or the airline refuses to pay out then get in touch and we’ll let you know if you can claim.

Can I Claim For Flight Delays If I Didn’t Buy The Ticket?

Under the terms of Regulation 261/2004 you are compensated for the inconvenience and loss of time, not for the cost of the ticket. This means that it doesn’t matter who bought the ticket, it’s the passenger that is eligible to claim delayed flight compensation.

If you are travelling on business and your company purchased the ticket then you can still claim compensation under the regulations.

Can I Claim For Flight Delays For A Child Under Two?

Yes, you can claim for an infant under 2 years of age as long as you paid something for their ticket. This is often an admin fee or reduced rate available to the public. You would claim on their behalf as their ‘litigation friend’.

Can I Claim For Flight Delays If I Was Put on A Different Airline?

If the original flight was delayed and you are put on an alternative flight with a different airline that arrives more than 3 hours late then you can claim against your original airline, rather than the replacement one.

Can I Claim For Flight Delays If I Can’t Find My Ticket?

You don’t actually need your ticket in order to claim delayed flight compensation. In some cases it can help to speed the process up but it’s not necessary as all the airlines keep a record of who flew on their flights.

Can I Claim For Flight Delays If I Don’t Know My Ticket Reference Number?

As above, you don’t need any documentation or reference numbers to claim flight compensation. As long as you were actually on the flight of course, then the airline will have a record of you.

Nowadays many flight reservation confirmations (and tickets) are sent by email so you might be able to find the flight information that way to make claiming easier.

*Based on 10,211 court proceedings issued between May 2013 and February 2016.