Flight Schedule Change Compensation: What are the Rules?

Has the airline changed your flight schedule? You may have a right to a compensation and/or a refund. Learn the rules when your flight time changes!

With the constant ebb and flow of air traffic and the intricacies of airline operations, flight schedule changes are almost inevitable.

How does this affect your air travel? What if the change interferes with your travel plans, or you find yourself with a long layover instead of a nonstop flight?

This comprehensive guide will navigate the labyrinth of airline schedule changes and what they mean for air passengers and their rights.

Victim of a schedule change? Missed your connecting flights because of one? Check if you're entitled to compensation now with the Service app. You only need to connect your inbox - we take care of the rest:

Flights Schedule Change Rules

What is considered a change of schedule?

When we speak of a change of flight or a schedule change, it encompasses a wide range of alterations. From a slight shift in the scheduled departure time to a complete date change, the changes can be vast. It can even mean moving from a direct flight to one with a stopover or from a nonstop to a connecting flight.

There are 3 categories of flight change:

  • minor,
  • significant, or
  • cancellation.
The distinction matters because it will influence what your rights are. More on that below 👇

A flight schedule change can also occur when your direct flight becomes a connecting one, or when the airline changes the aircraft that will operate the flight.

However, if the airline changes your flight altogether (i.e. you will travel on a flight that has a different flight number than the one you initially book), this is regarded as a flight cancellation instead of a flight schedule change.

What are your rights when the airline modifies the time of your flight?

Your flight details, such as departure time and arrival time, are vital. If there's a significant schedule change, such as altering your original flight's departure date or if you're denied boarding because the flight was overbooked, different airlines offer various protections. For instance, European airlines, under certain conditions, must offer flight compensation for disruptions, while U.S. airlines may have different policies based on their contract of carriage.

Your rights depend on the type of schedule change more than whether it is a domestic or international flight. And the definition of type of schedule change varies from one airline to another.

We've listed what is regarded as a minor change by some airlines below. To know what your airline defines as a minor delay, refer to their Terms and Conditions.

Minor change

Passengers victim of a minor schedule change have generally no choice but to accept it. If this happens to you, feel free to ask for a refund or an alternate flight, but keep in mind that you are not covered by any law and the airline doesn't have the obligation to refund or reroute you on a different flight.

Significant change

A significant change of schedule gives passengers more options. In most cases, the airline will offer you the choice between getting a reimbursement or a rerouting on a comparable flight.

Note that if the airline offers you a rerouting as an alternative to the schedule change, you do NOT have to accept it if the flight is not to your convenience. In this case, contact the airline to ask for a different flight or a full refund.

Flight cancellation

If the airline cancels your flight altogether (or presents a change of flight as a schedule change), you have even more rights. First, you must be offered a choice between a refund for a canceled flight or an alternate flight.

Then, you may also be entitled to a flight cancellation compensation. For that, the airline must have warned you about the cancellation less than 14 days prior to the flight. The exact notification date influences the flight compensation amount.

Flight Schedule Change Compensation

Can you get compensation if the airline changes the flight schedule?

If you're informed about a flight schedule change less than 14 days before your flight, and it leads to a significant delay or a change in your flight time, compensation might be due. Airlines like Delta, American Airlines, Southwest, and United Airlines have their own specific policies, which usually align with the Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines.

In Europe, the compensation amount varies based on when you were notified and the length of the journey. You can get up to 600€ per passenger in compensation.

Can you get a refund if the airline changes the flight schedule?

Absolutely! A significant change or a canceled flight should automatically trigger an offer for a full refund. Airlines like Air Canada, British Airways, and Alaska might provide you with a travel voucher as compensation or the option to rebook on a different flight, but keep in mind that you don’t have to accept the alternative flight and may demand a flight cancellation refund instead.
In other words, you're entitled to a refund in cases of "significant flight schedule change" and flight cancellations, but not in the case of a "minor flight schedule change".

Can I get rebooked if the airline changes my flight’s schedule?

Rebooking is often the best bet. If the new flight schedule doesn't accommodate your plans, airlines will typically offer an alternative flight or even a return flight if you're mid-journey.


In the ever-fluctuating world of air travel, changes are part and parcel of the journey. From the excitement of take-off to the anticipation of landing, there can be unexpected turns.
Being informed about your rights and options, from flight cancellation compensation to alternative flights, ensures that even if your airline changes course, your travel plans don't have to.
Remember, whether it's American Airlines or British Airways, Southwest, Delta, or any other airline, for that matter, familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of flight schedule changes is your passport to stress-free travel.
Safe journeys! 🌍🛩️

Victim of a schedule change? Missed your connecting flights because of one? Check if you're entitled to compensation now with the Service app. You only need to connect your inbox - we take care of the rest:

Flight Schedule Change FAQ

Can flight times change after booking?

Yes, flight times, from the scheduled departure to the flight number, can change post-booking. This is especially common during high air traffic seasons or in the aftermath of significant disruptions, such as a pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, a lot of flights were canceled because of coronavirus.

When you book a flight, you agree on its schedule. However, all airlines reserve themselves the right to change the time (and sometimes even the date) of the flight, as per their terms and conditions. Specifically, airlines do not guarantee flight times and stress that those are not part of the contract of carriage.

Here's an example with this extract from American Airlines' contract of carriage:

"Sometimes we have to make adjustments to our operation, and between the time you book and the day you depart [...]. When there are changes that affect your trip, we'll try to contact you in advance and move you to a similar seat, though we can't make any guarantees. We do our best to be on time but our flight schedule is not guaranteed and not part of this contract. We are not liable if we're late or you don't make your connection, or we change the schedule of any flight."

And another from British Airways' contract of carriage:

"The flight times shown in our timetables may change between the date of publication and the date you actually travel. We do not guarantee these flight times to you and they do not form part of your contract of carriage with us."

Unfortunately for air passengers, the Department of Transportation (DOT) confirms this statement.

Regulators like the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) confirm this as well: "While a change to the flight number is covered by the law, a modification of the flight time and date is only covered by the airline’s terms and conditions."

How much can an airline change your flight?

There is no specific limit to how much the airline can change your flight time. However, all airlines define the limits of what they consider to be a "minor schedule change".

Here are a few examples:

  • American Airlines: 1 hour
  • British Airways: 2 hours
  • EasyJet: 5 hours
  • Ryanair: 3 hours
  • United Airlines: 30 minutes

As a rule of thumb, if your delay at arrival or departure exceeds this amount of time, the flight schedule change is regarded as "significant" and the airline will offer a rerouting or a refund.

Do you have to accept flight changes?

While you're bound to the flight's scheduled departure and arrival time, for significant schedule changes, you have the right to request other options.

What happens if my flight schedule changes because of extraordinary circumstances?

In scenarios of extraordinary circumstances, which might include severe weather or air traffic control mandates, airlines are usually exempted from compensatory obligations.

Adverse weather conditions, along with air traffic control restrictions, or the coronavirus pandemic, are considered extraordinary circumstances. This means that if your travel plans are disrupted because of one of these events, you won’t be entitled to compensation under EU law (the reference for passenger rights in the air travel industry).For example, the departure date or departure time might change because the airline operates fewer flights.

Can you change your ticket for free if there’s a time change for your flight?

Many airlines, including giants like Delta Airlines and United, can waive the change fee for significant schedule changes. However, always check the airline's policy.

In most cases, the change fee will vary depending on the nature of the disruption. For minor flight delays, you won’t be able to change your ticket without paying a fee. But if, say, the airline changes the departure date, you should be able to change your ticket for free.

Note that the change fee is not necessarily proportional to the ticket price: it’s usually a flat fee which you can find in the airline’s cancellation policy.

How do I accept or refuse a schedule change?

Usually, you don’t have to do anything when you agree to the schedule change. Just present yourself at the airport after checking-in.

If you want a different flight or a refund, however, contacting the airline directly is your best approach. Be it phone calls to their customer service or through a travel agent, you need to make your stance clear.

I booked through a travel agency. How does this affect my options?

Travel agencies, like your concierge, have direct channels with airlines. If you booked through them, they might handle all communications regarding airline schedule changes on your behalf.

How do airline ticket prices factor in during a flight schedule change?

If you're rerouted or placed on a different flight and there's a significant difference in airfare, you might be entitled to a reimbursement.

Can my credit card offer any additional protections?

Certain credit card offers, especially those catering to frequent flyers, come with air travel protections. This could include compensations for flight delay, flight cancellation, or even perks like access to lounges during extended layovers.

Why do airlines have schedule changes?

Airlines make tickets available for purchase about 12 months prior to the flight, but the airports can confirm the time slots only about 3 months prior to the flight, which can result in schedule modifications.

Airlines themselves can change their schedule, especially when the aircraft that will be used changes.

How will I be warned about a schedule change?

Whether it's a last-minute change or a next-day departure shift, airlines will notify you. This usually comes in the form of emails, phone calls, or even travel vouchers as a goodwill gesture.

Airlines should tell passengers at least 14 days in advance when they change their flight time. The airline usually contacts you via email to tell you about the schedule change.

You may also log into your account or call the airline directly to inquire about schedule changes.

For last-minute schedule changes, you can use an online flight tracker.

However, we found that some passengers are never notified about the adjustment of scheduled departure time until the last-minute, when they reach the airport. If you haven’t been notified about the change of schedule of the original flight, you’re entitled to flight compensation.

My flight has been changed to the next day, but I have an economy class ticket. What can I do?

Depending on the airline's policy, you might get perks like hotel accommodations, especially for international flights. Some might also offer upgrades to business class if available.

Can you explain the difference between a stopover and a layover?

A layover is a break between two flights, usually less than 24 hours, while a stopover typically lasts longer, sometimes even days.

What about protections for flights within the U.S.?

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has specific guidelines for air passengers. Whether you're flying from New York to California or taking cheap flights across states, the DOT provides a framework for airlines to follow when there's a flight schedule change.