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How to Claim Compensation in case of a Delayed or Canceled Flight?

It is one of the secrets best kept by airlines: how to claim compensation when your flight has been disrupted.

Imagine you show up at the airport only to find out that your flight has been delayed by several hours. But you took the time to check the schedule, left work early to be at the airport a couple of hours ahead of the flight, you even checked-in online, right? Right.

None of that matters, because unless you know your passenger rights, chances are you’ll just be stuck with the inconvenience of a flight delay and everything that comes with it. That is a scenario, which affects millions of passengers annually and for that reason, the EU Parliament passed Regulation 261/2004 to outline in detail passengers’ rights to claim compensation. In the following few lines, you’ll find out how to claim your 250 to 600EUR compensation.

Am I entitled to a flight compensation?

In order to be entitled to compensation, the following conditions must be met:

1. Origin of the flight

The flight must have left from a city within the E.U. (incl. Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) or to have left from a city outside of the E.U. but landed within the E.U. and operated by an airline headquartered within the E.U. For example:

  • Flight from Toronto to Munich with Lufthansa: YES
  • Flight from Munich to Toronto with Air Canada: YES
  • Flight from Toronto to Munich with Air Canada: NO

2. The airline must be at fault

If your flight has been delayed because of a volcano or fire at the airport, for instance, then the latter are considered “extraordinary circumstances” and the airline cannot be held liable. However, “technical difficulty” does not qualify as an “extraordinary circumstance”, even if the airline is trying to convince you otherwise.

3. Length of the delay

How long after the scheduled time did you arrive? If you arrived at your final destination three or more hours late, then you should be submit a delayed flight compensation claim, because you might entitled to some money.

Note that it is the delay at your final destination that matters. Let's assume that you have a flight Paris-London and another one, London-New York, both under the same booking number. Your first flight is delayed and you arrive in London over 3 hours after what was planned. But you don't miss your connection, because you had a long layover, and arrive in New York on time. Then, you are not eligible for compensation.

Click here to know what to do when you miss your connection.

4. The claim must be made within the time-limit

You can claim for a disrupted flight that occurred up to 6 years ago. But in most countries, the law defines a shorter time-limit to claim compensation.

What you should do, however, is submit your claim as soon as possible after the delayed flight happened.

How do I file my compensation claim?

Do-it-yourself

Of course nothing prevents you from contacting the airline directly and trying to claim your compensation yourself. If you choose to go along this path, make sure you’re determined, patient, and most of all – you know your passenger rights.

Airlines often attempt to offer different alternatives instead of paying the predetermined by law amount. The latter might vary from a pre-paid credit card to be used in particular stores, to a travel credit to be used under certain conditions, or a voucher. When the airline refuses to comply, your next step is to bring matters to the regulatory authorities of your state and to court: the National Enforcement Body.

Use an intermediary

Your other alternative in claiming compensation is to seek the help of a professional intermediary. ClaimCompass for instance, takes upon itself all the details in enforcing the EU Regulation: preparing and filing a legal claim, communicating with the airline, verifying the details around the delay, as well as legal representation in the event that your claim ends up in court.

Do-it-yourself vs. Using an intermediary: pros and cons

Do-it-yourself

Pros:

  • Saving the commission fee (rates vary: while ClaimCompass charges a flat 25%, some other companies charge 30% + an administration fee).

Cons:

  • You have to prepare your claim yourself
  • The process can be complicated and very time-consuming
  • There’s a good chance your claim might get ignored, or you receive an offer for less than what you may be entitled to by law
  • If your claim ends up in court, you will be fully liable for all legal expenses

Via an intermediary, such as ClaimCompass

Pros:

  • Highly simplified process with minimal involvement on your part
  • No advance payment
  • You are also not liable for any fees in the unlikely event that your claim is not resolved in your favor (i.e. "no win, no fee")
  • No admin fees (most intermediaries will charge a one-time admin fee)
  • Free access to legal experts specialized in the field of European law

Cons:

  • A one-time commission fee of 25%, which is deducted at the time of paying out your compensation

Where do I start to claim my flight compensation?

If you have decided to act “solo”, then the first step would be to get a hold of the airline’s customer service. Write a detailed letter quoting the appropriate section of the Regulation, send it via fax or email, and wait for a response. Be ready to provide all the pertinent information (booking/reference number, the date and flight number, the reasons for the delay, etc).

If you have chosen to file your claim via ClaimCompass, then the process comes down to the following few steps:

  • Fill out the Compensation Calculator to find out how much you’re entitled to receive. You will need: your booking and flight numbers, the details of your delay: the time when your flight left and when it landed
  • Enter your email address and create a password – this will allow you to have access to your claim and verify its status at any time
  • Once your claim is submitted, you will receive a confirmation email

Your airline ticket represents a contract between you and the operating airline. If this contract has been violated, know that the law may be on your side! And whatever happens, so are we.

Don't forget to subscribe to the ClaimCompass newsletter: in addition to travel tips that you won't find on the blog, you'll get a free checklist to know if you're entitled to compensation from your airline!

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