To protect air passengers, the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 created the EU Regulation 261/2004. We call it EU 261 to make it shorter. The European law established common rules of compensation and assistance to passengers facing long flight delays, cancellations and involuntary boarding denials. Learn how to claim a EU 261 compensation.

 

EU Regulation 261/2004: Your Air Passenger Rights

EU 261 allows air passengers victims of flight disruptions to claim up to 600€ from the airline in compensation. Learn more about your air passenger rights in the European Union.

 

What Flights Are Covered by the EU Regulation 261/2004?

EU 261 covers all of the EU airspace. It includes Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the outermost regions - i.e. French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and La Reunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira and the Azores, and the Canary Islands as well.

The Regulation applies to all flights departing out of the European Union, no matter if they are intra-EU or international flights. It covers flights departing out of the European Union with a destination in the EU, only when they are operated by an EU air carrier. To summarize:

 

   Travel itinerary    EU carrier       Non-EU carrier                
   From EU to EU    Covered    Covered
   From EU to non-EU     Covered    Covered
   From out of EU to EU    Covered    Not covered
   From out of EU to non-EU               Not covered                     Not covered

 

Here are some real-life examples. Imagine you were travelling
 

  • from Milan to Paris: the flight is covered regardless of the air carrier as it is intra-EU.

  • from Rome to New York with American Airlines: the flight is covered even though it is operated by a non-EU carrier, because it departs out of the EU.

  • from Toronto to Amsterdam with KLM: the flight is covered even though it departs out of the EU, because it is operated by an EU air carrier.

  • from Toronto to Amsterdam with Air Canada: the flight is not covered because it departs out of the EU and is operated by a non-EU air carrier.

 

The easiest way for you to find out if your flight is covered and if you are entitled to a flight compensation is to use our Compensation Calculator.

 

EU 261 and EU Flights Delays

To be eligible to a delayed flight compensation under EU 261, your flight must arrived at its final destination 3 hours late or more.

Do note that it is the arrival time that matters: if your flight departed more than 3 hours after the scheduled time but arrived less than 3 hours late, you are not entitled to compensation.

 

EU Flight Delay Compensation

EU 261 lets you claim between 250 and 600 euro, depending on the distance between your original point of departure and your final destination, as well as the length of the delay in certain cases. The table below summarizes the amount, which you can claim.

 

   Less than 3h        3 to 4h              More than 4h          Never arrived        Distance     

   0

   250    250    250    Flights under 1,500km     
   0    400    400    400    Intra-EU flights over 1,500km
   0    400    400    400    Non-EU flights between 1,500 and 3,500km
   0    300    600    600    Non-EU flights over 3,500km

 

The easiest way for you to find out if your flight is covered and if you are entitled to a flight compensation is to use our Compensation Calculator.

 

EU Flight Delay and Right to Reimbursement or Re-routing

In the event of a long delay at departure over 5 hours, you have a choice between 3 options:

  • Full refund of the ticket for the delayed flight (and prior flights if they serve no purpose in regards to your travel plans) along with a return flight to your original point of departure as soon as possible.

  • Re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity.

  • Re-routing to your final destination at a later date, at your convenience, provided that a seat is available.

Note that whichever option you choose, you may also be entitled to compensation as described above.

 

How to Claim Compensation for an EU Flight Delay?

At the airport, ask the airline staff the reason of the delay: it determines your right to compensation. The more precise the explanation, the better. If the cause of the delay is not considered an extraordinary circumstance, you might be eligible to compensation. You can learn more about extraordinary circumstances on our blog.

Once you land at your destination, calculate the delay of your flight. If it is more than 3 hours, you are eligible to compensation.

Make sure that you keep your travel documents (boarding pass, booking confirmation, etc.). The airline is likely to ask for these when you submit a compensation claim for flight delay. They will at least require your booking reference.

The airline might offer you a travel voucher, often for a value inferior to what you are owed. Refuse all offer they make you, as you’d be surrendering your rights to compensation. If you feel that the offer they make is worth more than the EU 261 compensation, you can take it, of course! Note that the compensation you are entitled to under EU 261 must be paid in the form of cash, check or bank transfer. If the airline offers to pay this compensation in the form of a travel voucher, feel free to decline.

Should the delay incur additional expenses, make sure that you keep the receipts: the airline is bound to refund their cost to you.

 

To submit a compensation claim, contact your airline’s customer service. Or let us do all the work.

Learn more about flight delays and your air passenger rights.

 

EU 261 and EU Flights Cancellations

To be eligible to a cancelled flight compensation under EU 261, several conditions must be met. If the airline notified you about the cancellation 14 days or more prior to the flight, you are not eligible to compensation. When they notify you less than 14 days before the flight, their obligation to pay depends on their ability to find you an alternate flight or re-routing respectful of the following time constraints:

 

   Notification Prior to Departure     

   Alternate Flight

   Right to Compensation       

   More than 14 days 

   Irrelevant

   No

   7-13 days

   Departed no more than 2 hours earlier and arrived 4 hours later or less

   No

   7-13 days

   Departed 2 hours earlier or more and arrived 4 hours later or more

   Yes

   Less than 7 days

   Departed no more than 1 hour earlier and arrived 2 hours later or less

   No

   Less than 7 days

   Departed 1 hour earlier or more and arrived 2 hours later or more

   Yes

 

Note that both conditions have to be met simultaneously. For instance, let’s imagine that you’ve been notified about your flight cancellation 5 days prior to your flight. The airline rebooks you on an alternate flight which arrives at your final destination less than 2 hours later than your original flight BUT departs more than 1 hour earlier. Then, you are entitled to compensation. See below to know exactly how much you are entitled to.

The easiest way for you to find out if your flight is covered and if you are entitled to a flight compensation is to use our Compensation Calculator.

 

EU Flight Cancellation Compensation

The amount of the cancelled flight compensation ranges between 250 and 600 euro and depends on the distance between your original point of departure and your final destination, the length of the delay if you agreed to a re-routing or alternate flight, and whether you flight was in the EU or not. The table below summarizes the amount, which you can claim.

 

   Length of the delay at your final destination

   Distance

   Less than 2h    

   2 to 3h   

   3 to 4h   

   More than 4h   

   Never arrived   

 

   125€

   250€

   250€

   250€

   250€

   Flights under 1,500km

   200€

   200€

   400€

   400€

   400€

   Intra-EU flights over 1,500km

   200€

   200€

   400€

   400€

   400€

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

   300€

   300€

   300€

   600€

   600€

   Non-EU flights over 3,500km

 

As you can see above, you may be entitled to only half of the maximum amount when the delay to your destination is deemed reasonable under EU 261.

The easiest way for you to find out if your flight is covered and if you are entitled to a flight compensation is to use our Compensation Calculator.

 

EU Flight Cancellation and Right to Reimbursement or Re-routing

In the event of a cancelled flight, you have a choice between 3 options:

  • Full refund of the ticket for the cancelled flight (and prior flights if they serve no purpose in regards to your travel plans) along with a return flight to your original point of departure as soon as possible.

  • Re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity.

  • Re-routing to your final destination at a later date, at your convenience, provided that a seat is available.

Note that whichever option you choose, you may also be entitled to compensation as described above.

 

How to Claim Compensation for an EU Flight Cancellation?

Similarly to flights delays, at the airport, ask the airline staff the reason of the cancellation: it determines your right to compensation. The more precise the explanation, the better. If the cause of the cancellation is not considered an extraordinary circumstance, you might be eligible to compensation. You can learn more about extraordinary circumstances on our blog.

Keep note of the time of departure of your alternate flight. Once you land at your destination, calculate the delay of your flight, compared to the scheduled time of arrival of your initial flight.

Make sure that you keep your travel documents (boarding pass, booking confirmation, etc.). The airline is likely to ask for these when you submit a compensation claim. They will at least require your booking reference.

The airline might offer you a travel voucher, often for a value inferior to what you are owed. Refuse all offer they make you, as you’d be surrendering your rights to compensation. If you feel that the offer they make is worth more than the EU 261 compensation, you can take it, of course! Note that the compensation you are entitled to under EU 261 must be paid in the form of cash, check or bank transfer. If the airline offers to pay this compensation in the form of a travel voucher, feel free to decline.

Should the delay incur additional expenses, make sure that you keep the receipts: the airline is bound to refund their cost to you.

 

To submit a compensation claim, contact your airline’s customer service. Or let us do all the work.

Learn more about flight cancellations and your air passenger rights.

 

EU 261 and EU Denied Boarding

You are only covered by EU 261 if you have been denied boarding against your will. This happens essentially in cases of overbooking, when the airline sold more tickets than there are seats on the plane. If you’re denied boarding because of an overbooked flight, you are entitled to compensation.

It means that you must not have surrendered your seat voluntarily to be eligible to compensation. In cases where you agree to give up on your seat in exchange for a travel voucher, airline miles or other sort of compensation, you are no longer eligible under the Regulation.

You won’t be entitled to compensation in the following cases as well:

  • You didn’t check-in on time*

  • You were not present at the gate on time*

  • You do not have the required travel documents (boarding pass, passport, and visa when applicable)

  • You created or represented a health, safety or security concern

*”On-time” refers to the time limit set by the airline. This information is available on their website and should be indicated in your booking confirmation and boarding pass as well.

 

EU Denied Boarding Compensation

The amount of the denied boarding flight compensation ranges between 250 and 600 euro and depends on the distance between your original point of departure and your final destination, and whether you flight was in the EU or not. The table below summarizes the amount, which you can claim.

 

   Distance

    Compensation amount    

   Flights under 1,500km

   250€

   Intra-EU flights over 1,500km

   400€

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

   400€

   Non-EU flights over 3,500km

   600€

 

 

The easiest way for you to find out if your flight is covered and if you are entitled to a flight compensation is to use our Compensation Calculator.

 

EU Denied Boarding and Right to Reimbursement or Re-routing

If you are denied boarding against your will, you have a choice between 3 options:

  • Full refund of the ticket for the cancelled flight (and prior flights if they serve no purpose in regards to your travel plans) along with a return flight to your original point of departure as soon as possible.

  • Re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity.

  • Re-routing to your final destination at a later date, at your convenience, provided that a seat is available.

 

Note that whichever option you choose, you are also entitled to compensation as described above.

 

How to Claim Compensation for an EU Denied Boarding?

The good news is that the airline is supposed to pay you immediately, at the airport. If they don’t or if you forgot, no worries: you can also submit a claim later.

If the airline doesn’t provide you with one by themselves, ask for a “denied boarding certificate” at the airport. It will help down the line, to prove that you haven’t surrendered your seat voluntarily.

Make sure that you keep your travel documents (boarding pass, booking confirmation, etc.). The airline is likely to ask for these when you submit a compensation claim. They will at least require your booking reference.

The airline might offer you a travel voucher, often for a value inferior to what you are owed. Refuse all offer they make you, as you’d be surrendering your rights to compensation. If you feel that the offer they make is worth more to you than the EU 261 compensation, you can take it, of course! Note that the compensation you are entitled to under EU 261 must be paid in the form of cash, check or bank transfer. If the airline offers to pay this compensation in the form of a travel voucher, feel free to decline.

Should the denied boarding incur additional expenses, make sure that you keep the receipts: the airline is bound to refund their cost to you.

 

To submit a compensation claim, contact your airline’s customer service. Or let us do all the work.

Learn more about boarding denials and your air passenger rights.

 

EU 261 and Your Other Passenger Rights

In addition to your rights to compensation and rights to reimbursement or re-routing, the EU Regulation 261/2004 also defines other protections for your passenger rights.

 

EU 261 and Right to Care

In cases of long delays and while you wait for an alternate flight because of a cancellation or boarding denial, the airline responsible for the disruption must take care of you. They must provide, free of charge:

  • meals and refreshments in relation to the length of the waiting time.

  • a hotel accommodation if a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary

  • transport between the airport and the place of accommodation

  • a means of communication: two phone calls, texts or emails.

 

The airline is required to pay particular attention to passengers with reduced mobility and unaccompanied children.

 

EU 261 and Upgrading and Downgrading

If the airline places you in a class higher than that for which you purchased a ticket, it cannot require any additional payment.

If the air carrier places you in a lower class, you are entitled to a refund of:

  • 30% of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1 500 kilometres or less

  • 50% of the ticket for all intra-community flights of more than 1500km and all flights between 1500 and 3500km

  • 75% of the price of the ticket for flights longer than 3500km

Similar to the compensation, the payment must be made in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques.

 

EU 261 and Obligation to Inform Passengers of their Rights

At the airport, the airline is required to display a notice containing the following text: “If you are denied boarding or if your flight is cancelled or delayed for at least two hours, ask at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the text stating your rights, particularly with regard to compensation and assistance”.

The air carrier must also provide you with a written notice explaining the rules for compensation and assistance described in the EU Regulation 261/2004.

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