Missing a connecting flight is the bane of every traveller. You are stuck in the middle of your journey, away from both your home and your destination. Fortunately, your passenger rights are protected by several regulations, allowing you to claim a missed connection compensation

 

Missed Connections: What Are Your Air Passenger Rights

Don't let a missed connection ruin your trip. You might feel powerless when it happens to you, but rules have been established to help you make the most of the situation, to make this annoying experience a better one. In the next sections, you will learn what to do when you miss your connecting flight.

 

Missed Connections in the European Union

The EU Regulation 261/2004, or EC 261 in short, was created by the European Parliament back in 2004 to provide common rules of compensation for air passengers and to define their rights. It lets air passengers who missed their connection because of the airline between 125€ and 600€. Read on to learn more about your rights and check if you're entitled to money from the airline!

 

To claim compensation when you miss your connection, all your flights must be on the same reservation

In order to be eligible to compensation under EU law, your tickets must be under the same booking reference: this is called a "through ticket". 

For axample, let's imagine a flight from New York, US to Paris, France with a connection in London, UK:

  • If you purchased two single tickets, one New York-London and one London-Paris, and miss your connection in London, you will not be eligible to compensation
  • If you purchased a single ticket, which includes both legs of the journey, you will might be eligible to compensation if you miss your connection in London

 

Why only might? Because other factors will also determine your right to compensation.

 

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

 

Which flights are covered?

EU Regulation 261/2004 covers all of the EU airspace, as well as 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.

All flights departing out of the European Union are covered by the Regulation, regardless whether it is an intra-EU or an international flight. Flights which are departing out of the European Union, but are EU-bound, are covered insofar as 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

 

Let’s look at some real-life examples. Say 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 missed connection is covered and if you are entitled to a flight compensation is to use our Compensation Calculator

 

However, cases of missed connections are slightly more complicated, because the country where you missed your flight also determines your right to compensation. Not only that: courts throughout Europe don't have the same interpretation of EU 261 on the matter. As a result, when you miss your connection outside of the EU and your flight was operated by a non-EU airline, it is up to the court to decide whether you are entitled to compensation or not.

On that note, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) at the end of May 2018 ruled that:

"[...] two (or more) flights are booked as a single unit, those flights constitute a whole for the purposes of the right to compensation for passengers. Those flights must therefore be considered as one and the same connecting flight."

The statement applied to a flight from Berlin, Germany (EU) to Agadir, Morocco (non-EU). It was operated by Royal Air Maroc (non-EU airline) and included a stopover in Casablanca, Morocco (non-EU). According to the ECJ, the airline should pay compensation to the passenger. However, this ruling is legally not binding and the case must await its conclusion in Berlin.

 

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

 

What is considered as a missed connection by the EU law?

To be eligible to a missed connection compensation under EC 261, the airline must be at fault: if the airline is responsible for you missing your plane, then you might be entitled to compensation (provided that the conditions above are respected). This is where the concept of "extraordinary circumstances" comes in.

Extraordinary circumstances are unforeseeable events that could not have been prevented. Examples include adverse weather conditions, air traffic restrictions, a strike at the airport, security threats, etc. When the disruption of your flight is due to such events, the airline cannot be held liable. As such, EU law authorizes airlines to waive their obligation to pay compensation in such cases.

Read more about extraordinary circumstances.

 

Examples of cases where you are NOT eligible to compensation:

  • Your first flight was delayed due to air traffic restrictions, resulting in you missing your connecting flight: the airline cannot disobey decisions made by air traffic controllers
  • Your first flight was delayed because of heavy rainstorms reducing the visibility for the pilots: the airline cannot control the weather.

 

What happens if your first flight was cancelled? Learn more about flight cancellations and your right to compensation.

 

Note that you are not entitled to compensation either when you miss your flight as a result of your own doing. For example:

  • You did not have the mandatory documentation to embark on your connecting flight (e.g. required visa)
  • You were shopping and did not present yourself at the gates on time

 

In this regard, some cases are particularly hard to judge - when this happens, courts have to provide judgement on a case by case basis. For instance, what happens when air passengers claim that they reached the gates on time, but the airline states that they didn't? At ClaimCompass, we always side with passengers. That being said, without proof, it's often up to the court to give the final verdict.

 

Example of missed connections cases where you might be eligible for compensation:

  • Your initial flight was delayed because of a technical problem with the aircraft: technical problems are NOT considered as extraordinary circumstances.
  • Your initial flight was delayed due to reasons not provided by the airline: when the staff doesn't provide passengers with the reason for the delay, it is likely that the delay is their responsibility

 

In short, you may be eligible to a missed connection compensation when the delay of the first flight was the responsibility of the airline, and this delay didn't leave you with enough time for the transfer at the airport. But what amount of time is enough?

 

What is the Minimum Connecting Time?

The concept of Minimum Connecting Time (or MCT) has been introduced to determine how much time is enough for a transfer between one flight to the next. Each airport specifies a minimum amount of time  required to catch a connection there. 

When you have less time than the MCT to board the next plane and catch your connection, because iof the delay of the first flight, you might be eligible to compensation.

 

So, What Do I Do When I Miss My Connection?

Provided that the conditions above are met, you have a choice between two options:

  • Ask the airline for an alternative flight
  • Get a refund and fly back to your airport of departure

Getting a replacement flight

When you miss your connection because of the airline, the latter must provide you with an alternative flight to your destination, if seats are available. Note that if the only seats available are on a higher class than the one your were booked on, the airline must still offer you this seat, at no extra cost.

If the airline can't provide you a seat on one of their flight, look for a flight yourself. Let the company know that you found one, keep the receipt with you, and they are supposed to refund you the cost.

 

Getting a refund and a flight back

If the airline can't provide you with a suitable solution to get you to your destination, then it must not only refund you the cost of your ticket, but also book you a seat on a flight going back to your initial destination.

 

Can I Claim Compensation When I Miss my Connection, in addition to being re-routed or refunded?

Yes, your right to refund or re-routing is complementary to your right to compensation. The amount you can claim varies based on the scenario. If you chose to be refunded and taken back to your initial point of departure, you are also entitled to:

  • 250€ for flights less than 1,500km
  • 400€ for flights between 1,500 and 3,500km
  • 600€ for flights longer than 3,500km

In cases where you accepted a replacement flight, the amount varies both depending on the flight distance and the length of the delay:

  • 250€ for flights up to 1,500km or 125€ if you arrived within 2 hours of your original flight time;
  • 400€ for flights of a distance between 1,500 and 3,500km or 200€ if you arrived within 3 hours of your scheduled arrival time;
  • 600€ for flights over 3,500km or 300€ if you arrived within 4 hours of your original arrival time.

You will find a handy summary of what you are entitled to at the bottom of this post.

Note that the same rules applie to cancelled flights.

 

What type of documents should I keep to claim compensation?

Airlines will sometimes look for ways to reject your claim, even if it is perfectly valid, or at least delay the moment when they will have to pay you. For instance, they ask for additional information, such as your boarding pass, electronic ticket, luggage tag, and other travel documents. While this may sound silly, given that the airline has all of your information, EC 261 does grant the carrier permission to request certain information prior to accepting a claim.

To increase your chances of success, make sure to keep certain information upon arrival at your final destination.

  • Keep all documents related to your flight and/or any alternative flights. These include your boarding pass or stub, your electronic ticket, booking confirmation, luggage tag, etc.
  • You may also want to keep some of your receipts for additional expenses, which resulted because of the late flight.
  • Try to find out what was the reason for the delay and if possible, obtain a document. Was it a technical issue with the aircraft, or perhaps the crew maxed-out their flying hours?

 

How long after the missed connection can I claim compensation?

Depending on the country where the air carrier is headquartered, there are certain time limits to file your claim (also known as Statute of Limitations).

For example, the Statute of Limitations in the United Kingdom is 6 years. This means that if your flight was operated by British Airways, you can file a claim for a flight, which took place 6 years ago. Here is a list with the time limits to file a claim per country:

 

  Country

  Limitation period   

 

  Country

  Limitation period   

  Austria

  3 years

 

  Latvia

  2 years

  Belgium

  1 year

 

  Lithuania

  3 years

  Bulgaria

  5 years

 

  Luxembourg

  10 years

  Croatia

  3 years

 

  Malta

  No limit

  Cyprus

  6 years

 

  Netherlands

  2 years

  Czech Republic

  3 years

 

  Norway

  3 years

  Denmark

  3 years

 

  Poland

  1 year

  Estonia

  3 years

 

  Portugal

  3 years

  Finland

  3 years

 

  Romania

  3 years

  France

  5 years

 

  Slovakia

  2 years

  Germany

  3 years

 

  Slovenia

  2 years

  Greece

  5 years 

 

  Spain

  5 years

  Hungary

  5 years 

 

  Sweden

  3 years

  Iceland

  2 years

 

  Switzerland

  2 years

  Ireland

  6 years

 

  United Kingdom  

  6 years

  Italy

  26 months

 
 
 

 

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

 

What are my other rights when I miss my connection?

If you have to wait at the airport for more than two hours, because you are waiting for either your replacement flight or your plane back to your point of departure, the airline must "take care of you".

Your right to care includes the following:

  • access to food and refreshments, proportionally to the length of the delay - it can be in the form of a food voucher
  • access to communications: either a phone call or emails
  • access to accommodation and transportation between there and the airport, if the delay lasts more than 5 hours or if you are delayed overnight

Keep in mind that these rights are also guaranteed by EC 261, so do not hesitate to have them enforced. Should the airline refuse to provide food, for instance, keep the receipts and ask for a refund later.

 

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

Learn more about EC 261 and your air passenger rights in the EU..

 

Missed Connections in the United States

Unfortunately, US regulations do not protect air passengers who miss their connecting flight, even when this happens as a result of an initial delay caused by the airline. As such, no compensation is due.

That being said, most US airlines have a set of internal rules and more or less informal policies that guarantee you won't be left powerless should this ever happen to you. Some refer to it as the "flat tire rule". Some airlines will try to rebook you on their next available flight, while others will grant you travel credits. 

If you miss your connection in the United States, make sure to do the following:

  • Try to catch your flight nonetheless, if there is still a chance to make it
  • Call the airline as soon as possible to let them know that you are likely / certain to miss your connection as a result of your first flight's delay: the sooner they know, the better your chances are of being rebooked on the next flight
  • Be polite and factual: because there are no formal obligations for the airline to accommodate you, you are in the hands of the airline staff that you contact. Remember that they are not responsible for your misfortune and that they are likely to help you if you stay courteous.

 

Find out more about US passenger rights.

 

Missed Connections on International Flights 

Similar to EU Regulation 261/2004, the Montreal Convention of 1999 established common grounds for compensating passengers on international flights between participating countries. Today, over 120 nations have joined the regulation.

 

Which flights are covered by the Montreal Convention?

The Montreal Convention is applicable in cases of international carriages. This includes flights between State Parties as well as flights within a single State Party that include a planned stopover in another country, no matter if this country has ratified the Montreal Convention or not.

 

  Country of Departure

  Planned Stopover

  Application of Montreal Convention?

  From State Party to State Party

  Irrelevant

  Yes

  Within a single State Party

  No

  No

  Within a single State Party

  Yes, in another State Party  

  Yes

  Within a single State Party

  Yes, not in a State Party

  Yes

 

For example:

  • Flight Russia-Thailand (both State Parties): covered by Montreal Convention
  • Domestic flight in China without stopover: not covered by Montreal Convention
  • Flight China-China with a stopover in Thailand (State Party): covered by Montreal Convention
  • Flight China-China with a stopover in Vietnam (not a State Party): covered by Montreal Convention

 

Are missed connections covered by the Montreal Convention?

Similar again to EU261, the Montreal Convention doesn’t apply when the missed connection occurred because of extraordinary circumstances. Such cases include adverse weather, restrictions of air traffic, lightning strikes, bird strikes, strike at the airport, medical emergency, security threats, political unrest, etc.

 

The airline can waive its obligation to pay compensation if they have taken all reasonable measures to prevent the flight disruption or if there was nothing they could do.

 

How much can I claim for my delayed  international flight?

At the difference of the EU Regulation, missing your connecting flight and arriving late at your destination (or not arriving at all) doesn’t make you eligible for a compensation. The Montreal Convention only covers “damages” resulting from the disruption.

“Damages” are subject to different interpretations. Most countries only consider financial losses and physical injuries as damages, but not the psychological distress of having your flight arrive late.

In cases where you have incurred damages in the meaning of the Convention, you can claim compensation. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has set a currency called Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to calculate the amount of the compensation. As of December 2017, the exchange rate was:

 

1 EUR = 0,84 SDR

1 USD = 0,70 SDR

 

You can follow the exchange rate here.

The Montreal Convention lets you claim compensation up to 4,694 SDR for damages resulting of your flight disruption.


What type of documents should I keep to claim compensation under the Montreal Convention?

Make sure you keep all of your travel documents, including your boarding pass and electronic ticket. In addition, keep all the documentation and receipts to prove that you’ve had additional losses and costs, such as pre-paid reservations, accommodation and transportation.

When possible, ask the staff or crew what is the reason for the delay and mark it down. “Operational reasons” is not a real reason and does not say much. Feel free to inquire as much as possible as it is your right to be aware of the situation. Knowing the reason of the delay might help you down the road when claiming compensation.

 

How long after the delayed flight can I claim?

The Montreal Convention allows you to claim compensation for damages up to 2 years after the delayed flight. However, we strongly recommend that you submit your claim soon after the events occurred.

 

Find out more about International Passenger Rights.

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