Glossary

What is EU Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004?

Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 is a European Union law establishing rules concerning assistance and compensation for airline passengers who have experienced canceled flights, severe delays (upwards of three hours), or who have been denied boarding due to overbooking or other scenarios outside their control. 


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Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 is a European Union law establishing rules concerning assistance and compensation for airline passengers who have experienced canceled flights, severe delays (upwards of three hours), or who have been denied boarding due to overbooking or other scenarios outside their control. 

Depending on specifics, passengers who have experienced these situations and fit the requirements outlined below could be entitled to compensation ranging from €250 and €600 per person.

What delays qualify for compensation?

Passengers can claim compensations for a flight cancellation when the passenger was not given 14 days or more notice; delays more than three hours; or denied boarding. 

In order to claim compensation for flight cancellation or delay of three or more hours, passengers must be flying within or from the European Union on any airline. If a passenger is flying to the European Union from locations outside, they are only eligible for compensation if they booked on a European airline. 

Keep in mind that the regulation provides exemptions for “extraordinary circumstances” such as weather-related delays and cancelations or those due to air-traffic-control decisions beyond the airline’s control. Passengers can learn more about this regulation and check to see if their situation qualifies for compensation by filling out this online survey.

How much is compensation for a delayed flight under the EU compensation rules?

Flight distance up to 1500km

  • 0 - 3 hour delay: 0 euros
  • 3+ hour delay: 250 euros

Flight distance between 1500km and 3500km

  • 0 - 3 hour delay: 0 euros
  • 3+ hour delay: 400 euros

Flight distance more than 3500km (within the EU)

  • 0 - 3 hour delay: 0 euros
  • 3+ hour delay: 400 euros

Flight distances more than 3500km (outside of the EU)

  • 0 - 3 hour delay: 0 euros
  • 3 - 4 hour delay: 300 euros
  • 4+ hour delay: 600 euros

How much is compensation for cancellations or denied boarding because of overbooking? 

Flight distance up to 1500km

  • Alternative flight with a maximum two-hours delay: 125 euros
  • Otherwise: 250 euros

Flight distance between 1500km and 3500km

  • Alternative flight with a maximum three-hours delay: 200 euros
  • Otherwise: 400 euros

Flight distance more than 3500km (within the EU)

  • Alternative flight with a maximum four-hours delay: 200 euros
  • Otherwise: 400 euros

Flight distance more than 3500km (outside of the EU)

  • Alternative flight with a maximum four-hours delay: 300 euros
  • Otherwise: 600 euros

What else does the airline owe me? What about hotel fees, food, etc? 

Under the rules, passengers are entitled to meals and refreshments “reasonable to the waiting time” and for delays more than two hours. Additionally, if they can’t get on a flight until the next day passengers are also entitled to hotel accommodation and transport between the hotel and the airport. 

How do I claim compensation for a delayed or canceled flight?

Passengers who qualify for compensation can start by filling out this online form. Anyone intending to claim compensation under Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 must have both their confirmation code and ticket number on hand. They should then take their claim directly to the airline where they might be instructed to fill out additional paperwork. If the airline fails to respond to the request within six weeks of receipt or if the passenger isn’t satisfied with the airline’s response, they can forward a copy of the form to the national enforcement body of the country where the incident took place. 

Alternatively, passengers can contact one of the many companies specializing in Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 claim assistance like AirHelp, EUclaim, Flightright, or refund.me, but be aware that these companies do take a small cut out of the recovered funds.

Passengers who were given more than 14 days notice about an upcoming flight cancellation are only entitled to a new flight or a refund in the amount of their original flight and no additional compensation. However, those given less than 14 days notice about an upcoming flight cancellation might be able to claim compensation on top of their refund or replacement flight.

How long does an airline have to pay compensation?

Airlines must pay compensation within seven days of a completed claim.

How long do you have to be delayed before you can claim compensation? Can I get compensation for a 2-hour delay?

Passengers must have suffered at least a three-hour delay in order to qualify for compensation.

How far back can I claim flight compensation?

Each country within the EU is allowed to dictate how long a passenger has to file a compensation claim. For instance, Germany gives passengers three years to file while the UK allows passengers to claim their funds up to six years after the incident. Make sure to check on these regulations before submitting your claim.

Is the flight compensation per person?

The compensation is issued on a per-person basis. If you’re traveling with others, each person in your party must file their own claim to receive their due compensation.

Can I claim compensation for a diverted flight?

Passengers who arrive at their final destination three or more hours after their scheduled arrival as a result of diversion do qualify for compensation. However, those passengers do not qualify for compensation if the diversion was caused by one of the regulation’s specified extraordinary circumstances. You can check if your diversion qualifies here.

Can I claim compensation for a canceled flight due to weather?

No. According to the regulation, delays and cancelations due to weather are considered extraordinary circumstances and are therefore exempt from compensation.

Last Updated 
October 1, 2019