Passenger vs. airlines, part I – flight delay


Flight delays are common. They can be connected with unforeseeable factors such as bad weather conditions, security threat or even volcanic eruption.

But there are some situations when delay is results from airline fault. 

If you travel:

  • from the airport located in European Union/European Economic Area or Switzerland,
  • between EU/EEA/Switzerland and third country,
  • by plane which is operated by an airline which operates in the area of EU/EEA/Switzerland,

your rights are protected by the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91.


On the basis of this act, air carrier is obliged to provide customers meals and refreshments and  2 phone calls or e-mails. In case of longer delay, customers have the right to free of charge hotel accommodation and transport to the airport.

But it’s not the end…

If our journey has been delayed more than 3 hours, we are entitled to compensation (legal base: (Judgment of the European Court of Justice of 19 November 2009. Joined Cases C-402/07 and C-432/07).

This compensation depends on the flight length, so:

  • in case of the flights in the EU area:
  • up to 1500 km – compensation amounts to 250 euro,
  • more than 1500 km – 400 euro,
  • in case of flights operated between EU and third countries:
  • up to 1500 km – compensation amounts to 250 euro,
  • between 1500 km and 3500 km – 400 euro,
  • more than 3500 km – 600 euro.


This amount can be reduced by 50% if air carrier provides us an alternative flight in proximate term.

This compensation is provided when the time of arrival of the new flight doesn’t exceed previously booked flight:

  • by 2 hours in respect of flights up to 1500 km,
  • by 3 hours in respect of flights in the area of EU/EEA/Switzerland of more than 1500 km,
  • by 3 hours for other flights between 1500 and 3500 km,
  • by 4 hours for other flights at the length of 3500 km or more.

Additionally when our flight is delayed more than 5 hours we are entitled to  reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket or return flight to the first point of departure, as soon as it possible. When we choose the first option the air carrier is not obliged to provide us further support.

As you can see European Union cares for our rights comprehensively but how does it look in practice?

Firstly passengers rarely exert their rights. Unfamiliarity with the law is the basic problem. Air carriers are obliged to instruct their customers about their rights. But, have you ever been informed about this? Airlines try to omit this issue. It’s no wonder that compensation for delayed flight operated by low-cost line, could exceed the price of the ticket. Second problem is connected wits passengers’ skepticism. They doubt that compensation claims can be effective.



Before all we should know that we are not left  alone with this problem.

How does the compensation proceeding look?

Firstly we send complaint form to an airline. It’s available here

If you don’t receive an answer or when you are not satisfied with it you can turn to special institutions which are responsible for the law enforcement. We send all correspondence with an airline to the proper institution (usually it depends on the place of departure). Full list of these institutions is available here. When delayed flight took place outside EU/EEA/Switzerland, complaint should be sent in the place of arrival. These institutions investigate the reasons of flight delays. When it is the air carrier fault, they can state the validity of compensation. Airline is not obliged to pay compensation if it proves that delay was caused by unforeseeable factors. When air carrier evade compensation payment we can claim our damages by legal proceedings. 


We can also rely on the European Union in this case.

When our claim does not exceed 2000 euro it is possible to take advantage of simplified procedure so called European Small Claims Procedure (legal base: Regulation (EC) No 861/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 July 2007).

It is much faster option and it entails lower costs. More information you can find here

What is more, this procedure regards other cases connected with civil and commercial law. As you can see our rights are widely protected by European law, so it’s worth to be aware of these privileges in case of delayed flight.  


Who I am... I'm just an ordinary girl, who once believed that dreams come true, and since then, I’ve been pursuing them consistently. My adventure with travelling started in 2008 and since then, I've seen a lot of interesting places which I describe on my blog. I’m interested in the history and culture of the countries that I visit and that’s why I travel as much as I can. However, in addition to the preservation of my memories, the main purpose of the blog is to show you that dreams come true and you can travel often and cheap!

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