Travel; Claiming Compensation When Your Flight is Delayed

When my husband flew out to see us in the UK this summer he was delayed over 7 hours on his return journey. Yes. SEVEN. In Terminal 5 at Heathrow where they were pretty much kept at the gate through lack of information. There is nothing to do at the gate. Still, he got home, he found out he could claim compensation and €600 later he felt a lot better about it.

I even joked at the time that it was a shame me and the boys weren’t with him as it would have been €600 per paid seat. To which my husband told me not to be so stupid and no amount of money was worth dealing with a baby and a Toddler on a delay.

Can you guess what happens next?

Fast forward to flying back to Dubai after my brothers wedding. The journey was meant to go as follows:

Drive Derby – Manchester Airport
Fly Manchester – Heathrow
Sprint across Heathrow for connecting flight
Fly Heathrow – Dubai
Land 7am Saturday morning

The drive went well. The airport was packed as a RyanAir flight to Malaga was delayed and the rugby was on in the pub but we managed to squeeze on a table to feed and water ourselves then it should have been time to head to the gate. Standing in front of the information screen. Watching as our flight said Gate Opens in 5 Minutes for 19 minutes. Having a sense of foreboding about it all. Being proven right as in actual fact our flight hadn’t even left London yet. Eventually boarding the plane and flying at the same time we should have been flying out to Dubai.

One connection completely missed. And it’s now 10:30pm

Two tired boys. One grumpy mummy. One very practical daddy marching us through with the majority of the flight to the customer service desk to get us accomadated and set up on the next available flight. Job done. All sorted. We flew out the next day and landed home 12 hours after our booked departure time. With three out of five items of baggage so I’d call that relatively successful. Headed home and managed to leave my Ergo behind in the airport but it’s waiting for me in lost and found. Then got on with life. And the important thing here – filed our compensation claim in accordance with our rights under EC Regulation No 261/2004.

Am I eligible?

Under EC Regulation No 261/2004 to be eligible your flight needs to be one of 2 things :

Departing from an EU airport
Arriving at an EU airport, operated by an EU airline


An Emirates flight departing from London Heathrow to arrive in Dubai as the departure is from an EU airport though the airline is operated from the UAE.

A British Airways flight departing from Dubai and arriving into Heathrow as this is an EU arrival airport and an EU operated airline.

Flights also have to be delayed for reasons other than extraordinary circumstances so where you would be eligible for delays caused by unavailability of aircraft crew or poor aircraft maintenance you wouldn’t be covered if the airport was shut due to extreme weather or say a volcanic ash cloud.

So just how do you go about claiming compensation when your flight is delayed?

What compensation are you entitled to?

Compensation is calculated on a time delay basis and is a fixed amount depending on length of delay and flight details. The time you are delayed refers to the delay to the arrival time rather than the departure time (because of course flights can make up time).  So a flight that departs four hours late but arrives 2 hours and 55 minutes late becomes ineligible for compensation.  Arrival time is classed as when the aircraft opens it’s doors when landing, in other words the official arrival time.

For example if you were scheduled to arrive at 18:00 but actually arrived 22:05 your delay time would be 4 hours and 5 minutes.

Short Haul

A short haul flight is one under 1,500km. Flights like London to Paris or indeed Manchester to London.

Delays under three hours; not entitled to claim
Delays over three hours; €250

Medium Haul

Medium haul is classed as a flight distance between 1,500km and 3,500km. Flights like London to Sofia or London to Moscow.

Delays under three hours; not entitled to claim
Delays of more than three hours; €400

Long Haul

Long haul is classed as a flight over 3,500km. Flights like London to New York. Or London to Dubai, such as our flight above.

Delay under three hours; not entitled to claim
Delays between three and four hours; €300
Delays over four hours; €600

How do I claim compensation?

To claim you must lodge a complaint with your airline, many have an online form to fill in, or a specific process for example British Airways requires you to submit your claim via their online customer relations form. Some airlines don’t have a specific form, Emirates is a prime example of this so in that case there is a downloadable letter template via the CAA which you can complete and submit through to your airline.

In general you need to include:

Name and contact details
Full details of all passengers (nb. must all hold the same name to be under the same claim)
Your booking reference and travel dates
The flight number, departure and destination airports
Details of where the disruption occurred
Information about the length of delays
The names of any staff you spoke to
You should also send as many supporting documents and as much evidence as you can. This might include:
Copies of all relevant receipts, if you are claiming expenses
Copies of all tickets, boarding cards and booking confirmations

Once submitted you then need to wait for the airline’s response. Our personal experience this time, hasn’t been great. With my husband’s first claim we had received his compensation within a week, this time we are having to chase (and tweet) to try and progress mainly because each time we try to speak to a real person we are getting the engaged tone but I will keep you updated when we get our final answers.

Either way, it’s not the end, as this post from Money Saving Expert tells you – if the airline says no you should then take it through to the relevant Ombudsman in the case of flying into/from the UK the Civil Aviation Authority.


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