Your Flight Cancellation Rights and How To Claim Compensation

No one wants to receive the news that their flight has been cancelled and whilst flight cancellations can be a nightmare, they don’t have to ruin your entire trip.

In this article, we’ll guide you through your flight cancellation rights and whether you’ll be able to make a flight compensation claim.

What Rights Do I Have If My Flight Has Been Cancelled?

If your flight is operating under UK law and gets cancelled, you have two options: you can either request a refund or opt for a replacement flight instead. If the replacement flight is significantly delayed, the airline is obligated to provide you with care and assistance, including food and accommodation.

You may also be able to get up to £520 in compensation as well.

Chelsea at Laptop after cancelled flight

What If the Flight Cancellation Wasn’t the Airline’s Fault?

It’s a common misconception that if a flight has been cancelled due to external circumstances – such as weather or strikes – that you do not have a right to anything at all.

This is incorrect.

As long as your cancelled flight was operating under UK law you still have the right to a refund or an alternative flight. You can check here to see if your flight is UK regulated.

To claim compensation, the flight cancellation needs to be due to the fault of the airline and not external circumstances – we’ll dive deeper into this below.

Should I Choose a Ticket Refund or a Replacement Flight?

Refund

While getting a refund may seem like a straightforward option, if you’re still intending to travel it can be more expensive to book a new flight at short notice, especially without the help of your airline. What’s more, once you’ve received your refund, the airline is no longer obligated to provide you with food and accommodation. So depending on your needs, you may actually end up more out of pocket if you choose a refund.

However, if you do choose to go down the refund route, you are entitled to receive a refund within seven days. However, it’s worth noting that in practice, it may take longer.

You’ll get a refund for the whole flight cost, plus any tickets from the same airline and booking that you couldn’t use for other parts of your trip. You’re also entitled to a flight back to your original departure point.

Cancelled Flight Replacement flight

Replacement Flight

If you choose an alternative flight, you’re entitled to be rerouted to your final destination as soon as possible or on a mutually agreed-upon date. This includes booking a flight with another airline.

When your flight is cancelled, you may find that your airline is quick to offer you a replacement flight. Please know that you do not have to accept this flight and you do have other options.

A key piece of information that we often see missed out is that you do not have to fly with the same airline that you originally booked with! Therefore, if there is a better suited flight with a competitor, you can request to be booked on that instead. In fact, you can even opt for another form of transport such as the Eurostar to Paris if that’s the destination of your original flight.

What Help Am I Entitled to at the Airport?

If you experience a last-minute cancellation that causes a significant delay, airlines have a legal obligation to provide you with assistance until you can reach your final destination. This assistance includes:

  • Food and drink (this will usually be vouchers)
  • Access to phone calls and emails
  • Accommodation if you have to spend the night, including journeys between the airport and the accommodation
Woman in yellow dress at breakfast buffet

Whether you are entitled to care and assistance depends on both the duration of the delay and the flight distance. This table outlines how long your delay has to be before you’re entitled to care and assistance from the airline:

Flight Distance

How long the delay has to be

Less than 1,500km

2 hours

Between 1,500km and 3,500km

3 hours

More than 3,500km

4 hours

You can find out how far your flight is using this tool from greatcirclemapper.

If you are not offered care and assistance, or you cannot find a staff member, you can try and get in touch with your airline via their helpline — though if your cancellation is part of a bigger issue, you may struggle to get in touch. Our top tip is to try messaging your airline via social media  we often get a quicker response on X (formerly Twitter).

The other option is to take matters into your own hands and claim back the costs later. However, make sure you keep your receipts (it also doesn’t hurt to request VAT receipts, as the more information you can supply the better). We also recommend taking photos of them as you go and make sure that you don’t overspend. If the only remaining options are expensive, make sure you take photos or screen recordings that you can use as evidence of this. You can also check with your airline to see what they deem as reasonable costs.

Do I Have the Right to Claim Compensation for a Cancelled Flight?

In addition to a refund or replacement flight, you may also be entitled to compensation anywhere between £108 and £522, in fact!

However, before you get too excited, there are a few things you need to check first to see if your cancelled flight is eligible for compensation and also how much you are due.

Is My Cancelled Flight Eligible for Compensation Under UK Law?

If your flight has been cancelled, your airline is required to offer you the choice between getting a full refund or booking you onto an alternative flight.

This is for all flights that fit into the following circumstances:

  • Your flight departs from the UK, regardless of the airline
  • Your flight arrives in the UK, provided you’re flying with a UK or EU airline
  • Your flight arrives in the EU, provided you’re flying with a UK airline

However, if your flight is cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances outside of the airline’s control it’s likely that you won’t be entitled to compensation.

flight cancellation at the airport

If your flight does not fit into any of the above, you must check the terms and conditions of the airline that you’re flying with. You may also need to speak to your travel insurer.

You’re legally entitled to get compensation if the cancellation is the airline’s fault and both the following apply:

  • The replacement flight delays your arrival by two or more hours
  • Your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before departure

What Are Extraordinary Circumstances for Cancelling a Flight?

The airline should tell you why your flight was disrupted and outline whether they consider the reason to be because of extraordinary circumstances. The Civil Aviation Authority has outlined some common events that are likely to be considered as extraordinary circumstances:

  • Unsafe weather conditions preventing safe flight operations
  • Acts of terrorism or sabotage
  • Security risks at the airport or on-board
  • Political or civil unrest
  • Strikes not related to the airline, such as airport staff, ground handlers, air traffic control or border force
  • Hidden manufacturing defects on the aeroplane
An air traffic control system failure in the UK has resulted in the cancellation and delay of hundreds of flight. Here's your rights explained.

How Much Compensation Am I Owed for a Cancelled Flight?

You could be entitled to up to £520 per person, but the amount depends on several different things:

  • When the airline told you about the cancellation
  • The distance of the flight you can check this here
  • The departure and arrival times of the rescheduled flight

This is where it can get quite complicated as there are a lot of different options, and the easiest way to summarise it is the more inconvenienced you are, the more money you tend to get as compensation.

Flights cancelled less than 7 days before departure:

Flight Distance

Departure and arrival times

Compensation Due

Less than 1,500km

Departure – at least 1 hour earlier than booked flight

£110

Less than 1,500km

Arrival – up to 2 hours later than booked flight

£110

Less than 1,500km

Arrival – at least 2 hours later than booked flight

£220

1,500km to 3500km

Departure – at least 1 hour earlier than booked flight

£175

1,500km to 3500km

Arrival – up to 3 hours later than booked flight

£175

1,500km to 3500km

Arrival – at least 3 hours later than booked flight

£350

More than 3,500km

Departure – at least 1 hour earlier than booked flight

£260

More than 3,500km

Arrival – up to 4 hours later than booked flight

£260

More than 3,500km

Arrival – at least 4 hours later than booked flight

£520

Flights cancelled between 7 and 14 days before departure:

Flight Distance

Departure and arrival times

Compensation Due

Less than 1,500km

Departure – up to 2 hours earlier than booked flight

£110

Less than 1,500km

Arrival – up to 2 hours later than booked flight

£110

Less than 1,500km

Departure – at least 2 hours earlier than booked flight

£220

Less than 1,500km

Arrival – at least 2 hours later than booked flight

£220

1,500km to 3500km

Departure – up to 2 hours earlier than booked flight

£175

1,500km to 3500km

Arrival – up to 3 hours later than booked flight

£175

1,500km to 3500km

Departure – at least 2 hours earlier than booked flight

£350

1,500km to 3500km

Arrival – between 3 and 4 hours later than booked flight

£350

1,500km to 3500km

Arrival – at least 4 hours later than booked flight

£350

More than 3500km

Departure – up to 2 hours earlier than booked flight

£260

More than 3,500km

Arrival – up to 4 hours later than booked flight

£260

More than 3,500km

Arrival – at least 4 hours later than booked flight

£520

How Long Do I Have to Claim Compensation for a Cancelled Flight?

Under UK law the flight you’re claiming compensation for should date back to no more than six years ago. However, when flying from some EU countries, the time limit to claim can be two or three years, or even one year. You can check if UK law applies to your flight here.

If you’re unsure we recommend getting in touch with the authorities of the country you’re travelling to and from.

Will I Receive Flight Cancellation Compensation for Business Travel?

If you were travelling for work when you experienced the flight cancellation it will be you, rather than the company you work for, that is entitled to compensation. This is true even if your company booked or paid for the tickets, as you were the one who was inconvenienced. This is upheld no matter the ticket price.

You can claim this compensation in the same way you would for a personal flight, and the same eligibility criteria apply.

My top tips on how to get a free flight upgrade to Business Class including over 50 real life examples of those who were successful.

How Do I Make a Claim From The Airline?

If you’re happy that your claim is eligible, you need to head straight to your airline’s website. Most airlines have a page on their website dedicated to making flight compensation claims. Otherwise, you’ll need to email the airline to make a claim.

Chelsea's Top Tip

If you need to reach out to your airline, don’t use their general customer service contact details as your claim will get lumped in with everything from upgrade requests to complaining about the meal on the plane. Instead, google your airline plus the words ‘cancelled flight compensation’ to reveal specific details and contact information. If in doubt, reach out to your airline on social media for confirmation. When you’ve found the correct process, you’ll need to write a summary of what went wrong and what you require from the airline. We’ve made that easy for you with our compensation request template! In addition, it’s likely you’ll need to submit additional documents like photographs, tickets, and receipts. Always submit copies and not the originals, and if you had to book something that seems unreasonably expensive, make sure you submit evidence that it was a required cost.

Our Email Template for Cancelled Flight Compensation Claim

Use this template to claim compensation for a cancelled flight. You’ll need to calculate your flight distance here and how much you’re entitled to on the Citizens Advice website.

If your airline does not already have established procedures for submitting claims, you can use this template by sending it as an email to request compensation. Alternatively, you can send this claim to the airline’s address as a letter.

The green and bolded text are just prompts, so remember to delete those parts before sending.

<Insert your name>
<Insert your address>
<Insert your postcode>
<Insert your telephone number with your country code>
<Insert your email address>

<Insert Airline’s name>
<Insert Airline’s address>
<Insert Airline’s postcode>

Include the details above if you are sending this claim as a letter. If, on the other hand, you are submitting your claim via email, you may delete the prompts above.

To Whom It May Concern,

Re: Cancelled flight compensation (insert flight number)
Booking Reference: <flight booking number and passenger name>

I am writing to you regarding the <airline> flight <flight number> from <place of departure> to <place of arrival>, on <date>.

I was notified of the cancellation of flight <flight number> less than 14 days before the scheduled departure date. Therefore, I am eligible for financial compensation.

Under EC Regulation 261/2004, Article 7 I am entitled to compensation of <€your calculated amount> for this delay. I have attached copies of my travel documents for your reference.

Include the paragraph below if during the delay you incurred expenses related to accommodation and food. Delete if this section is not applicable to your claim.

Throughout the delay, I did not receive any <refreshments or hotel accommodation> from the airline. I have included receipts for the expenses incurred from having to purchase them myself. Kindly provide a refund for <list the expenses and costs that you accumulated>.

I am requesting the total compensation of <add all the costs together and write the total amount>.

I look forward to receiving a response and the amount deposited into my bank account within 14 days. My bank details are as follows:

Account Holder (full name):

IBAN:

BIC/SWIFT:

Your bank account statement typically contains information about your BIC or SWIFT code. Look for your IBAN and BIC, usually located in the upper-right corner of the statement, below the sort code and account number.

If I do not receive the above compensation amount within 14 days I will take this matter further, which may involve taking legal action.

Yours Faithfully,

<your signature>

<your name (printed)>

Attach any relevant documents like your booking confirmation, receipts for expenses (meals, transportation and hotel stay), and bank statements of transactions.

What Should I do if My Claim is Rejected?

If you believe the airline has unfairly refused your claim, you can still appeal.

First of all, check to see if your airline is a member of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. When you have found the ADR scheme for your airline, you can follow their complaint procedure.

Good luck!

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cancelled flight rights and compensation

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