Your Flight Delay Rights and How To Claim Compensation

If you’ve faced a long wait at the airport due to a flight delay, you may be entitled to compensation.

From a complimentary hotel stay to hundreds of pounds in compensation, there are options available to make a long delay a little more bearable.

But before you start counting the pounds, it’s handy to know if your claim fits the criteria. This article will guide you through what to do if your flight is delayed.

Has Your Flight Been Cancelled?

In that case, you’ll need our flight cancellation guide to explain what rights you have, how much compensation you may be due and how to claim that money too!

The ultimate guide to your cancellation flight rights and whether you’ll be able to make a compensation claim.

Your Delayed Flight Rights

Which Delayed Flights Are Covered by UK Law?

Under UK law, you may be entitled to help or compensation on a delayed flight that:

  • Departs from a UK airport on any airline
  • Departs from the EU, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland on any airline
  • Arrives in the UK with a UK or EU airline
  • Arrives in the EU with a UK airline
Is your flight not included? What you’re entitled to will depend on the airline and what countries you are flying to and from. We recommend contacting your airline, or searching their name followed by ‘delayed flight compensation’.

What Flight Delays Are Eligible For Compensation?

You may be able to get compensation if the following conditions below apply:

Arrival time is calculated the moment one aircraft door opens

What Flight Delays Are Eligible for Care and Assistance?

Many assume that if their delayed flight isn’t the airlines fault, then there’s nothing they can do – this isn’t necessarily the case! Regardless of the cause of the delay, and depending on the distance and length of the delay, you may still be entitled to care and assistance from the airline. 

Delayed Flight Help at the Airport

Flight is Delayed at airport

Immediate Help Your Airline Should Give You for a Delayed Flight

Dealing with a flight delay can be a real hassle; however, if you experience a long delay, you may be entitled to care and assistance from the airline regardless of the cause.

You are legally entitled to care and assistance if your flight has been delayed longer than two hours for short-haul flights, more than three hours for medium-haul flights, and more than four hours for long-haul flights.

UK law determines what they consider short, medium and long based on the distance, which you can check out here.

If you qualify for this help, airlines must provide you with the below:

  • Food and drink (this will usually be vouchers)
  • Access to phone calls and emails
  • Accommodation if you’re delayed overnight
  • Travel between the airport and the hotel
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Getting Care and Assistance For a Delayed Flight

Airline staff should offer this help at the time, but if you notice you haven’t been offered anything yet do not hesitate to ask. Trust us it’s worth it – Merowe from our team here at Cheap Holiday Expert once got put up in the Marriott hotel after her delay!

We’d always recommend trying to find someone to speak to in person; however, you may well find that staff are busy dealing with other delayed individuals on your flight. Therefore, you can always try reaching out to the airline on their helpline, or we’ve found contacting them via their social media quite fruitful in the past.

Flight Delay food care and assistance

During major disruptions, airlines may not be able to provide care and assistance for everyone due to limited staff. But don’t worry, if this happens, you can still organise your own food and accommodation and claim back the money spent later.

However, do check what guidelines your airline has for ‘reasonable costs’ as you may well find yourself out of pocket if you book yourself into a luxury 5 star hotel when a well rated 3 star is available. If there are only expensive options available, make sure you screenshot evidence of this so that you can prove it was the only option.

Choosing to Cancel Your Travel Plans Due to a Long Delay

If your delay is lasting over five hours and you decide to cancel your travel plans, the airline is legally obliged to give you:

  • A full flight refund
  • A full refund for the other flights you have booked that are a part of the trip. This applies to both onward and return flights, but have to be from the same airline
  • If you’re mid-way through your journey, the airline is required to provide you with a flight back to the airport that you initially departed from
  • The refund should be issued within seven days

However, if you choose to either take a refund or delay your travel plans beyond the first available flight, your airline is no longer required to provide you with food, drink or accommodation.

If you decide not to take this outbound flight, and you are on a package holiday, you may risk losing your entire holiday. So, to avoid any confusion, it’s best to get in touch with your package organiser or airline.

Delayed Flight Compensation and How To Claim

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How Much Compensation Are You Due?

If you are eligible for claiming compensation on a delayed flight, here’s how much you can expect.

A compensation claim is for the inconvenience of a delay, rather than the cost of your flight ticket. So, the amount of compensation you’re due is calculated by the distance of your flight and the length of the delay.

The following table indicates the compensation you may be entitled to in pounds (GBP) if your flight is delayed. You can check your flight distance with Web Flyer.

Flight Distance

Arrival Delay

Compensation Due

Up to 1,500km

3 hours or more


Between 1,500km and 3,500km

3 hours or more



3 – 4 hours



4 hours or more


What Counts As the Airline's Arrival Time?

Airlines often over-estimate flight times and so whilst you may have been delayed over 3 hours from the time you were supposed to depart, this doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get compensation.

Instead, compensation is based on your arrival time and so you’ll need to be over 3 hours delayed from the time you were supposed to arrive in your destination.

As for what counts as ‘arriving’, well it’s not when the plane lands or when you disembark the aircraft, but when at least one of the plane doors open.

How to Make a Claim From The Airline

The first step is to contact the airline. Remember, it needs to be the one operating the flight, even if you booked it through another airline or an Online Travel Agent.

As a first port of call, try searching online for the airline name along with ‘delayed flight claim’ in case they have a specific page set up. If not, try searching their website before getting in contact with their customer services.

Get ready to provide all your flight details and booking reference numbers when you reach out.

Next, you’ll need to write your claim. Be sure to explain what went wrong and what you expect from the airline in return. It’s also important to include copies (not originals) of your tickets and receipts to support your claim. Check out our delayed flight compensation claim template below.

Lastly, document everything. Hang on to copies of your claim and any messages from the airline. Jot down notes from any chats you have with airline representatives. This info might come in handy if you need to escalate your claim further. Remember, keeping track of everything is key to a successful claim!

Delayed Flight Compensation Claim Email Template

You can use this template to claim compensation if your flight was delayed for more than three hours. You’ll need to calculate your flight distance here and check how much you’re entitled to on the Citizens Advice website.

If your airline does not already have an established procedure 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: Delayed flight compensation (insert flight number)
Booking Reference: <flight booking number and full passenger name>

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

This flight was scheduled for departure at <departure time>. However, the flight was delayed and arrived <number of hours> late to <airport>.

Under EC Regulation 261/2004, 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 you decided not to take the flight because of a long delay. Delete if this section is not applicable to your claim.
The flight was delayed for more than five hours. Consequently, I chose not to take the flight and now I am requesting a refund for the cancelled flight ticket/s. I am asking for a reimbursement of <flight cost>. The airline has not yet provided me with a refund.

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):



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 Sincerely,

<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 your airline has failed to give you the correct compensation, you can take action by filing a complaint with an independent organisation.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may be able to assist. Just head over to the Civil Aviation Authority’s website to check if the airline is part of an ADR scheme.

If they are, you can take your case directly to the scheme. If they’re not a member of an ADR scheme, don’t worry, you can still make your voice heard by submitting a complaint to the Civil Aviation Authority through their website.

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Flight delayed rights & compensation

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