Any passengers who experienced flight inconveniences such as flight delays, cancellations or boarding denials, are protected by law through Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004. Therefore, each has the right to claim a certain compensation amount. As EU Regulation 261 states, compensation can reach up to €600 in case of a 3+ hour delay.

The compensation that can be charged strongly depends on the following key factors: distance and delay duration. The below table shows an approximate sum that can be requested from the airline.

€250 (approx. $275)
2-3 hours
For all flights < 1,500 km
€400 (approx. $440)
3-4 hours
EU flights over 1,500 km
€400 (approx. $440)
3-4 hours
Non-EU flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km
€600 (approx. $660)
4-5 hours
Non-EU flights > 3,500 km

It is to be noted, there are still some factors that impact on air passengers’ eligibility for compensation. Even though non-EU passenger rights are protected by EU 261, these might not have the right on refundable flights. For instance, the airline is required to be EU-based and either the destination or the departure point must be within the European Union.

Moreover, there are so-called extraordinary circumstances that can alter the flight status, and, therefore, can significantly impact the compensation claim. The extraordinary circumstances, stated in the EU Regulation include:

  • Security risks (for instance, acts of terrorism);
  • Political unrest;
  • Safety risks (such as, hidden manufacturing defects);
  • Strikes;
  • Bad weather conditions.

If the air passenger’s case relates to the above mentioned, he might be denied receiving compensation. However, that is not the case to abandon the idea of applying for financial compensation and protect your passenger rights. These terms can be interpreted differently, upon specific situations, it is yet to be legally analyzed whether a person is eligible for compensation, or not.

Technical issues are not considered extraordinary circumstances, and flight delays under them can be compensated, owing to the case C-257/14. This case pictures an air passenger with a ticket reservation for a flight operated by KLM. The plane itself was planned to depart from Quito (Ecuador) to Amsterdam (Netherlands), but it landed on the destination with a 29-hour delay. It was then reported that the plane could not take off due to technical issues that needed to be eliminated by urgent technical assistance.

Further investigation revealed that KLM didn’t test the components when doing the planned “pre-flight check”. The court then affirmed that the case wasn’t falling under the extraordinary circumstances and it was, in fact, a technical issue. As a result, technical issues are reimbursable.  

Please be informed that extraordinary circumstances are defined differently in various jurisprudence or countries, so any EU flight delay compensation claiming process can vary.

Therefore, we advise you to check carefully if you are eligible for compensation. As history tells, each particular case brought in slight changes in the existing regulation. Thus, any situation is important and might draw attention and new visions on the law.

Last Updated on October 7, 2019.