/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Have you claimed for a flight delay or cancellation?

Family waiting

Flight delays hit 43 million air passengers between April last year and March, but tens of thousands of passengers on late running flights aren’t claiming the compensation they’re due.

The summer is the perfect time to jet off for some R&R or an adventure somewhere new. But for thousands of travellers frustrations start the moment they step into the airport.

Only last week, a plane full of holidaymakers flying from Manchester Airport to Corfu was delayed by more than 39 hours. The silver lining for these delayed passengers was that once they’d arrived in Corfu they were handed leaflets on how to claim compensation.

As one frustrated holidaymaker, Paul Kenny, pointed out:

‘We have lost almost a third of our holiday, so a big chunk of it. We’ll make the most of the holiday we have left and then I’ll pick up the paperwork and the arguments when we get back.’

Flight delay compensation

These hapless holidaymakers aren’t alone. Our latest research shows almost a quarter of the two million flights to or from the UK last year experienced delays of 15 minutes or more, affecting a not insubstantial 43 million journeys.

More than ten thousand of these flights were more than three hours late, with 180,000 passengers delayed on long haul flights, and a further 800,000 held up on short-haul flights – making nearly one million delayed air passengers in the past year alone.

These figures are high, but fortunately there is something you can do to make sure you’re not out of pocket when you shouldn’t be. After all, you may be happy to be getting hot and bothered on the beach, but inside an airport is a different matter.

Under the current EU Denied Boarding Regulation, the passengers who travelled on these flights were more than three hours late arriving and so could be due compensation.

This Regulation covers you if you’re flying from an EU airport on any airline, or flying into an EU airport from a non-EU airport on an EU-based airline.

It’s worth knowing that if you’re travelling with a non-EU based airline flying from a non-EU destination, the airline doesn’t have the same duty to look after you. But you should check your airline’s Condition of Carriage to see what compensation you’re entitled to – you’ll be able to find this information out from the airline’s website.

Have you claimed compensation for a flight delay?

No I've not tried before (42%, 589 Votes)

No I've never been delayed (33%, 459 Votes)

Yes I've claimed and I was successful (14%, 199 Votes)

Yes I've claimed but I didn't get compensation (10%, 146 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,393

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Claiming for a flight delay

If you think you’re due compensation for a flight delay, but you not sure how to go about the claim, we’ve got the tools to make the process easier for you.

Our tools have been used more than 20,000 times – 14,202 of those for delays, and 6,202 for cancellations. If you’ve been hit by a flight delay, you can use our flight delay compensation letter, and for delays, we have a flight cancellation compensation letter.

So have you been caught out by a flight delay or cancellation?


There seems to be a growing obsession with claiming compensation at every opportunity. If someone misses a connecting flight as a result of a delay or suffers other significant inconvenience or extra costs then fair enough, but I would prefer to see compensation handled on the basis of individual claims.

I have not claimed compensation and cannot recall more than minor delays on any flight, though I appreciate that not everyone has been so lucky.

Compensation obviously adds to costs for everyone, so perhaps we can have a Conversation about why the cost of flights is so high.


Florence says “there is something you can do to make sure you’re not out of pocket when you shouldn’t be”. If flights are delayed by the periods stated in the regulations that apply to their flight then it is right that the airline honours the code, informs passengers of their rights, and deals fairly with any claims. But nobody who is delayed by fifteen minutes, or even thirty minutes, is likely to be out of pocket. Nobody expects every flight to run smoothly and I have been on many where take-off is delayed, or the air-bridge is occupied and a landed plane cannot berth for some time, but people take that in their stride and while it might be annoying it is not a compensation case. Criticising people for not claiming the compensation they are due doesn’t really get us anywhere. I am one of those delinquent travellers who have shrugged my shoulders and got on with my life without acting like a screaming Dalek shouting “Compensate! Compensate!”.

According to the Intro, not even a quarter of the two million flights into or out of the UK experienced a delay of fifteen minutes or more, so fewer than half a million flights give or take. Of those, more than 10,000 had delays of three hours or more. 2%. Given the complexities of air travel, and the millions of things that can go wrong, that is pretty impressive. I think most people recognise that when there is a delay it is usually in the interests of our safety, or our security, or both. Furthermore, most sensible people realise that when a delay starts nobody – not the airport staff, nor the cabin crew, nor the ground staff, nor the Air Traffic Controllers – can possibly know how long it will last and they don’t deliberately prolong the disruption – in fact there are powerful financial incentives not to do so. Let those who want to make a claim do so, and urge the airlines to deal with them properly in accordance with the regulations, but for those of us who – while not happy with the situation – don’t want to make a song and dance about it, just make sure we get the forms but please don’t complain if we don’t complain and file a claim.


It should be noted that to my knowledge that in the past the Edinburgh-London flights in the evening were often cancelled for operational reasons. The belief was that the airline concerned simply felt that there were insufficient passengers per flight and bumped one into the later flight. The probability is that this is true.

Out of curiosity who do you think has the detail on the cancelled flights and the legitimate reasons for cancellation? Is there a database of this information? Who would be interested in keeping it and do they have any desire to provide this information to consumers?

Does Which? follow up the letters it provides by subsequently asking how successful they have been? This would be encouraging to know. Any pattern of refusals of compensation would also be interesting.


Thanks for the comment @dieseltaylor. We do follow up with those who’ve used our tool – as long as they’ve given us permission to do so – to find out how they’ve got on. It’s currently in the early stages, but once we have built a big enough data set we’re hoping to be able to do something more proactive with it.

The CAA keep a list of legitimate reasons for delays and cancellations – although it has been set aside a few times before in county court judgements.


Excellent. Good data is a powerful tool for identifying problems or seeing what is good.

I note your caveat regarding follow-up and looking at the letter template I am left wondering how you phrase this aspect. What is currently on the template is

“Stay in touch
Keep me up to date on this and other Which? campaigns by email
Our products and services
Keep me informed about other products and services from the Which? Group

I would have thought a better reaction would come from a less embracing choice and perhaps a specific request that they ” Please contact Which? to advise result, or if you prefer we will write and ask the result in six months time. This will allow us to fine tune the process and also find which airlines are difficult to deal with.”

Or something very similar that indicates their response will help others , and even themselves subsequently, by improving the data.


We no longer fly. Used to – a lot – but the entire experience has become so utterly loathsome that I’d rather have my tonsils extracted by a short-sighted blacksmith with Parkinson’s than submit to the interminable waiting, endless and invasive security checks, crowded cabins, uncomfortable seats, inept airports and the seemingly random horrors of baggage reclaim.

When we did fly, on our way to the US one summer, BA cancelled a connecting flight to Heathrow without notice and without explaining the reason. We had our two young children with us, along with several other families, and together we cornered and took hostage a BA manager in a tiny office and refused to leave, or allow him to, until something was done. In short order he arranged a second flight for us and we made the connection which they held on the tarmac at Heathrow. I doubt anything would have been done had we not been so…passionate.

From that I deduced a couple of things. One is that it’s not delays per se to which folk object, it’s the lack of clear and open explanations. Airlines treated their passengers like young cattle: no explanations and a ‘do as you’re told’ approach. From a flight a few years ago it seemed nothing had changed.

The other point is that the only thing which big companies seem to note is loss of income, so compensation might just push them into being a little more customer-friendly. Of course there’s always the hostage option…


That’s a bit more than a flight delay, and I hope you did claim.

I agree with you that lack of explanation is a problem. I once flew to Norway via Schiphol and my luggage was sent somewhere else. Promises were broken and it was late the following day when my case turned up. When I got home I put the matter in the hands of my travel agent and eventually got compensation and – more important – a letter of apology.


Cattle-class is indeed the term for air travel. Certainly a highly unpleasant experience compared to what it once was .

I was going to say I would never