/ Travel & Leisure

Have you struggled to get compensation for a flight delay?

Delayed flights on screen with holidaymakers

Travellers hit by flight delays or cancellations routinely lose out on compensation they’re entitled to. As I found out on a family holiday to Greece, it pays to know your rights when it comes to flights.

We arrived at Gatwick at 5.45am to be told at the BA check-in desk that our 8am flight to Thessalonika had been cancelled. No reason was given for the cancellation and no information was forthcoming as to what would happen next. After a very long wait in a very slow queue, we were finally told that we were being re-routed, necessitating a fraught bus ride to Heathrow to catch a 12pm flight to Cyprus, where we then had a further wait for a separate flight to Thessalonika.

All in all, a very stressful day – especially with two under-threes in tow. At Heathrow, we were given some food vouchers from customer services, but only after we requested them. By the time we finally got to our destination, it was 11pm – nine hours later than our original stated arrival time.

Getting the compensation I deserve

On our return, we researched our flight cancellation rights and found that as our journey was disrupted for more than three hours, we were entitled to compensation.

We raised a complaint via the BA website. When they replied, a couple of weeks later, they told us that EU compensation wasn’t payable on this occasion as the cancellation had been ‘outside of their control’. We were offered 10,000 Avios points or an eVoucher to the value of £125.

Dissatisfied with their response, we queried why the cancellation had been outside of their control, but they weren’t able to tell us. So we raised a complaint with the flight regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority. One month later, BA came back to say we were entitled to a full refund of £400 per person – a total of £1,200 overall.

Flight delay compensation

So, if you’re to take away anything from my story, it’s that you should hold your airline to account and claim the compensation you’re rightly owed.

And not enough people are doing that. We’ve found that in a year more than 9,000 flights were delayed by three hours or more, meaning around 900,000 passengers are potentially eligible to receive compensation. But our investigation found only four in 10 claimed compensation, meaning we’re collectively missing out on millions of pounds

Have you had your flight cancelled or delayed by more than three hours? Did you try to claim a refund? Oh and if you’ve been subject to a flight cancellation or a delay of three hours or more any time in the last six years (five years in Scotland), we’ve put together a free tool to help you claim your refund.


I am glad that Which? is highlighting the iniquities of the airline industry.

Your article says ” But our investigation found only four in 10 claimed compensation”. This raises the question of whether they accepted a low compensation or achieved what they should have had by right.

Does your survey have this split? And have the investigation results been published?

Also . . . how many got no compensation at all in response to their claim? This statistic might explain the propensity for the other six out of ten not putting in a claim in the first place.

Hi dieseltaylor and John Ward,

Our survey didn’t go any further at looking at the success rate of those who did complain, and there is no other body collecting this information.

But, we do know that is often difficult for consumers to get compensation. We recently surveyed supporters who had experienced a flight delay or cancellation in the last six years, and, although this is not a representative sample, just under half of those who claimed were successful.

I am curious to know of the thinking behind awarding £280 for a flight delay of over 3 hours (see Campaign), for example. I have every sympathy for long delays that cause great inconvenience, would incur cost, and lose time on a holiday or business trip. However I just wonder how, for example, paying someone over £90 an hour because they are 3 hours behind their schedule if there were no other losses is justified. Just to keep the process simple? Remember this compensation will be recovered from other travellers through fares they pay.

But this is just a question!

I thought there was no compensation for a delay of up to 2hrs 59 mins; at 3hrs 0mins €400 compensation becomes payable, but the delay could be four, five, six or more hours, so the rate of compensation won’t be €133 an hour – in fact the compensation rate diminishes the longer the delay goes on. Personally I feel that a delay of three hours or more due to a circumstance within the airline’s control should be reflected in a substantial compensation payment. Unfortunately, as you say Malcolm, this does end up being a charge on air passengers generally but presumably if it happened too often it would impact on profits. I am disappointed that BA took a negative position initially and didn’t yield until after Xanthe involved the CAA.

The Which? compensation claim tool expresses all the refunds for different situations in Euro values, so are the refunds referred to in the intro at £400 per passenger correct? Should it not be €400?

I think Which are losing the plot. The Magazine seems intent on fostering a compensation culture. Issuing an email (recieved today) promoting making a claim is tantamount to acting like the PPI parasites. A delay in itself is not reason to request compo if the airline is otherwise satisfactory. I travel abroad mainly Europe 3 times a year and can’t recall the last delayed flight. Making people aware of their rights and championing claims where financial loss or great inconvenience is caused is one thing but someone has to pay and a huge compensation bill will result in increased fares.

Hi all, a news update for you. From the BBC:

“Ryanair has lost a test case over flight delays, which could affect compensation claims being made by millions of passengers. Manchester County Court said the airline cannot cut the time a passenger has to claim from six years to two by adding a clause to its small print.
The ruling sets a precedent for delayed EU passengers on all airlines. Ryanair said the six-year rule was “unnecessary and unreasonable” and that it would appeal against the decision.”


Our Richard Lloyd said in response:

“This case is a huge victory for consumers and should deter other attempts to shorten the six year time limit for seeking redress. It’s about time that airlines hold their hands up and pay compensation where it is due. We are urging people to hold their airline to account and claim the compensation they are rightly owed if they have a lengthy delay and the airline is at fault.”

Well the Which? system works! I have just followed the guidelines and received two cheques for €400 from jet2 for a four-hour flight delay from Portugal to Manchester two years ago. I’d claimed twice before without success, but on seeing the news of the recent European Court/KLM judgement I thought I should try one more time, and jet2 paid up within a few days.
I must admit I share the reservations expressed earlier about being compensated such a large amount when the only inconvenience was having to sit around in a hot airport for four hours, but …. I’m very happy to bank the money!

Great, well done! I’m glad our flight delays tool worked for you 🙂

Derek says:
14 December 2015

Is there any compensation due if a flight is delayed by an hour, say, and that causes you to miss the connecting flight and results in a delay of more than 3 hours?

Hi Derek, all information can be found on our consumer rights site, here: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/flight-delays-and-cancellations there’s also info on how to make a claim here too. But, my understanding is that if you purchase the flights in one booking and you’re delayed by three hours or more when you arrive at your final destination then you may be able to claim. If you made separate bookings that then I don’t believe the three hour rule applies.

My daughter had a flight delay (7 hours in total) in September flying from Manchester to Moscow. I claimed from Brussels Airlines and they offered her £50. I replied to the email using the Which? template as a guide and they have now emailed back with no mention of any compensation and stating that because there were ‘heavy blasts’ at Brussels (where she had to change planes) this was a force majeure and she was not entitled to compensation. Any advice on what to do next?

Hey Jaycee – thanks for your comment.

Usually weather is only an extraordinary circumstance – and as such an excuse airlines can use to avoid paying compensation – when:

– The flight in question is directly affected by ‘freak’ or ‘wholly exceptional weather’.
– Air Traffic Control decides to reduce flow rates due to bad weather. For example, if ATC decides only 25 planes an hour can land as opposed to the usual 45 planes an hour – that would be an extraordinary circumstance.
– Air Traffic Control decides to delay a flight, and this causes a knock-on effect to flights throughout the day.
– An airport is closed because of bad weather.

It may be worthwhile making enquiries as to the exact circumstances of the delay – if for example other flights were landing on time without issue than I’d say their defence looks pretty flimsy.

If you still aren’t satisfied with their response, you can complain to the national enforcement body in the EU country where the incident took place. – for Belgium this is:

Denied Boarding Authority
FPS Mobility and Transport
Directorate General Aviation (DGLV)
Strategic Unit – Passenger Rights
City Atrium (6th floor – locker PAX)
Progrès 56
B – 1210 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0) 2 277 44 00 (between 9 and 12 pm)
Email: passenger.rights@mobilit.fgov.be

I am a bit unclear from the conversation if the delay compensation is for the delay to the FINAL destination of a multi-leg flight journey (eg London->US hub->final destination) or whether it only covers the leg with the delay or leg relating to EU. Could you please clarify?

Paul says:
20 July 2016

Me and my fiancee experienced a strike by the Lufthansa cabin crew during November 2015. We only found out about it when we arrived at Munich airport to get our flight home to Manchester. We arrived there around 6am as our flight was at 8:55am, but we were shocked to find out that they had gone on strike a few days earlier. We were not informed of this at all beforehand.

We were told to go to the Lufthansa information desk to arrange new flights, which we did, but our new flight wasn’t taking off till around 12:20pm which would land at Dusseldorf and we would then have to get a connecting flight from there to Manchester at around 2:50pm.

We weren’t given anything in the way of free refreshments and basically had to sit around waiting for hours in extreme boredom as there was only a cafe and a small newsagent type shop at the terminal building. We only had around €15 between us and when you are waiting for almost 7hours before you fly is not very good at all as we were starving as we could only have a sandwich and a drink to share between the 2 of us and we started to suffer from cramp.

The 1st flight was 30mins late in landing at Munich and we started to think that we would miss our connecting flight. So we eventually took off around 1pm. All the annoucements were in German, so we didn’t know what was going on and the staff weren’t very helpful either.

Upon landing at Dusseldorf, we had around 25mins to find our next flight. To make matters even worse, that airline company had no record of either of us on their system, even though it was supposed to have been booked through Lufthansa. Luckily they allowed us on that flight once we explained the situation and showed them the re-arranged flight details.

We eventually arrived back home around 5:20pm, so around 13hrs just to get from Munich (Germany) to Manchester (UK) from the minute we got up that morning to get ready to make our way to the airport.

I put a compensation claim in to Lufthansa, but they refused to acknowledge any blame for the whole incident and said they wouldn’t be paying out. They didn’t even apologise for what we had to endure. Apparently to them, a strike is not the same thing as a cancellation. They didn’t even offer us a gesture of goodwill. All the correspondence showed no feeling or emotion in any of it, not the sort of thing you’d expect from a Customer Relations department of a huge worldwide company. I tried appealing, but that didn’t work as they don’t like giving away any of their profits.

It basically spoilt a lovely few days away in a nice city. I won’be flying with Lufthansa ever again as I later found out that they have had around 14 strikes in 18months. They couldn’t care less about the general public, all they care about is themselves and making lots of money.