/ Travel & Leisure

Should we get compensation for delayed flights?

Woman frustrated in airport waiting room

Tried to get compensation for a delayed flight? Then you’d have been thrilled by last year’s ruling that airlines should pay us for flights delayed by over three hours. But now that decision has crash-landed.

Have you ever experienced a long flight delay, waiting hours upon hours in a drab airport lounge praying for your flight to be called?

If so, a judgement by the European Court of Justice in November may have cheered you up. It ruled that if you were travelling on an EU-based airline and the flight was delayed by more than three hours (and not due to an ‘extraordinary circumstance’), you’d be entitled to financial compensation. That’s on top of the food, drink and overnight hotel accommodation that delayed passengers were already entitled to.

The courts had formally ruled on what we already knew – our time is valuable. Just as if your flight had been cancelled altogether, a delay of over three hours would mean you’d be in line for compensation of between €250 and €600, depending on the distance to be flown.

Judgement on flight delays… delayed

Perhaps this was too good to be true. The airlines have had a tough year with snow, strikes and volcanic ash, and this ruling seems to have been a step too far.

In April, a number of UK airlines asked the High Court to review the decision as they felt it was in conflict with other European Regulations. The High Court agreed and it’s now been sent back to the European Court for clarification – meaning that it’s unlikely you’ll get financial compensation for a flight delay until this is all cleared up.

On a short flight, shouldn’t a delay of over three hours be treated as a cancellation? The new court review could take up to two years for clarification. Haven’t we waited long enough?


It is often the case that after arriving at an airport and checking in etc. information is scarce when there are delays. Staff (if they can be located) are unhelpful – especially at foreign airports. We, as paying customers are expected to put up with this, so, I believe we should be compensated for being forced to hang around an airport lounge when a flight is dealyed with very little information available as to why we are having to do so. It might just make airlines realise that they should keep the customer informed – or perform better!

Good day Sir..
It is really hard if the staff in the airport don’t want to help because they are focused on their work, they are too busy chatting on their workmates and you are waiting if someone helps you or entertain your concern. I experienced flight delayed because of technical problems and we don’t how many are we waiting to the exact flight.

I tried to asked the staff and the cashier but they cannot answer because they are not asking to the other staff who are in charge to the time of flight. My friend called me if my flight is not delay on that very moment but I told her it was delayed because of the technical problems and she remembered that she encountered that problem.

John Ryan says:
3 September 2010

Excellent news indeed, but unfortunately a policy the airlines will try to keep secret. I flew from London to Brussels and the flight at 10pm Sunday was cancelled. I paid for a hotel room and returned at 6:45 the next day for the first flight out only to be told it was full. Fair enough, but the check in staff were rude to the point of hostile, and any question of compensation or expenses – let alone a voucher for breakfast was dismissed. I’ve since avoided BMI and use any other possible airline.

No doubt the cost will be used to justify even greater ticket price hikes. Just make sure you’re aware of your right.

Gary says:
27 August 2011

I was caught in Argentina while the volcanoe in Chile erupted earlier this year,
British Airways staff were very thin on the ground in Buenos Aires but did put me up in the Sheraton for the 7 days until flights became possible.
I have since claimed on my travel insurance (£300) for travel delay which I was happy to recieve a I thought they may try and get out of payment, plus the insurance company (insure and go) has recently put up its prices and lowered the amount payable (under new policy would get £170).
Not too bad even if I have lost over £1000 in wages from work.

What is the difference between a flight that is delayed for 24 hours as opposed to one that is cancelled on day one but you travel out on day 2?

What is to stop airlines saying the flight wasn’t cancelled it was just delayed by 24 hours and so avoid the compensation (for now at least)?