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Claim compensation if your flight's delayed or cancelled

This advice applies to England

You might be able to get compensation if your flight was:

  • leaving from the UK – it doesn’t matter which airline it was with
  • arriving in the UK and was with a UK or EU airline
  • arriving in the EU and was with a UK airline

When to contact the airline

Contact the airline if these don't apply to you - for example, because you flew from New York to Los Angeles, or to Europe on a Qantas plane. What you’ll be entitled to will depend on the airline, and the countries you left from and arrived in.

Check what the airline should give you if your flight's delayed

If your flight’s delayed for long enough, your airline has to give you:

  • food and drink
  • access to phone calls and emails
  • accommodation if you’re delayed overnight - and journeys between the airport and the hotel

How long the delay has to be depends on the distance of the flight and the countries it's flying between. You can check the flight distance on the WebFlyer website.

Flight distanceHow long the delay has to be
Less than 1,500km 2 hours
Between 1,500km and 3,500km 3 hours
More than 3,500km 4 hours

The airline might give you vouchers to get these things at the airport. Ask someone who works for the airline if you’re not offered any help.

If they don’t give you help at the airport, keep receipts for expenses and try to claim from the airline later. Airlines only pay for ‘reasonable’ expenses - you are unlikely to get money back for alcohol, expensive meals or luxury hotels.

If your flight’s delayed for 3 or more hours

You’re entitled to get compensation if the flight arrives more than 3 hours late and it's the airline’s fault - for example, if they didn’t get enough bookings or there was a technical fault.

You’re unlikely to get compensation if the delay was because of something outside the airline’s control, like bad weather or a security risk.

If you’re on a non-UK flight which connects to a UK flight

You can usually get compensation if:

  • you booked both flights as a single booking

  • you were delayed for more than 3 hours

  • the delay was the airline’s fault

For example, if you were flying from London to Melbourne, with a stopover in Dubai, and your connecting flight was delayed or you couldn’t board the plane, you’d still be covered.

You’re entitled to a set amount of compensation depending on both:

  • the distance of your flight - check your flight distance on the WebFlyer website
  • the length of the delay - how late you are getting to your destination
Delay to your arrivalFlight distanceCompensation
3 hours or more Less than 1,500km £220
Between 1,500km and 3,500km £350
4 hours or more More than 3,500km £520

How to get compensation

You have to claim from the airline to get compensation. Search their website or call their customer services department.

If your flight’s delayed for 5 hours or more

You don’t have to take the flight if it’s delayed for 5 hours or more.

If you don’t take the flight

The airline legally has to give you all of the following:

  • a full refund for the flight
  • a full refund for other flights from the airline that you won’t use in the same booking, eg an onward or return flight
  • if you’re part-way through a journey, a flight back to the airport you originally departed from

You should get the refund within 7 days of the date of the flight.

Talk to someone from the airline as soon as you decide you don’t want to take the flight.

If you do take the flight

You can claim up to £520 in compensation if the delay is the airline’s fault - depending on the distance and destination of your flight, and how late it arrived. It might have been your airline's fault if there was a technical problem, or they overbooked.

You’re unlikely to get compensation if the delay was because of something outside the airline’s control, like bad weather or a security risk.

If your flight is cancelled

You have the legal right to either:

  • a full refund - including other flights from the airline that you won’t use in the same booking such as onward or return flights
  • a replacement flight to get you to your destination

if you’re part-way through a journey and you don’t want a replacement flight, you also have a right to a flight back to the airport you originally departed from.

Ask for a refund or replacement at the airport if you can. If not, you can claim from the airline later.

You also have a legal right to:

  • help with costs - if the cancellation delays you 2 or more hours
  • compensation - if you’d be delayed 2 or more hours by the replacement flight offered and you were given less than 2 weeks' notice

If you get a replacement flight

If you have to wait long enough for your replacement flight, the airline legally has to help you with things you need. This includes:

  • food and drink
  • access to phone calls and emails
  • accommodation if you’re delayed overnight, as well as journeys between the airport and the hotel

How long the delay has to be depends on the distance of the flight and the countries it's flying between. You can check the flight distance on the WebFlyer website.

Flight distanceHow long the delay has to be
Less than 1,500km 2 hours
Between 1,500km and 3,500km 3 hours
More than 3,500km 4 hours

The airline might give you vouchers to get these things at the airport. Ask someone who works for the airline if you’re not offered anything.

If they don’t give you help at the airport, keep receipts for your expenses and try to claim from the airline later. Airlines only pay for ‘reasonable’ expenses - you are unlikely to get money back for alcohol, expensive meals or luxury hotels.

Claim compensation for a cancelled flight

You’re legally entitled to get compensation if the cancellation is the airline’s responsibility and both the following apply:

  • the replacement flight delays your arrival by 2 or more hours
  • your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before departure

The amount of compensation you’re entitled to depends on:

  • when the flight was cancelled
  • the distance of the flight - check the flight distance on the Web Flyer website
  • the departure and arrival times of the rescheduled flight

If your flight was cancelled less than 7 days before departure:

Flight distanceDeparture and arrival timesCompensation
Less than 1,500km Departure - at least 1 hour earlier than booked flight
Arrival - up to 2 hours later than booked flight
£110
Arrival - at least 2 hours later than booked flight £220
1,500km to 3,500km Departure - at least 1 hour earlier than booked flight
Arrival - up to 3 hours later than booked flight
£175
Arrival - at least 3 hours later than booked flight £350
More than 3,500km Departure - at least 1 hour earlier than booked flight
Arrival - up to 4 hours later than booked flight
£260
Arrival - at least 4 hours later than booked flight £520

If your flight was cancelled between 7 and 14 days before departure:

Flight distanceDeparture and arrival timesCompensation
Less than 1,500km Departure - up to 2 hours earlier than booked flight
Arrival - up to 2 hours later than booked flight
£110
Departure - from 2+ hours earlier than booked flight
Arrival - 2+ hours later than booked flight
£220
Arrival - 4+ hours later than booked flight £220
1,500km to 3,500km Departure - up to 2 hours earlier than booked flight
Arrival - up to 3 hours later than booked flight
£175
Departure - from 2+ hours earlier than booked flight
Arrival - 3 to 4 hours later than booked flight
£350
Arrival - 4+ hours later than booked flight £350
More than 3,500km Departure - up to 2 hours earlier than booked flight
Arrival - up to 4 hours later than booked flight
£260
Arrival - 4+ hours later than booked flight £520

You can claim from the airline to get compensation. You might be able to claim from your travel insurance – check if your insurance policy covers cancellations.

Claim from the airline

Contact the airline – this needs to be the airline operating the flight, even if you booked it through another airline. The airline’s customer services department will usually help. Be ready to give all your flight details and booking reference numbers.

Write your claim – say what went wrong and what you want the airline to give you. The Civil Aviation Authority has information about how to write a good claim and you can download a template letter from the Which? website. Include copies (not originals) of your tickets and any receipts.

Keep records – keep copies of your claim and any response from the airline. Take notes if you speak to anyone from the airline - this could be useful if you decide to take your claim further.

If you’re not getting anywhere

If you’ve asked the airline and they won’t give you the right compensation, you can complain to an independent organisation.

First, check if the airline is a member of an approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body. If they are, complain to the ADR body. If they’re not, report your issue to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) using the form on its website. The CAA’s Passenger Advice and Complaints Team (PACT) will deal with your complaint.

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