Are you entitled to compensation?

If a flight you’re booked on is delayed or cancelled, you may be entitled to compensation – but only where the airline is at fault

Under EU law, airlines are required to pay compensation to passengers when their flights are delayed or cancelled. However, you only have the right to compensation in some circumstances.

There are two key factors:

  • How severely you have been inconvenienced.
    For instance, if you have only been delayed slightly, you may not be entitled to compensation. 

    Learn about delay times and compensation levels
     
  • The cause of the delay.
    If the delay was caused by something outside of your airline’s control, it is unlikely you will be entitled to compensation.

Extraordinary circumstances

The EU law on flight compensation uses the term ‘extraordinary circumstances’ to refer to situations where delays or cancellations have been caused by things outside of the airline’s control.

If extraordinary circumstances apply, you are not entitled to compensation.

Do extraordinary circumstances apply?

It can sometimes be difficult to establish whether a problem with a flight was caused by extraordinary circumstances. Airlines should tell you why your flight was delayed — but even then the situation may not be clear.

If you’re trying to work out whether extraordinary circumstances apply, it can help to think about these questions:

  • Was the airline at fault?
    For instance, if the delay was caused by an airline staff shortage, you may be entitled to compensation. But if the destination airport was closed, you will not.

  • Was the disruption predictable?
    For instance, if the disruption was caused by a mechanical problem arising from poor maintenance, you probably will be able to claim compensation.

  • Were other airlines been affected?
    In most cases, if the disruption affected more than one airline, it’s likely to be outside of your airline’s control and so you won’t be able to claim compensation.

Examples of extraordinary circumstances

Some common situations where extraordinary circumstances apply include:

  • Removal of unaccompanied baggage or unruly passengers.
  • Getting stuck in a long queue for airport security.
  • Weather conditions that could endanger the flight.
  • Airport closures or air traffic control restrictions.
  • Unexpected aircraft damage, such as that caused by a bird strike.
  • A passenger becoming ill during a flight.

Still not sure?

The EU has published a longer list of what National Enforcement Bodies (organisations like the CAA across the EU) consider extraordinary circumstances to include.

However, even with this to help, it can still be difficult to know for sure whether you are eligible for compensation.

If you are not sure whether extraordinary circumstances apply to your flight, but have read about your other rights and think you might have a case, it is usually worth applying to your airline for compensation. If they reject your claim then you can consider whether to pursue it further at that point.

More about claiming

If you think you have a strong case for compensation, see how to lodge a claim with your airline.

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport Limited required some airlines to reduce the number of flights they were due to operate as a result of forecast fog on 14 March 2014.  During fog conditions it is necessary to provide for greater time periods between aircraft to ensure flights can continue to operate safely.  The following flights were cancelled due to the bad weather and the CAA considers that airlines could claim the cancellation was due to an extraordinary circumstance and that financial compensation would not apply for these flights.

  

Airline

Flight Number

Route

Scheduled Time of Departure

Virgin Atlantic

VS3012

Edinburgh-Heathrow

06.35

Virgin Atlantic

VS2002

Heathrow-Edinburgh

09.10

Germanwings

4U7464

Hamburg-Heathrow

07.30

Germanwings

4U7465

Heathrow-Hamburg

08.50