Cancelled or delayed flights can leave you stranded in the airport or days late for your holiday. But you might be entitled to compensation from the airline. So how do you make a flight delay claim and how much compensation for delayed flights can you receive? We've got all the answers right here.

When am I entitled to compensation for a flight delay?

When travelling from the EU, you are entitled to compensation for cancelled flights or delays of more than three hours. This is also the case if you fly from a non-EU country with a European airline to an EU country. It's currently under EU law (EU Regulation 261/2004), which means it's also subject to change after the Brexit process is complete in 2019. For more information on how Brexit will affect travel in the EU, read our guide to what we know so far. If you're flying to and from destinations outside the EU, or returning with non-EU airlines to the UK, any flight delay claim will be subject to the airline's terms and conditions, so you will need to contact them directly.

How much compensation am I entitled to?

For all delays of more than two hours, the airline has to provide you with free food and drink, the cost of phone calls and emails, and accommodation if the delay means you are stranded overnight. Only 'reasonable' expenses are paid for, so unfortunately you won't get any free beers or fancy dinners. You might get a burger out of it, though. The table below details the amount of financial compensation you are entitled to for delayed flights, which depends on how long you were delayed, how long the flight itself was and whether your destination falls within the EU.

Delay to your arrival Flight distance Compensation
Three hours or more Less than 1,500km €250
Between 1,500km and 3,500km €400
More than 1,500km and within the EU €400
Three to four hours More than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport €300
Four hours or more More than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport €600

What are the exceptions?

You will only get flight delay compensation if it's the airline's fault, so if your flight is grounded by a storm or there is a strike when you're due to travel, you won't be entitled to a flight delay claim, even if the delay is more than five hours. However, you are not obliged to take a flight that has been delayed for over five hours, no matter the reason. If you choose not to take the flight, you are still entitled to a full refund, food and drink, accommodation and phone calls or emails. You should also check whether flight delays or cancellations are covered under your travel insurance, as you may be able to claim compensation this way.

Flight grounded by storm

How long do I have to claim compensation?

It's a good idea to claim for flight delay compensation as soon as possible, but you can legally claim for past delays. Claims may be refused if they are further back than six years in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (five years in Scotland), as this is the time period allowed by the statute of limitations if the claim goes to court.

How do I claim compensation?

The best way to claim compensation from an airline is to do so straight away at the airport, especially if you need a replacement flight or you are delayed overnight. If you can't get the airline to pay straight away, keep all your receipts so that you can make a claim on your return. To make a formal claim, contact the airline's customer services department by phone or write to them, including all reference numbers, flight codes/times and details of what happened. If you need help drafting a claim letter, MoneySavingExpert has a good advice page on delayed flight compensation, including a free online claim tool. If you don't receive the compensation you believe you're entitled to, or feel the airline is being unhelpful, you can take a flight delay claim further by contacting the Civil Aviation Authority or call the Citizen's Advice Bureau on 03454 04 05 06.

Can I claim if I travelled on a codeshare flight?

A codeshare flight is an agreement between two or more airlines sharing the same flight, meaning you could book a seat through one airline and actually fly with another. In this case, you are still entitled to compensation for delayed flights if the airline which operated the flight is an EU carrier or departing from an EU airport, regardless of whether the airline you booked with is based in the EU. If the operating airline is a non-EU carrier, and it's departing from a non-EU member state, this means you won't get the standard compensation under EU law.

What if my flight is overbooked?

By now, most of us will be familiar with the distressing footage of a passenger being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight at Chicago O'Hare Airport. Though fortunately this is a rare occurrence, it is legal and more common than you think for airlines to overbook flights, to allow for people not turning up for their flight. In this instance, it is common policy for airlines to ask for volunteers to take another flight at the boarding gate. They will usually offer travel or food vouchers as an incentive, as well as a later replacement flight. But if no one volunteers, the airline may move to involuntarily denied boarding - which basically means forcing one or more passengers to take another flight. If you are denied boarding as a result of overbooking, it doesn't matter if you are delayed less than three hours, you are automatically entitled to compensation under EU law. Make sure you get evidence of the denied boarding, by keeping both your boarding passes or asking the airline for confirmation in writing. It's worth bearing in mind that you're not entitled to compensation if you volunteer to give up your seat, so always compare what the airline offers you with what you would receive in compensation. For more information on what to do if your flight is overbooked, step right this way.

Man stranded at airport

What happens if my flight is cancelled?

If your flight is cancelled altogether, you are entitled to claim a full refund or a replacement flight so that you can reach your destination. You may be able to claim further expenses and compensation depending on whether you are delayed by the replacement flight, whether you have onward flights or travel plans which are affected by the delay and how far ahead the flight was cancelled. Read our article for more advice on what to do if your flight is cancelled.

If your flight was cancelled less than seven days before departure:
Flight distance Departure and arrival times Compensation
Less than 1,500km Departure - at least one hour earlier than booked flight

Arrival - up to two hours later than booked flight

€125
Arrival - at least two hours later than booked flight €250
1,500km to 3,500km Departure - at least one hour earlier than booked flight

Arrival - up to three hours later than booked flight

€200
Arrival - at least three hours later than booked flight €400
More than 3,500km Departure - at least one hour earlier than booked flight

Arrival - up to four hours later than booked flight

€300
Arrival - at least four hours later than booked flight €600
If your flight was cancelled between seven and 14 days before departure:
Flight distance Departure and arrival times Compensation
Less than 1,500km Departure - from two or more hours earlier than booked flight

Arrival - up to two hours later than booked flight

€125
Departure - from two or more hours earlier than booked flight

Arrival - two or more hours later than booked flight

€250
Arrival - four or more hours later than booked flight €250
1,500km to 3,500km Departure - from two of more hours earlier than booked flight

Arrival - up to three hours later than booked flight

€200
Departure - from two or more hours earlier than booked flight

Arrival - three to four hours later than booked flight

€400
Arrival - four or more hours later than booked flight €400
More than 3,500km Departure - from two or more hours earlier than booked flight

Arrival - up to four hours later than booked flight

€300
Arrival - four or more hours later than booked flight €600

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*Published July 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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