Claiming compensation for flight delays

A few weeks ago I wrote about the ‘Huzar vs Jet2’ legal case.  This has brought substantial clarity to the rules covering ‘EC261’ compensation for delayed flights.

As a reminder, you are due the following compensation if your flight from an EU airport on any airline, or to an EU airport on an airline licensed to fly within the EU, is delayed:

Flights under 1,500 km with a delay of 2 hours or more are entitled to €250

Flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km (or any flight over 1,500km within the EU) with a delay of at least 3 hours are entitled to €400

Flights of 3,500 km or more (unless entirely within the EU) and a waiting time of 4 hours are entitled to €600

Where rerouting is offered and results in the passenger arriving within 2, 3 or 4 hours of the scheduled arrival time, depending on distance, the compensation payable is halved

Delays lasting more than 5 hours give passengers the option to withdraw from the flight altogether and be flown back to their original destination

Wikipedia has a long article on EC261 if you want to go into it in more detail.

The Huzar case clarified that airlines are NOT allowed to use ‘mechanical failure’ as an excuse to avoid payment.  The Court of Appeal has now ruled that this does not count as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ which allows an airline to avoid compensation payments.

Flight delay

If you are due compensation, you need to decide whether to pursue the claim yourself or to outsource it to a third party.

What I did not mention when I wrote about the Huzar case, and as a press release last week reminded me, a number of groups have sprung up over the last year or so to help reclaim money you may be due.

Flightright, for example, will handle the process on your behalf in return for a 25% fee.  Given that the compensation figures are not huge (from €250 per person) this is arguably not a bad deal in return for getting the entire process off your shoulders.

euclaim offers a similar service, albeit with a slightly higher fee.  An online search will bring up some other alternatives.

You can also try the DIY approach.  MoneySavingExpert has a guide to making your own claim if you want to go through the process yourself, although that won’t help if the airline refuses to pay and you need to use the Small Claims Court.  I don’t have any personal experience of claiming EC261 compensation, luckily, so I don’t know how drawn out the process could be.

In theory, ‘Huzar vs Jet2’ should mean that more airlines begin to settle claims directly.  It will take a few months to find out if this is actually the case in reality.

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  1. this is what refund me have sent me regarding my case and current status:

    OnJune 11 2014, the Court of Appeal ruled that airlines could not claim normal technical problems as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ to escape paying compensation for flight delays. The case was brought by a passenger, Ron Huzar, who suffered a 27-hour delay on a Jet2 flight from Malaga to Manchester in 2011.

    This decision means under the terms of regulation EU261 airlines must pay compensation to passengers for delays of more than three hours.

    However, have since filed an application to the Supreme Court, the highest Court in England and Wales, seeking permission to appeal the judgment. The Supreme Court must now decide whether or not they wish to grant leave (permission) to appeal. A decision is anticipated in October 2014.

    Unfortunately the result for you is more waiting. Currently all cases affected by Huzar v are stayed (on hold).

  2. Am I lucky or unlucky?
    From 2012-2013, four long haul delays and 2,400 Euros, each claim was made direct through BA.Com and settled in six weeks. Always ensure you get information from from BA staff about the reasons, one example, December last year 8 hour delay from PVG-LHR, Captain said the delay was due to minor damage to the hold when the aircraft was loaded at Heathrow and had to be repaired there. This was mentioned in the claim and no quibble from BA.
    But so many PAX are just not informed by BA that they are entitled to this, I think in future I will make some special cards …200 x 600 x 25%….just a joke ..!!

    • I had one case so far: BA, claim on, cheque arrived within weeks. Straight forward and simple, therefore I would try again in a future case before giving part of my money to a third party.

    • Hi Joe, Volker,
      My flight got delayed very recently (around 4th July). After returning from my vacations, i filed a complaint on on 8th. I did get an auto mailer, however did not receive anything further. I have tried to chase it up twice quoting the same complaint number but no response so far.
      Did you guys send any posts as well or call them up? Not sure what else to do.

  3. I hope this will not lead to situations where the decision whether a plane with a mechanical fault should fly or not is being rushed to save in the order of 25000 euros.

    • Safety is clearly being overlooked in favour of the compensation culture with this. This is of a great deal of concern to me and I hope to all travellers.

  4. Sam Wardill says:

    I have had three cases. In all three cases the airline refused payment and I had to lodge a court claim. Two of the claims were in UK (air France and Swiss air) and were settled before the court date. They were easy. The third against aer Arran has to be lodged in an eu court as aer Arran don’t have a uk address. Also with the third the Irish regulator (incorrectly I believe) denied my claim. Therefore I am using the folks at EUDELAY. They will earn their money with this case but they have not complained. I can’t fault them to date. Incidentally they agree with me the the Irish regulator incorrectly denied my claim.

    To the point made by Frenske, I think it is highly unlikely that the regulation will lead to airlines operating unsafely. The potential cost of operating unsafely is already far too high. The regulation should, however, eventually result in airlines operating more reliably. I think we are already seeing some of the benefits. It has been a long slog because the airlines have spent their energy fighting the law rather than complying with it.

  5. I wonder where you would stand with ATC delays into busy airports? One could argue that extended holds at LHR for example are not unexpected and therefore diverts resulting from such holds shouldn’t really happen where the weather etc is good.

    • ATC holds are usually outside the control of the airline though.

      Unavailable/insufficient gates, priority inbounds from other airlines etc. None of those things are within the operating airline’s control and therefore could not be reasonably foreseen.

      I am aware of a few occasions of crew intentionally taking ages to taxi to stand but this is rar and almost never at the airline’s instruction.
      (One FO i know took 20 mins from landing to stand at DEL and was going so slowly that the tower twice asked if everything was OK and if he needed assistance!)

      • Sam Wardill says:

        The law doesn’t say that compensation is not due if the failure was due to a cause that was not within the airlines operation control. The law states “if it can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”. The reasonable measures that might need to have been taken could be by the airport or by air traffic control. It is up to the airline to contract with their suppliers (such as airports and air traffic control) to ensure that these suppliers take all reasonable measures to avoid flight cancellation and delay.

        • It isn’t as simple as that. Airlines cannot contract with ATC and airports in the way you suggest.

          Major carriers don’t even have that sort of control on a macro level, let alone a specific flight/micro level.

          Given the volume of movements happening every hour, it would be impossible for ATC to consider bespoke contracts for each airline! Their interest is getting everyone up and down safely and efficiently, not prioritising metal based on revenue factors.

          • Sam Wardill says:

            Ok. But look at the wording of the law. If ATC cause a delay because of a SNAFU can this really be described as an “extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”? Compensation can clearly not be avoided because an ATC SNAFU does not fall under this exception.

            Regardless of any specific contract term the ATC would be likely to be in breach of of a general contractual duty to provide its service with reasonable care and skill. I don’t know the wording of the contracts but there must be some sort of obligation and, if there is not, then the airlines can lobby EU governments to introduce one (rather than lobbying to change EU261). Assuming there was a general breach of contract then airlines would be entitled to pursue the ATC for the loss incurred as a result of that.

            If I had a delay under such a situation I would certainly pursue a claim. My view is that it it only when ATCs start to be held to account for the cost of their failures they will start to take actions to reduce them. This is the whole intent of this (EU261) law and why I personally feel so passionately about it.

  6. I wrote to BA twice about the 7 hour delay we had from JFK to LHR (all sitting on the tarmac waiting for a spare part). They denied my claim both times citing extraordinary circumstances. I have handed the claim over to Bott & Co to avoid the hassle. Unlikely to see any movement on this for a while as the airlines are asking for leave to appeal again……

  7. Per the flyertalk thread, it seems that BA only tend to pay out if the delay is above 3 hours. Thats always confused me.

  8. We had a delay from Humberside to Larnaca in Oct 2010 of about 16-18 hours. We were given a letter at the time but no longer have it. How do I trace details of this flight to claim for the 4 tickets purchased?

  9. Raffles, I hope you don’t mind a small punt, I created an entirely free page on my site which allows you to enter all your details about your delay and then print off the resulting letter. I hope the reader of your site might find it useful! (link on my name, otherwise

  10. I had a claim the year before last after a long delay on a short journey (LBA -> BRU).

    I booked the flight with BMI but it was bought out by BA by the time I flew. Long story short, I ended up with one letter from BMI telling me to get in touch and another letter from BA telling me to get in touch with BMI!

    Eventually BA settled using Avios. I’d rather have Avios than cash (depending how many it is, obviously).

  11. I don’t suppose there is a law coving outside of the EU currently? I fly back to LHR from Uganda recently with Qatar via Doha. The flight was delayed by 6 hours which meant I clearly was going to miss my connection but thankfully they managed to arrange for me to catch the next flight. When I finally arrived in Doha I noticed that my original connection had strangely also been delayed for 5 hours – I sent a letter to Qatar expecting something in return (maybe even a few Avios) and got absolutely nothing in return aside from a rather short letter. Last time I’ll be using them again!

  12. Mark Ross says:

    I recently had a 3 hour delay with BA technical fault plus a shambles rebooking, this was the response.

    In accordance with Regulation 261/2004, compensation is payable in some instances of cancellation. However, compensation is not payable if the cancellation is due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

    There are examples of what can constitute “extraordinary circumstances” set out in the Regulation 261/2004, including technical issues. In the regulation technical issues are referred to as “unexpected flight safety shortcomings”. The reason for the cancellation of your flight was a technical issue of this nature, and therefore, compensation would not be payable in accordance with the regulation.

    The issue of what constitutes a technical fault amounting to an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ was recently considered by the Court of Appeal in the case of Huzar v However, this is being appealed to the Supreme Court. In the circumstances, we are postponing consideration of your claim for compensation until the Supreme Court has issued its decision.

    Once the decision is issued, please contact us with your case reference so that the circumstances of your cancelled flight can be reviewed in light of the Supreme Court decision.

    If court proceedings are issued at this time, we will ask the court to stay them pending the decision of the Supreme Court.

    Thank you once again for contacting us. I do understand that this is not the answer you were hoping for and I’m sorry to disappoint you on this occasion.

  13. Frankie McPolin says:

    Hi Raffles
    I spoke to BA only last Thursday about my claim for a 23 hour delayed flight to Phoenix on 23rd May this year. They said all claims are on hold until this Huzar case goes to the next level of court. Were they incorrect in telling me this?

    After the call BA emailed me this

    Your claim for compensation has been refused because flight BA0289 on 23 May 2014 was delayed due to an unexpected flight safety shortcoming, which prevented the aircraft operating as scheduled. Under EU legislation, British Airways is not liable for a compensation payment in this situation.

    During our final safety checks, we noticed a fault of hydraulic leak. As this had been maintained in accordance with the manufacturers guidelines, this constitutes as extraordinary circumstances and could not have been avoided.

    Unfortunately airline operations are subject to circumstances outside the airline’s control. British Airways takes all reasonable measures to avoid delaying a flight in such circumstances. Consideration is given to whether there are any operational options available before a decision to delay is made. We are sorry that the delay was necessary in this case.

    • Given that in an airline of BA’s size technical problems occur every single day I would dispute their claim of extraordinary circumstances. Extraordinary circumstances is extreme weather etc, not broken airplanes as has been shown in Huzar vs Jet2

  14. Francesca Yardley says:

    Recently had a delayed flight with BA from Moscow to LHR. In total the delay was 14 hours. I had to buy a new ticket home (BA would not rebook me unless I had a connecting flight) and didn’t care that I had Gold status. I tried making a claim online but Roubles isn’t recognised as a currency and nor are replacement flights. I’ve tried BA’s claim line every day since last Monday and never once got through (I can’t even get to hold most of the time). Also tried submitting a claim online in EUR with a comment that the amounts are in roubles and it said I would get a claim number within 48 hours but never received anything. They don’t half make it difficult :(

  15. Oh! Matron! says:

    Has a Virgin Little Red flight From MAN to LHR a few months ago. Plane cancelled due to staff sickness. They actually flew the plane to LHR but with no Pax. Virgin settled quickly

  16. Hi,

    Wondered if you could help with this…

    I recently flew on a flight from Madrid to London (LHR). the BA aircraft scheduled to operate my flight was struck by lightening on landing in Heathrow on an earlier sector. Consequentially my flight was delayed by 3 and a half hours. On making a claim to BA, they have that this constitutes extraordinary circumstances.

    My take on it is that BA have a large fleet and it was their choice not to move around the fleet in order to allow an aircraft to operate my sector (which is 2 sectors after the incident). That is they have a choice on how to utilise their fleet, and because they chose to prioritise other flights, I was delayed. Do you think this is a valid claim, does anyone else have a similar claim?

    • This is roughly what the Huzar case was about. However, in that case, it was a maintenance issue that delayed the plane. The court felt that Jet2 should have alternative aircraft available to cover maintenance.

      In this case, whilst I accept that BA should (indeed does) have spare aircraft ready to go at Heathrow, a lightening strike probably does count as extraordinary circumstances.

  17. We had a 3 hour delay flying VS to Orlando last April;
    the delay was texted through the day before and all VS flights from LGW on the same day were delayed by 3 hours – this to me reads airlines fault…. All the way over i was looking at the clock (the payout for a family of 5 would have been nice)… and the scheduled landing time see saw’d 3 hours delay +/- 10 minutes on the landing. We landed at 2.56 (i think they put the pedal down a bit towards the end) – what i have not been able to find out is what constitutes arrival time – is it the gate – or the runway? Does anyone know….

    And as an aside VS have also stated on thier claims website that all claims are on hold until the Jet2 ruling is finalised.


  18. I think it is block time as departure is at push-back.

    The time on-blocks is not the same time as the doors are opened though. However, as stand choice is not in the control of the airline, for the purposes of compensation, it COULD be deemed to be the landing time as, beyond that point, the airline’s hands are largely tied.

    As I recall, we used to use time on/off blocks for the purposes of on-time arrivals & departures reporting to BA. Block & flight times came from ACARS.

    • Thanks for the reply.

      Whilst i can see that stand choice is not the control of the airline – its pretty much impossible to taxi and be on stand within 4 minutes of landing at MCO, so i guess its factored into the arrival time. Either way – its worth a punt!

      • Agreed but, even at the same airport, time from landing to blocks could vary significantly depending of time of day, the day of the week or even the operating airline. (eg flag carriers often get taxiway priority over others at gulf & indian airports for example so you could be waiting a while before arriving on stand if your landing time is close to that of a number of “local” planes!)

        Either way it is worth a punt!

  19. Grant Bremner says:

    So how long after bad weather is it fair for BA to claim extraordinary circumstances. My flight was canceled at 8:30pm due to thunderstorms that finished at 1pm. Denied compensation due to bad weather, despite the fact it was very sunny outside and other flights were still flying. Should I now try court or 3rd party claim service or is weather a get out clause for airlines that can’t be succsefully challenged?

  20. Jim Cleaver says:

    My family were recently delayed by 4 hours, do we have to write a separate letter each for my wife and I? and what about a lap infant? are they entitled to compensation?

    • I was on a flight, to guernsey, yesterday.
      After a delay of 1 1/2 hours and a re-scheduled flight a minimum 4 hours late( which I thought was very optimistic) I re-booked for today.
      The flight was 30 mins late leaving today due to the inbound return from my original flight, which ended up arriving 22 hours late.
      My only gripe is it took ground crew 1 1/2hrs to get my bags off the flight :-(

  21. Nadeshka says:

    Worth mentioning that BA will settle with avios more readily than cash – we had our BLR-LHR flight cancelled (after sitting on it for 2 hours) due to an engine issue that was discovered in last minute checks. No availability on direct flights for the rest of the week, but we were rerouted via Delhi the next day.
    When I filed a claim BA cited extraordinary circumstances, which I refuted. After a few exchanges (they wouldn’t budge) I filed a claim via the small claims court. They offered the €1200 for 2 people in the form of a travel voucher (terms far too restrictive for me to make use of). I however said I would consider avios. They agreed and we got 100,000 and court fees refunded just before the case was due to go to court (got a letter from their lawyers saying they did intend to defend the claim, so didn’t seem they would back down).
    Was happy with this result, given there’s good reward availibility for my intended travel plans.

  22. umichguy says:

    Do technical faults count or are they “extraordinary” and out of airline’s control? I had a flight from PUJ to LGW via ANU and due to some technical issues with fuelling flap/ control module there was a delay by around 3 to 4hrs.

    Original landing time at LGW: 09:44AM BST
    Actual arrival: 01:26PM BST

    Wondering if I should bother with a claim or not. Thanks!

  23. Frankie McPolin says:

    Hi Raffles
    Just a FYI that I received this email this morning about my claim. I already had spoken to a BA customer relations person last Thursday on the phone about this. It looks like BA are going to wait until the Supreme Court has issued its decision. I guess that could take months
    Dear Mr McPolin

    Thank you for your email regarding EU Compensation for your flight BA0289 on 23 May 2014.

    In accordance with Regulation 261/2004, compensation is payable in some instances for delays in arrival of 3 hours or more. However, compensation is not payable if the delay is due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

    There are examples of what can constitute “extraordinary circumstances” set out in the Regulation 261/2004, including technical issues. In the regulation technical issues are referred to as “unexpected flight safety shortcomings”. The reason for the delay to your flight was a technical issue of this nature, and therefore, compensation would not be payable in accordance with the regulation.

    The issue of what constitutes a technical fault amounting to an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ was recently considered by the Court of Appeal in the case of Huzar v However, this is being appealed to the Supreme Court. In the circumstances, we are postponing consideration of your claim for compensation until the Supreme Court has issued its decision.

    Thank you once again for contacting us. I do understand that this is not the answer you were hoping for and I’m sorry to disappoint you on this occasion.

    Best regards

    Mr Igalap
    EU Compensation Claims