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Compensation Rules for Cancelled Flights

As with flight delays, the EU Denied Boarding Regulations entitle passengers whose flights have been cancelled to various forms of reimbursement. 

This includes free food, re-routing and even monetary compensation, provided the flight cancellation was after 17 February 2005, when the regulations came into force.

These regulations apply if your flight departed from within the EU, or was with an EU-based airline, regardless of the origin or destination of the flight. You must have received a confirmed booking and checked in on time (or 45 minutes before departure if no check-in time was given).

Your rights to a refund or re-routing

When the Denied Boarding Regulations apply to a cancelled flight, you are entitled by law to either a full refund on the flight, or an alternative flight to your destination (known as re-routing).

If you choose to be re-routed at the earliest opportunity, you are entitled to free food and accommodation as appropriate, as well as two free phone calls, faxes or emails. This does not apply, however, if you elect to be refunded or re-routed at a later date. This applies regardless of the reason for the cancellation.

Compensation rules

Whether you choose to be re-routed or to receive a refund, there is the possibility that you may be entitled to compensation of up to €600 (about £493) as well.

However, if the cancellation was due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ then you will not be eligible for compensation. Extraordinary circumstances include factors which are beyond the airline’s control, such as extreme weather, political unrest and industrial action by airline staff.

The time at which the flight was cancelled is also important – if it is cancelled 14 days or more before the date of departure then you have no entitlement to compensation.

To qualify for compensation, you must not be offered an alternative flight which:

  • If the flight is cancelled 7-14 days before departure – departs less than two hours before your original flight was scheduled to, and is scheduled to arrive at your destination no more than four hours later than the original flight was supposed to arrive.
  • If the flight is cancelled less than 7 days before departure – is scheduled to arrive at your destination no more than four hours later than the original flight was supposed to arrive.

Compensation amounts

This table shows the amount of compensation you can expect to receive for a cancelled flight. This depends on the duration of the flight, when the cancellation was made, as well as other factors such as the departure and arrival times in relation to the original flight.

Flight length Delay Compensation entitlement
Less than 932 miles Less than 2 hours €125
More than 2 hours €250
Over 932 miles (within EU) or between 932 and 2,174 miles (between EU and non-EU airport) Less than 3 hours €200
More than 3 hours €400
Over 2,174 miles (between an EU and non-EU airport) Up to 4 hours €300
More than 4 hours €600

Making a complaint

To claim for compensation, you need to get in contact with the flight operator (not the company through which you booked the flight, if this is different).

When writing to the airline, reference the Denied Boarding Regulations; explain what happened and set out how much compensation you think you are entitled to receive. Include all the relevant details, such as names and addresses of all passengers on behalf of whom you are claiming for, along with their contact details (such as email address and phone numbers).

You also need to include all the details of the flight such as the origin and destination, the booking reference and flight number as well as the time, date and flight length. You should also include any documents you have to support these details, such as boarding passes and tickets.

If your claim is rejected

If the airline rejects your claim, or if they do not respond within 28 days, you should consider taking your claim to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or other regulator. The CAA will only deal with flights departing from or arriving in the UK. To make a claim to the CAA, you can use their online form.

If your flight departed from an EU country other than the UK, you should contact the local regulator in the country of departure. If the flight was arriving in the EU from outside, you should contact the regulator in the arrival country. The European Consumer Centre also deals with flights on EU-based airlines departing from EU countries apart from the UK.

Taking your claim to court

If you are still unsuccessful after taking your claim to the CAA, European Consumer Centre or any other regulator, you still have the opportunity of taking the case to the small claims court in the UK, although this is only possible if the flight cancellation occurred within the last six years.

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