Cancelled flight? The money and help you’re entitled to on EU flights

Delayed or cancelled flights can result in compensation and other benefits.


Staff at airports and airlines across Europe are planning to strike over the coming months, causing thousands of flights to be delayed or cancelled by industrial action.

With travel plans likely to be disrupted this year, knowing how to deal with flight and train cancellations, long delays, and lost bags is more important than ever.

Industrial action can mean the ground staff or plane crew won’t be working as usual, causing flight delays and cancellations in Europe and beyond.

Not all flights will be affected, but if there is an airline strike and you were informed of it less than 14 days ago, you might be due compensation.

What are your rights if your flight is cancelled?

When delays and cancellations happen, airlines should keep passengers informed and provide food and accommodation (if the delay necessitates an overnight stay).

According to the UK’s Citizens Advice website, if your flight is covered under UK law, your airline must let you decide between a refund or an alternative flight to your destination.

If you still want to travel, your airline must find you an alternative flight, even if it’s with another airline.

Air passenger rights in the EU mean that if your flight is delayed for two hours or more at departure, the airline must offer you care (meals, refreshments, and, if necessary, accommodation). If this delay means that you arrive at your final destination with a delay of more than 3 hours, you may also be entitled to financial compensation.

Can I claim compensation if my flight is cancelled or delayed?

You may be able to claim compensation if your flight arrives at its destination more than three hours late. The amount is based on how far you are flying.

According to the EU website, EU air passenger rights apply:

If your flight is within the EU and is operated either by an EU or a non-EU airline

If your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline

If your flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or a non-EU airline

If you have not already received benefits (compensation, re-routing, assistance from the airline) for flight related problems for this journey under the relevant law of a non-EU count

How to claim compensation

You should claim compensation directly from the airline rather than use an online flight compensation service. Third parties will take a percentage of your claim amount in exchange for their services, so you’ll get less money.

Search your airline’s website or call their customer services department to get more information on what compensation you’re entitled to.

While you can claim cash compensation in some circumstances, this doesn’t apply when cancellations or delays are attributed to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ – things beyond the airline’s control like extreme weather.

What happens if an airline cannot fly you home that day?

When a flight delay necessitates an overnight stay, the airline must arrange and cover the accommodation cost for passengers, including transportation to and from the accommodation.


If you need to make your own travel and accommodation arrangements in the event of a flight cancellation or long delay, the airline should refund reasonable costs.

You should retain copies of all receipts and book the cheapest alternative ticket and hotel available so that the airline can facilitate your claim.

What happens if your flight is delayed for three or more hours?

You are entitled to assistance such as food vouchers if your flight is delayed by more than two hours.

You’re also entitled to compensation if your flight arrives more than three hours late and the airline is at fault due to events such as technical difficulties or overbooking.

Passengers can also get a full refund if they are delayed by more than five hours and no longer want to travel.


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

What assistance do airlines provide?

Here’s what assistance airlines typically provide in the event of a flight delay:

Refreshments and meals: a reasonable amount of food and drink (often in the form of vouchers)

Communication: Airlines are obligated to provide means of communication, such as access to phone calls or emails, to inform passengers about the delay and their rights.

Accommodation: If the delay necessitates an overnight stay, airlines must arrange and pay for accommodation and transportation between the airport and the accommodation.


Alternative Transport or Refund: Passengers can choose between rebooking on an alternative flight or receiving a refund.

If your airline cannot arrange assistance, you can pay for this and claim the costs later. In this case, the Civil Aviation Authority advises people to keep receipts and only spend what is necessary.

What if I’m not on a UK/EU flight?

If you didn’t travel on a UK or EU-regulated flight, you won’t be covered by the UK/EU flight delay compensation scheme.

However, most airlines have a contractual obligation to offer passengers a choice between a later flight, alternative transport or a refund.

If the Montreal Convention covers your airline, you might be able to claim for any losses caused by a delay.


The Montreal Convention is a treaty governing airlines’ liability in the event of accidents during international flights.

Established in 1999, it sets standardised rules for passenger injury or death, baggage loss or damage, and cargo loss or delay.

The convention mandates that airlines are strictly liable for proven damages up to a specific monetary limit unless they can prove that the incident was not due to their negligence or was caused solely by a third party.

Check the Montreal Convention list to see if you are covered. Your travel insurance policy may also offer limited coverage for delays, so it’s worth scanning the Terms and Conditions.

What if I booked a package holiday or with a travel agent?

All businesses that provide services in the EU must comply with consumer protection rules. The European Consumer Centres Network states: “If you book a holiday, rental car, accommodation or a flight in the EU, Norway or Iceland and encounter any issues, your consumer rights are there to protect you.


If your flight is cancelled, your baggage is lost, your cruise doesn’t go smoothly, or you miss your train connection, EU legislation will ensure you obtain redress.”

In the UK, travel companies that provide packages that include a flight and that are sold to customers must protect your monies through the ATOL scheme.

ABTA also provides financial protection for UK consumers who book holidays through ABTA members. This protection ensures that consumers receive refunds or assistance if their travel company goes out of business.

Package holidays and agency booking can offer travellers extra reassurance and customer service.

“Booking through a professional agent gives you the peace of mind that you are protected in the event of any changes to your travel,” says Sarah Davies, a travel advisor from Life Begins with Travel.


“Even if just to have someone on the end of the phone to guide you through the process.

Davies explains that many online travel companies aren’t members of ABTA though, so it’s important to ensure you choose a company with both ABTA and ATOL protection “so you don’t end up out of pocket and that you’re well looked after.”

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