What to do if my flights delayed or cancelled?

Unfortunately this is all too common. But thankfully, as an EU resident, there are things you're entitled too if your flight is delayed. They haven't made this easy for you to understand, that's why we've created this little explainer.

TL;DR: If you're flying to or from the EU and your flight is delayed or cancelled due to things that are not the responsibility of the airline, you can claim compensation and also get reasonable expenses covered.

What airlines and destinations are covered by this?

If you're departing from an EU airport with any airline, or arriving at an EU airport with an EU operated airline, then you're covered.

For this purpose, the EU also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

What can I get compensated for?

There are two main categories, you're entitled to both, if the delay or cancellation is because of the airline:

  1. Money back for reasonable* expenses. e.g. food, drink, accommodation (if stuck overnight), transport to accommodation and phone calls. Make sure you keep all your receipts!
  2. Compensation for the disruption e.g. you were stuck in an airport for 12 hours

Reasonable is the official term and it’s hard to define exactly what it is, we get that. But think more a dinner at Nandos rather than a bottle of champagne and steak dinner, or the local Premier Inn rather than the Ritz.

How is the compensation calculated?

Compensation is per person and calculated based on whether you're delayed or your flight was cancelled. It also depends on where you're travelling too, so in this situation, size matters. The longer your flight distance the more you're entitled to. There are three categories:

  • Short-haul flights, under 1,500km - e.g. Edinburgh to Dublin
  • Medium-haul flights, between 1,500km — 3,500km - e.g. Manchester to Marrakesh
  • Long-haul flights, over 3,500km - e.g. London to New York

So, how much compensation can I get for a flight delay?

Flight delay compensation is mainly based on how long you were delayed (but also flight distance we mentioned above). Let's break this all down a bit, with a nice graphic.

There is also the five-hour refund rule. Once your flight has been delayed for more than five hours, you are entitled to a full refund if you no longer wish to travel. But you won't be able to claim for your hotel, car rental etc., more on that later.

And, how much compensation can I get for a cancelled flight?

First off, you are always entitled to a refund if your airline cancels on you. You can also get a refund for any un-used parts of your journey, so if you had a return flight, that's included as well.

But, they also have to provide you an alternative flight if you still want to go away. This can be provided by them, but if they can't, you can book a new flight on the same day. BUT, we strongly advise you get your airline to agree to the new flight you're booking. This is so you have proof they accepted it when you come to claiming. So you get a new flight or you get the refund.

The compensation, in addition, you're entitled to is based on:

  1. When they let you know about the cancellation e.g. emailed you a week before, or it happened when you were in the airport
  2. The difference in the arrival time of your original flight and new flight (basically if you land later than you wanted, you get compensated)

Again, let's break this down with a nice graphic.

What types of things are not the responsibility of the airline?

Airlines aren't on the hook for 'extraordinary circumstances', essentially things they can't control. The main categories of these are:

  • Acts of terrorism or sabotage
  • Political or civil unrest
  • Security risks e.g. drones
  • Strikes (unrelated to the airline e.g. airport staff or air traffic control)
  • Weather conditions that make it unsafe to fly
  • Hidden manufacturing defects e.g. a manufacturer recall that grounds a fleet of aircraft

This is when your travel insurance can come in handy. BUT, some sneaky insurers make it difficult to know whether they will even cover you for these situations. At Pluto, you can add on Extended travel disruption that will cover these types of scenarios. This way you know if it's in or out.

What does my travel insurance cover?

Great question. Apart from the 'extraordinary circumstances', your travel insurer can help arrange getting you home and help cover other expenses related to being stuck in an airport all day or having to get a hotel until the next flight.

Pluto insurance will also give you a little extra money in your pocket for expenses while you're delayed and importantly if you're delayed by more than 24 hours, you can abandon the whole trip and claim for other pre-paid costs (hotels, car rental, etc.). Your airline won't do this.

It's worth saying that most of the time your airline will do everything they can to get you back up in the air as soon as possible.

Help me calculate the distance of my flight!

If you need to help calculating the rough distance of your flight, try here.

Where can I get even more info?

All this glorious legislation is from the Civil Aviation Authority, more info can be found here.

So what do you have to do?

  • First things first, check if EU laws apply to your flight. You can do that on the Civil Aviation Authority’s website - as mentioned above.
  • If you’re still planning to travel and alternative accommodation, food and drink is not supplied by your airline, then make sure you keep your receipts.
  • If a member of the airline told you to make your own arrangements, make a note of who said that, when and where, and ask them to put a note on your booking saying that’s what they told you.
  • Keep new flight bookings and any other documents that can be ‘evidence’ of your claim.

Find out more about Pluto here



The two co-founders of Pluto, Alex & Harry.