Flight cancellation compensation – what you’re entitled to

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If your flight has been cancelled, what should the airline do? Find out how to claim flight cancellation compensation – what you’re entitled to.

Flight cancellation compensation

The amount of money you may be able to claim depends on when you were told about the flight cancellation, how far you’re flying and why the flight was cancelled. It’s likely that you’ll be covered by EU rules, which means you should be able to claim compensation if you were given less than 14 days’ notice that your flight has been cancelled.

Qualifying for compensation under EU rules

To be covered by EU law, your flight must either:

  • Depart from an EU airport and be operated by any airline, or
  • Arrive at an EU airport and be operated by an EU airline

SAVVY TIP: Under this rule, airports in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are counted as ‘EU airports’.

Refund or an alternative flight

If your flight is cancelled, the airline must give you your money back or let you choose an alternative flight. The refund should be for any part of the flight that you’ve not taken.

The new flight doesn’t have to be with the same airline as you may have the right to be booked on a flight with another airline if it’s flying to your destination significantly sooner than your airline. You can also get the airline to pay any direct costs, such as transport to a different airport, accommodation, meals and refreshments.

Flight cancellation compensation – what you get

There are different levels of compensation that you may be entitled to. It could be anything from €125 to €600. The compensation amounts are per person, not per booking. You won’t get this compensation if the flight is cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances.

SAVVY TIP: In the case of the Gatwick Airport closure – that was beyond the airline’s control, so they don’t have to pay extra compensation.

For short haul flights

If your flight is up to 1,500 kms (London to Paris, for example) and you were told about the cancellation between seven and 14 days before you’re due to fly, this is what you’re entitled to:

  • If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight, you can claim €250 (currently around £220).
  • If your new flight takes off more than two hours before your original flight and arrives more than two hours after it, you can claim €250.
  • If your new flight takes off more than two hours before your original flight, and arrives less than two hours after it, you can claim €125 (currently around £110).

If you’re told about the cancellation up to a week before you’re due to fly, this is what you’re entitled to:

  • If your new flight arrives more than two hours after your original flight, you can claim €250 – no matter what time it departs.
  • If your new flight takes off more than one hour before your original flight and arrives less than two hours after it, you can claim €125.

For medium haul flights

If your flight is between 1,500 and 3,500 kms (from London to Istanbul, for example), and you’ve been given between seven and 14 days’ notice of the cancellation, this is what you’re entitled to:

  • If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight, you can claim €400.
  • If your new flight takes off more than two hours before your original flight and arrives three to four hours after it, you can claim €400.
  • If your new flight takes off more than two hours before your original flight, and arrives less than three hours after it, you can claim €200.

If you’ve been given less than seven days’ notice of the cancellation, this is what you’re entitled to:

  • If your new flight arrives more than three hours after your original flight, you can claim €400.
  • If your new flight departs more than one hour before your original flight, and arrives less than three hours after it, you can claim €200.

For long haul flights 

If your flight is over 3,500 kms (from London to New York, for example), and you’ve been given between seven and 14 days’ notice of the cancellation, this is what you’re entitled to:

  • If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight, you can claim €600 – no matter when it departs.
  • If your new flight departs more than two hours before your original flight, and arrives less than four hours after it, you can claim €300.

If you were given less than seven days notice of the cancellation, this is what you’re entitled to:

  • If your new flight arrives more than four hours after your original flight, you can claim €600 – no matter what time it departs.
  • If your new flight departs more than one hour before your original flight, and arrives less than four hours after it, you can claim €300.

How to claim compensation

If you believe you have a claim, you should contact your airline directly.  There’s likely to be a standard claims form you can download from the airline’s website. The Civil Aviation Authority’s website says that if there’s no standard complaints procedure available, it may be best to make initial contact by email, so you have a record of the communication. If you decide to keep a letter, it says you should always keep a copy.

Useful links:

There’s information about cancellations and what you’re entitled to on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website.

Related articles:

Lost luggage compensation – your rights if your luggage is lost or delayed

When can you get flight delay compensation?

What ombudsman schemes are there? Who can you complain to?

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