What is flight delay compensation and what happens if my flight is cancelled?

By , 24 November 2023

5 mins read

There is nothing more frustrating than waiting at the airport for your flight, only to find out that it has been delayed or cancelled.

The good news is that you might be able to claim compensation, whether that’s a lump sum of money or expenses while you wait to board your plane.

We’ve got the lowdown on how to check if a flight is delayed, what compensation you could be entitled to and what your rights are if a flight is cancelled.

What is flight delay compensation?

In a nutshell, flight delay compensation is the financial reimbursement or other benefit that you may be entitled to if your flight is delayed. The compensation you get will depend on the airline, the duration of the delay and similar factors.

If the delay is due to factors within the airline’s control, such as mechanical problems or issues with crew, then you will likely be provided with compensation.

In some situations, you may not be entitled if the delay is outside of their control – such as severe weather or air traffic control issues.

What compensation can I claim?

This will depend on the length of the delay. If it is delayed for long enough, the airline must give you food and drink, access to phone calls and emails, and accommodation if you are delayed overnight. They must also cover transport costs between the airport and the hotel.

The airline may give you vouchers at the airport, or you may be asked to keep receipts and make a refund claim later on.

If you are left to choose your own hotel or meals, bear in mind that airlines will only pay for ‘reasonable’ expenses. Getting delayed flight compensation is not an excuse to eat a five-course meal before checking into a luxury hotel for the night!

You may also be entitled to financial compensation in the following circumstances

You will need to search the airline’s website or call their customer services department for information on the exact amount you may be able to claim.

If your flight is delayed for 5 hours or more, you don’t have to take the flight. The airline must give you the following:

You will need to speak to a member of staff at the airport once you have decided not to take the delayed flight.

How long is a flight delay before compensation?

The rules on how long a delay has to be before you can claim compensation depends on the flight distance. Generally speaking, they are as follows:

You can use a flight distance calculator online if you aren't sure how far you are flying.

How to check if flight is delayed

All airlines will provide information on the status of their flights. You can check the departures board for a quick overview, as they will likely have highlighted that your flight is delayed.

If you have downloaded the app for your airline, you can enter your flight details and potentially get further information.

A similar route to go down is by navigating to the airline website. There are also numerous flight tracking apps and websites online which provide up to date information on commercial flights.

If all else fails, go to the customer service desk for your airline and request an update.

How do I know if my flight is cancelled?

You will generally receive a notification via email, text or phone call from the airline. The departures board should also be updated with the status of your flight.

When you are contacted by the airline with the news, you will be given information on rebooking, refund and compensation options.

What happens if my flight is cancelled?

You will be presented with some options depending on the flight you are taking. You will probably be offered the opportunity to rebook on the next available flight, at no additional cost. This may be the best option if there are regular flights to your destination each day. However, if you would have to wait a few days for the next flight, you may choose not to take this option.

The airline will have refund policies in place for cancelled flights. Be sure to check the terms and conditions before you book your flight so that you know what your rights are. You may be able to claim a refund for the unused portion of your ticket if you choose not to be rebooked on an alternative flight.

In some situations, you may be eligible for compensation. This will depend on the reason for the cancellation and the amount of time you were waiting in the airport before a delayed flight became cancelled.

If you took out travel insurance, check the policy to see if it covers expenses related to flight cancellations. There may be additional compensation available.

How to protect yourself

Before embarking on a trip abroad, look into getting the right insurance. Travel insurance can cover unforeseen events such as flight cancellations, and if you are preparing for a long-haul flight or a flight which doesn’t depart from your chosen airport too often, it’s particularly advisable to ensure you are covered.

Once you arrive at your destination, ensure your coverage continues. Having car hire excess insurance in place before you embark on your journey ensures that, if you accidentally damage your hire car on your trip, you won’t have to worry about being out of pocket.

About the author

Jon spent years travelling Europe and Asia before settling down in the UK when he met his wife. He’s hired cars across the globe and is passionate about helping people save money with excess insurance. Since co-founding Reduce My Excess, Jon has found that he can use the knowledge he picked up from his travels by sharing it in online guides and articles. He hopes to save people from making the mistakes he learnt from over the years by giving them the travel information they need before they head off on their holidays.