It’s one of the most frustrating parts of traveling. You book your flight, pack your bags and get ready for your trip. Then, just before you depart, your flight is delayed or, worse, cancelled.
You’re stuck trying to salvage plans and figure out the best way to proceed, potentially missing flight connections, special plans, hotel reservations and more.
It feels like someone should be paying you for all that extra work and heartache, right?
Ideally, the time-eight-money philosophy would apply to delays. Of course, as with all things related to air travel regulations, it’s never quite as easy as we think it should be.
Here’s what you need to know about claiming and receiving flight delay compensation.
What is flight delay compensation?
At its core, flight delay compensation pays you back for lost time. Ideally, it takes on the airlines’ responsibility to get you to your destination within a set time. If they cannot meet the minimum requirements for promotion, they would provide compensation or financial repayment for your time.
In Europe, a uniform law provides for this type of financial compensation for delays and canceled flights, and it is very transparent and easy to understand. In the US, individual airlines set much less clear thresholds.
Related topics: Your flight is canceled or delayed – what to do next
Compensation for flight delays on international flights
Within the European Union, there are regulations that give passengers financial relief for flights affected by delays and/or cancellations, thanks to a 2005 regulation known as the EU261.
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Let’s say you’re three or more hours late. In this case you are entitled to compensation (see table below) unless the delay was caused by “extraordinary circumstances”. These circumstances include weather, political unrest, air traffic control decisions outside the airline’s control and security risks.
Things like mechanical and technical problems are not exceptional circumstances. However, strikes at airlines, for example, can be considered exceptional circumstances.
As a result, airlines have spent hundreds of millions of euros on passengers who have been hassled by delayed flights.
Since its inception, Europe has extended this rule to apply to domestic connecting flights originating in the EU; This means that flights within the EU, flights from the EU to the US (and other countries) and even the connecting flights you have booked within the US are eligible for compensation.
Depending on how long you’re delayed, there are clear refunds you’re entitled to:
Note that if you accept a rerouting from the airline to your final destination, the compensation can be reduced by half.
See also: TPG Guide to Understanding EU261 Flight Compensation
Domestic Flight Delay Compensation
Unlike in Europe (see below), in the US there is no central client that regulates how airlines should compensate passengers in the event of a delay.
“There are no federal laws that require airlines to pay passengers money or other compensation when their flights are delayed.
However, the DOT is making strides to create more transparency in the industry on this issue. As part of this, they have tried to hold airlines accountable for compensating passengers.
Travelers are already eligible for refunds for flights that were canceled by the airline, as well as flights that were “significantly” delayed or changed after booking.
However, until recently, the DOT never defined what constituted a “significant” delay or change, leaving airlines to voluntarily regulate themselves. In some cases, this results in airlines having a flight with significant delays rather than canceling it.
Now, the DOT has defined the language and timing to define a “significant delay” as one that affects the departure or arrival time of a domestic flight by three hours or more (or by at least six hours for an international flight).
A “significant change” would include changing the departure or arrival airport, or adding more connections to an itinerary than originally booked.
Interestingly, it would also include changes to aircraft type “if this results in a significant degradation in the flight experience or in-flight amenities available”.
Also, the department recently unveiled its Airline Customer Service Dashboard — a new tool that shows how the top 10 US airlines treat passengers in the event of a delay or cancellation under the airline’s control.
The dashboard only provides information about accommodations offered by airlines when the delay is within their control. Many of the delays are beyond the airline’s control – often due to weather or air traffic control issues. Airlines generally do little to nothing when a flight is delayed or canceled because of these runaway issues.
The DOT hopes the new dashboard will become a resource that consumers can consider when choosing an airline.
Related: All airline flight delay and compensation policies from DOT’s customer service dashboard
What happens if I miss a connecting flight due to a delay?
Unfortunately, there is no general policy governing delays in the United States. If you miss your connecting flight, contact your airline immediately, either in person at the helpdesk, by phone (usually a faster option) or via the app. Or, if you have lounge access, head there first to speak to an agent, usually off-line.
The airline should work with you to put you on the next available flight. This may involve you being placed on another carrier. If you need to stay overnight, ask the airline for hotel and meal vouchers.
Upon your return, contact the airline for delay compensation.
Many travel credit cards include travel delay, disruption, and cancellation benefits that protect you when flights go wrong. If you know your flight will be affected, contact the card issuer you purchased your ticket from to determine your options (see below).
See also: Missed your flight? Here’s what to do
Which credit cards offer flight delay compensation?
Travel delay reimbursement is a benefit that compensates you for expenses that are not reimbursed by your transport company. Maps refer to ‘general airlines’ for this coverage, which usually means public transport with published timetables that you have purchased tickets for – think air travel, not car travel for this category.
While airlines can provide hotel rooms and meal vouchers for overnight delays that are under their control, such as B. Maintenance issues, they typically don’t provide cover for things like weather delays. Additionally, an airline’s quote may not cover all of your expenses. Travel reimbursement can help you here.
Here are some cards that are among the best for reimbursement for travel delays. It is important to note that specific terms and conditions may vary from card to card (or issuer to issuer).
It’s also worth noting that depending on the card, you need to be six or 12 hours late to qualify, which we note here: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (six hours); Chase Sapphire Reserve (six hours) and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (12 hours or overnight); The American Express Platinum Card®* (6 hours); Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card* (6 hours); Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express Card® * (6 hours); Marriott Bonvoy unlimited credit card and Marriott Bonvoy Bold credit card (12 hours or overnight); World of Hyatt credit card (12 hours or overnight); United Club Infinite card and United Explorer map (12 hours or overnight).
*Eligibility and benefit level vary by card. Terms and restrictions apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG company.
Thread: Flight delayed? Remember these 4 things if you want to get a refund from your credit card for a trip delay
How to claim flight delay compensation
Don’t hesitate to claim your compensation. In the EU, the individual countries set deadlines that can vary greatly. The deadline for filing a claim is not based on your nationality, place of residence or destination, but based on the seat of the airline you have flown with.
Instructions for filing a claim can generally be found on a carrier’s website. However, if you have trouble finding this information, you can also print out the EU Air Passenger Rights Complaint Form, fill it in and send it directly to the airline.
In the US, it’s also best to claim compensation soon after your flight cancellation. Domestic carriers are not required by law to offer financial compensation for delays. However, many have policies – which you can find on the DOT dashboard – that offer financial compensation for long delays.
Be sure to keep a copy of your flight information, including your ticket number, for the purpose of claiming compensation.
Although there is no single policy for compensation for delays, there are a number of ways you can get financial compensation if your flight is significantly delayed.
In Europe, for delays of more than three hours, you may be entitled to compensation under EU261. In the US, check the DOT’s new service dashboard to see if your airline will compensate you for your flight delay.
If you don’t receive financial compensation in this way, check with your credit card issuer to see if they reimburse a travel delay.