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Displayboard at the airport shows letters "DELAYED" in red font
One of the most common problems when travelling by air is delays. From a certain length of delay, airlines must provide various services. Image: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

Flight delay - What am I entitled to?

The regulations on claims in the event of delays are precisely defined in the Air Passenger Rights Regulation (EC No. 261/2004). Depending on the length of the flight and the duration of the delay, passengers are entitled to assistance and either re-routing as soon as possible or financial compensation.

Information and assistance obligation

In the event of a departure delay of two hours or more, you are entitled to free meals or snacks, refreshments and, if necessary, two free phone calls or emails. The airline should inform you of your rights at the check-in counter or boarding gate (e.g. information sheet).

If the flight is postponed to the next day, you will be entitled to a free transfer (there & back) to hotel accommodation free of charge.

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Food and drinks

According to the regulation, the extent of the care service depends on your delayed arrival time compared to the planned arrival time and the length of your flight route. Whether a flight takes place in the European Economic Area (EEA countries, see above) also plays a role. In practice, airlines usually hand out vouchers for airport restaurants. Sometimes, however, nothing is offered and passengers waiting are not informed of their entitlements. As a result, the necessary receipts for expenses incurred during the waiting time are often missing. So keep all receipts for such restaurant, taxi or hotel costs! You are only entitled to care services if the waiting time and flight distance fall into one of the following four categories:

  • up to 1,500 km whether in or outside the EEA from 2 hours 
    (e.g. Vienna - Belgrade)
  • further than 1,500 km within the EEA from 3 hours 
    (e.g. Graz - Madrid)
  • between 1,500 and 3,500 km outside the EEA from 3 hours 
    (e.g. Innsbruck - Ankara)
  • further than 3,500 km outside the EEA from 4 hours
    (e.g. Dublin - Cairo)

In the event of a delay of more than 5 hours, an airline must offer waiting passengers the option of a full refund of ticket costs if these passengers no longer wish to take the flight because the purpose of their journey has become pointless due to the delay.

In this case, if the passengers have already completed part of the flight (e.g. if it is an open jaw flight with a change of flights), the airline must also provide the return flight to the departure airport at the earliest possible time free of charge.

Compensation payment

An airline only has to pay compensation after a delay of three hours on arrival at the destination airport, but not for shorter delays. 

The amount of compensation per person is

  1. 250 € for short distances (1500km)
  2. 400 € for medium distances (3500km) 
  3. 600 € for long distance (over 3500 km) but only if the flight goes beyond the EEA area

For long-haul flights (over 3,500 km), a compensation payment may be halved to €300 if the arrival time was less than four hours later than in the original flight plan.

Green pictogram shows an aeroplane in the upper half and euro banknotes below a dividing line

Compensation by airline

When does the airline not have to pay?

If a so-called extraordinary circumstance occurs, the airline does not have to pay financial compensation, which it would otherwise have to pay for delays of 3 hours or more. Exceptional circumstances can be, for example, storms, natural disasters, strikes that do not affect the airline's own staff, terrorist threats, lightning strikes, bird strikes, medical emergencies or proven manufacturing defects on the aircraft. However, the above-mentioned assistance services for delays of two hours or more must be provided.

Red pictogram shows volcanic eruption

Extraordinary circumstance

What should I do at the airport?

  • Assert your claims at the counter or by calling the airline: Speak to the airline staff and assert your claims for delays of 2 hours or more. According to the regulation, the staff should actually approach you and inform you of your rights.
  • Ask the ground staff of the airline responsible for confirmation: Have the delay confirmed in writing on the spot. The specific facts, such as the reason for the delay, should be included. If you are refused this, ask other fellow travellers to confirm the situation in writing. You can offer to do the same for your fellow travellers. Make a note of the actual departure time.
  • Document your expenses during the waiting time: If you do not receive any care services from the airline, keep receipts for meals or refreshments consumed and, in the case of overnight stays, those from the hotel and taxi!
  • Screenshot for online complaints: If you fill in an airline complaint form online, you should take a screenshot before sending your entries to be on the safe side.
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Flight delay what now?


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