If your flight is cancelled, causing disruption to your travel, you have certain rights and may be able to claim compensation under the Denied Boarding Regulation.

Conditions of protection under the Denied Boarding Regulation

To be protected by the Denied Boarding Regulation, you must meet the following conditions:

  • You must be travelling with an airline that is based in an EU country, or with a non-EU based airline which is flying from an EU airport.
  • You must have a confirmed booking.
  • If a check-in time was given, you must have checked in by this time.
  • If no check-in time was given, you must have checked in by at least 45 minutes before your flight was due to depart.

Your rights under the Denied Boarding Regulation

Under the Denied Boarding Regulation, should your flight be cancelled you have a right for your airline to offer you:

  • a refund or alternative flight
  • additional assistance in certain circumstances


The refund must be for the full cost of the flight and be paid within 7 days. However, once you accept a refund you can’t claim back any additional expenses.

Please be aware that if you travel with a non-EU based airline, the rules may be different, so it is always recommended to check the conditions of carriage before travelling.

Alternative flight

This is referred to as ‘rerouting’. You can accept an alternative flight even if the cancellation is part-way through a non-direct flight where you are required to make a stop-off at an airport other than your departing airport or destination.

This rerouting may be arranged as soon as possible or at a later date that is suitable to your needs.

Additional assistance

To be eligible for free meals, refreshments and phone calls, the related delay must meet the following conditions:

  • a minimum of 2 hours for a short haul flight
  • 3 hours or longer for flights over 1500 kilometres (932 miles) within the EU
  • 3 hours for all other flights between 1500 kilometres (932 miles) and 3500 kilometres (2175 miles)
  • 4 hours or more for all other flights

If the cancellation means that your departure is delayed until the following day, you may also be eligible for hotel accommodation.

Should you be eligible for any or all of the above provision, this would be for:

  • free meals and refreshments, the conditions of this provision depending on the circumstances of the delay
  • free hotel accommodation, with any required transport between the airport and the hotel, also free
    2 free phone calls, emails or faxes

Any of the above must be suitable for the passengers involved, especially where a passenger is an unaccompanied child or has a disability.

Flight cancellation compensation

Where your flight has been cancelled, you may be able to claim compensation. There are 2 key factors that will support or hinder your claim:

  • the severity of the inconvenience to your travel plans
  • the reason for the cancellation

The actions of the airline will also have a bearing. Did they offer you an alternative flight? How long before the scheduled flight time did you find out about the cancellation? If you were stranded in an airport overnight or for a long period of time, were you offered hotel accommodation or refreshments?

The amount of compensation you could claim are:

  • 250 euros for short haul flights
  • 400 euros for medium haul flights
  • 600 euros for long haul flights

The amount of compensation you can claim is halved in the following situations:

  • Where you are provided with the chance to re-route your flight and the rescheduled arrival time will be within 2 hours of the original arrival time for a short haul flight.
  • Where you are provided with the chance to re-route your flight and the rescheduled arrival time will be within 3 hours of the original arrival time for a medium haul flight.
  • Where you are provided with the chance to re-route your flight and the rescheduled arrival time will be within 4 hours of the original arrival time for a long haul flight.

Compensation may only be paid in travel vouchers where agreed by the passenger. Otherwise, payment must be made by cash, cheque or bank transfer.

Reimbursement for a cancelled flight

Where an airline offers to reimburse a passenger for a cancelled flight, you are entitled to:

  • receive payment within 7 days
  • the full cost of the ticket at the price it was purchased for the portion of the journey not made, and any other parts of the journey that have been made but are rendered useless by the cancellation
  • the earliest possible return flight to the point of departure or the final destination, where relevant

Package holidays

Flights that are included in a package holiday are also covered under the Denied Boarding Regulation. The responsibility, however, remains with the carrier, i.e. the airline.

You cannot claim for flight cancellation compensation under the Denied Boarding Regulation in addition to making a claim against the value of your entire package holiday under the Package Travel Regulations. It must be one or the other.

Extraordinary circumstances

If the airline can prove that the flight cancellation was due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’, then they will not be liable to pay you compensation.

Extraordinary circumstances are conditions and occurrences that are beyond the control of the airline.

Extraordinary circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  • severe weather
  • security risk
  • political instability
  • strike action

Even though you are not eligible to claim flight cancellation compensation in these circumstances, you may still have a right to free meals, refreshment, accommodation, and travel to and from that accommodation.

How do I claim flight cancellation compensation?

Contact the relevant airline and inform them that you are making a claim for compensation. Most airlines will have a claims procedure for you to follow. Check their website before contacting them for all the relevant information.

To make your claim, you will need to include:

  • your contact details
  • details of all passengers in your party
  • your booking reference
  • your travel dates
  • flight number
  • departure and destination airports
  • details of the airport you were at when the cancellation happened
  • the length of any delays
  • details of the staff whom you spoke to
  • relevant receipts
  • copies of tickets, boarding cards and booking confirmations

As further proof of your connection with the flight, you could forward:

  • written/emailed/online communications with the airline
  • luggage tags
  • airport receipts
  • passport stamps

If you have none of this proof to hand, you may make a request to the airline for any information they hold on you under current data protection laws.

If your claim to the airline is unsuccessful, contact the Civil Aviation Authority.

You must make your claim within 6 years from when your flight was cancelled.

Should you have an unresolved complaint about your airline, you may also use the Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) Scheme.

Finally, should none of the above routes to making a flight cancellation compensation claim prove fruitful, you are entitled to take an airline to the small claims court.

How legal advice can help

Making a flight cancellation compensation claim against an airline can seem a daunting, lengthy and complex process, from the collecting of evidence, filling in forms and contacting the airline themselves.

Take specialist legal advice to ensure your claim is handled professionally, ensuring a successful outcome.

As Editor of Lawble, Gill helps business and individuals become better informed about their legal rights. Gill is a content specialist in the fields of law, tax and human resources.