Refund or compensation for delayed / canceled flights?

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In recent years, we have increasingly experienced flight disruptions, especially in the summer season when airports become overcrowded. After the pandemic, commercial aviation began to recover, but airport and airline staff shortages led to the cancellation or delay of thousands of flights. Even 2024 will not be without such inconveniences.

Millions of passengers were affected by these disruptions in flight schedules, but too few of them claimed their rights. And to the editor's office, we received a lot of notifications/questions from passengers affected by canceled or delayed flights, most of them about what they should do and what is better to choose: "Refund or compensation in case of delayed/cancelled flights?".

According to EC 261, air passengers have different rights in case of canceled or delayed flights. If you have canceled or delayed flights between destinations in the European Union or to destinations in the EU, know that you are entitled to compensation for canceled flight or delayed, but also when refunding money on plane tickets, in certain situations.

You are entitled to a refund if

  • the flight has been delayed by more than 5 hours and you no longer wish to travel on that flight;
  • if the flight was canceled less than 14 days before the original date and the alternative flight offered does not meet your original travel needs;
  • you have been denied boarding and do not wish to take the alternative flight.

Regardless of the refund, you are entitled to compensation if:

  • The flight was delayed for more than three hours.
  • The flight was canceled less than 14 days before the original date.
  • You were denied boarding because of Overbooking.
  • The flight was due to depart from the EU or was operated by an EU airline and was due to arrive in the EU.
  • The reason for the flight disruption was under the airline's control.

In the case of canceled flights, reimbursement means returning the money that represents the price paid for the plane ticket. Refunds are only one of the options available when the flight has been canceled less than 14 days before take-off. In accordance with EC 261, all canceled flights are entitled to one of the following facilities:

  • Full or partial refund of the ticket, with a return flight to the original point of departure, if necessary.
  • Alternate transportation as soon as possible to the final destination.
  • A new ticket to your final destination at a later date of your choice.

If you choose the refund, the airline is required to send you the money within 7 days. Reimbursement can be made in cash, by electronic bank transfer, by money order or bank check. Airlines may also offer these refunds in the form of vouchers or other services, but only with the written consent of the passenger.

Passengers can receive both a refund of their airfare and a cancellation compensation, provided the flight is eligible for compensation.

Amount of compensation in case of canceled or delayed flights

The amount of compensation depends on the duration of the flight and the time when the alternative flight would have arrived in relation to the original flight:

DistanceLess than 2 hours2 - 3 hours3 - 4 hoursMore than 4 hoursIt didn't arrive at all
All flights under 1.500 km€125€250€250€250€250
Internal EU flights over 1.500 km€200€200€400€400€400
External EU flights between 1.500 km and 3.500 km€200€200€400€400€400
External EU flights over 3.500 km€300€300€300€600€600

In conclusion, you are entitled to a refund as well as compensation for canceled or delayed flights, provided you are in one of the scenarios eligible for these options.

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