A mechanical problem, a late inbound aircraft, a crew-related delay, etc., wouldn’t be considered extraordinary circumstances, so EU261 compensation would apply
Do flight cancelations qualify for EU261 compensation?
Not only does the above compensation apply if your flight is delayed, but it also applies if it’s canceled. EU261 compensation applies in the event that your flight is canceled within 14 days of departure. If your flight is canceled further out than that, then the compensation wouldn’t apply.
Furthermore, as is the case with delays, extraordinary circumstances are excluded from being eligible for compensation.
How do you claim EU261 compensation?
Claiming EU261 compensation is potentially the tricky part, as airlines often do everything in their power to get out of paying this compensation. There are two general ways you can approach this:
- You can contact the airline to try to claim EU261 compensation, and some airlines have forms on their websites through which this can be done
- You can use a third party service that helps consumers with this, though they usually take a significant cut; I’ve never used one of these so can’t personally vouch for any, but you can easily find them online
I’d always recommend doing everything in your power to request the compensation directly, so you can keep the entire amount. If you’re going to claim EU261 compensation, a few things to keep in mind:
- This isn’t something you need to do at the airport, so don’t take this up with airport staff, but rather take it up with customer relations after the fact
- I’d recommend keeping as much documentation as possible, including taking pictures of the flight status page reflecting the delay, keeping boarding passes, etc.
- Expect that airlines may try to do everything in their power to get out of paying this compensation; this can include claiming that there were “extraordinary circumstances,” just not responding for a long time, etc.
Does EU261 cover hotels & meals?
Not only does EU261 offer cash compensation in the event of a delay or cancelation, but it also offers passengers other forms of assistance, including:
- Hotel accommodation in the event of an overnight delay, including transport to & from the hotel
- Meals and refreshments
- Two telephone calls or emails
This should be offered proactively in the event of a significant delay or cancelation. There’s no promise of how efficiently any of this will be offered, though. For example, if you have a flight canceled at an outstation (non-hub airport), you might have two agents trying to work on hotels for hundreds of passengers, which could take hours. So be prepared to be patient.
The European Union has the most consumer friendly rules that you’ll find anywhere in the world when it comes to flight delays and cancelations. Under EU rules, you’re entitled to 600 Euro in cash compensation in the event that you’re traveling long haul and arrive at your destination at least four hours behind schedule.
While there are some terms to be aware of, in many ways the rules are as good as they sound. Actually getting an airline to pay, especially in a timely manner, could be a different story, though.
Hopefully the above is a useful rundown of how EU261 works. While there’s a bit more nuance, I tried to strike the right balance between keeping this brief and easy, and being thorough.
Should EU261 compensation impact how you plan travel?
As I said, EU261 is the most consumer friendly government regulations out there when it comes to flight delays and cancelations. In the United States, airlines can delay your flight by 12 hours or cancel your flight, and you’re entitled to exactly zero dollars compensation. So it’s great to see that in at least some part of the world there’s some protection for consumers.
EU261 compensation certainly makes me feel less frustrated in situations where my flight is delayed or canceled. But I think there’s also an interesting angle here in general, which might put consumers at ease.
Many European airports have unrealistically short minimum connection times, and then they encourage passengers to book very short connections. Often people will misconnect, though perhaps one silver lining here is that you could end up getting EU261 compensation.
As mentioned above, the length of the delay is measured based on how late you arrive at your final destination. Say you’re flying Lufthansa from Chicago to Munich to Berlin with a 45 minute connection. If your Chicago to Munich flight is delayed by an hour (causing you to misconnect), and you end up being rebooked on another flight that gets you to Berlin more than four hours late, you’d be entitled to 600 Euro cash compensation.
That certainly takes the sting out of misconnecting a bit…