Delayed? Canceled? Overbooked? Get your money back

Delayed, cancelled, or overbooked flight? Check out our infographic to find out if you’re entitled to flight compensation, and if you are, how to claim it.


Make sure you know what you're entitled to.

Category Tips & tricks

Date 14th March 2017

Bags are packed, loads of time to get to the airport, passport in hand, you’re checked-in, so close to the international vacation you’ve been waiting for and … DELAYED. CANCELED. OVERBOOKED. Vacation ruined before it’s even started.

Luckily, you could be entitled to airline compensation, and while it might not replace a lost vacation, it certainly helps. We’ve gone through all the compensation information out there, and created a smart infographic to give you an idea of what you could claim.



How to get your compensation

There are two ways to go about making a claim for flight cancelation compensation, airline delay compensation or for airline overbooking. You can do it yourself, or you can get someone to do it for you.

Go at it yourself by putting a claim against the airline (head to the CAA for relevant forms and information). If you’d like someone else do the work for you, there are several convenient websites out there like AirHelp that can help streamline the process. While most of these companies are on a no win, no fee basis, if you do win, they will likely charge a fee plus a percentage of your payout.

You might still be eligible for compensation on flights you’ve flown within the past three years, in which case AirHelp’s free inbox scanner can help you quickly find out how much, if any, you are owed. With your permission of course, the scanner locates airline confirmation numbers from your emails and once a potential confirmation number is found, it then calculates your estimated payout. If you agree to the amount, you can continue to file a claim. If you do not want to proceed with filing a claim, no harm done, you won’t be charged.

If you want to do some research beforehand to help get an idea of what you can expect from each airline in the event that your next flight goes not as planned, the AirHelp Score page will show you the most up-to-date ranking of major airlines based on their quality, service, on-time performance and claim processing.

To bump or not to bump?

Occasionally, people don’t make their flights, so to avoid empty seats on an otherwise fully-booked plane, airlines often overbook. Trouble is, sometimes everyone arrives. When that happens, people get ‘bumped’ to another flight, but before they begin bumping people involuntarily, they’ll ask for volunteers. Consider these points before you volunteer:

  • Sometimes the involuntary compensation is better than the voluntary (although this will include another flight ASAP, including transport if it’s from another airport, or a full refund). You could always ask for more compensation if you’re not happy
  • What happens if you can’t get on the other flight you’re offered?
  • Will your accommodation and other costs be covered if you have to take a flight the next day
  • Ask if the compensation, and any documentation you might need to claim it, is provided immediately (also check if there are any limitations on it!)

Exceptions to the rules!

In the case of “extraordinary circumstances”, you aren’t entitled to any compensation. Luckily, things like war, severe political unrest, and natural disasters aren’t that common. The other exceptions to the rules are: if you were informed of the cancellation two weeks prior to your departure date, or if you were offered alternative transport for the same route with a similar schedule (leaving less than 2 hours before original scheduled departure time and arriving less than 4 hours after the original scheduled arrival time). You are, however, entitled to either a full refund (or just the part you haven’t used), alternative transport to your final destination at the earliest opportunity, or rebooking at a later date of your choice.

On board, but going nowhere

Sitting on the tarmac for hours on end isn’t much fun. Happily, both the EU and US have limits on how long you’re allowed to be without food, water, and toilets, and how long you can be kept in the plane.


In the EU, if your flight is on the tarmac for more than 1 hour, you may demand AC, use of toilets and water. If it is more than 5 hours, you have the right to demand to be let off. Delay compensation rules apply.


There is a four-hour tarmac delay limit for international flights, and a 3-hour limit for domestic flights. The exception to these rules is if there is a safety or security reason why the airplane cannot taxi to the gate (same as the EU). Airlines must, however, provide food and water after two hours, as well as working toilets and any necessary medical treatment.

Travel insurance and credit cards

You might be covered by your travel insurance, and/or your credit cards. Many card providers have plans under which you may be protected. Be sure to check both your card provider, and your travel insurance before you book the flight!

Read More: How to buy the best travel insurance for your next trip

My flights were part of a package – what are my rights?

You’re covered under a regulation from 1992 for package holiday trouble (if you’re in the EU). Essentially, if your vacation is canceled you can:

  • Accept an alternative vacation of a similar or better standard
  • Accept an alternative vacation of a lower standard and claim back the difference in cost
  • Cancel the vacation and get your money back

Needless to say, we hope you never need this, but it’s all good to know, just in case.

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Originally published

14th March 2017