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Flight delays and cancellations: Your guide to travel compensation

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If you have experienced a flight delay or cancellation of your most recent flight, read our guide to compensation and legislation here
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Flight delays and cancellations: Your guide to travel compensation is written by The editorial staff RejsRejsRejs

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We do not have time for flight delays

Confusion, irritation and growing frustrations. Feelings we've all experienced, after arriving at the airport according to plan, going through the mandatory security check, only to see one of the many departure screens giving the message: 'flight delayed'. Or maybe your flight has been canceled and suddenly your trip to the dream destination feels like it has been paused, indefinitely!

But what are your rights in the event of a flight delay or cancellation, if the accident happens and you are suddenly one of the many travelers every year who have their trip temporarily interrupted for these very reasons? We have done the work for you and collected the most important points here.

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The big overview of compensation for flight delays or cancellations

According to EU law 'EC 261' as a traveler, in many cases, you may be entitled to compensation, but also to compensation of up to €600 euros per person if your flight has been delayed for three hours or more. You can even seek compensation if your flight has been delayed or canceled within the last three years.

If, for example, you are refused entry and rejected at boarding control, or your flight is delayed or canceled in some other way, it will in many cases be possible for you as a traveler to be awarded flight compensation.

In addition, the European Court of Justice has decided in 2018 that strikes also provide compensation for air passengers. This also applies back in time, so passengers who have been affected by strikes within the last three years will most likely also have money to their credit.

It should also be mentioned that parents who travel with a child under two years of age and without a plane ticket for the child may still be entitled to full compensation. This also applies, for example, even if the child is sitting on the lap and thus does not have its own seat.

We at RejsRejsRejs want to make it easier for our readers to understand what options you have for compensation if you experience either flight delays or cancellations on your future trips. We also help you to understand what to do if you have already found yourself in the unfortunate situation - in some situations you can get compensation for up to 3 years after you have experienced flight delays or cancellations.

 Below you will find an overview of the rules for delays and cancellations, where in many cases you may be entitled to compensation.

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Rules for justification of flight delay compensation

Based on the rules for flying in the EU Regulation Member States as well Norway, to Iceland, Switzerland with more, the terms below apply in the event of flight delays. The applicable rules cover both arrival and departure in a member country, however, in rare cases it will also be possible to be entitled to compensation for flight delays outside the EU.

Here, however, the compensation will typically be halved at the same time that the arrival or departure airport must still be within either the EU, or at an airport in one of the members of the EU regulation.

Here are the terms for compensation in the event of delays

  • Two hours or more for flights under 1.500 kilometers: up to € 250 euros
  • Three hours or more for flights within the EU of more than 1.500 kilometers: up to € 400 euros
  • Four hours or more for non-EU flights of more than 3.500 kilometers: up to € 600 euros

What are you entitled to if the flight is delayed?

If your flight is delayed for two hours or more, the airline is entitled to inform you of your rights. Your rights after a delay of two hours and above include the following:

  • Food and drinks
  • Two free phone calls and send emails
  • Hotel accommodation if you must stay overnight and transport to and from the airport.
  • If your flight is delayed for more than three hours, you may also be entitled to compensation.

Please note that you must always arrive at the airport no later than 45 minutes before your planned departure - even if you know that the flight is delayed. The only time this does not apply is if the airline has announced otherwise in writing.

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Rules for denied boarding and canceled flights

If it is not a flight delay, but instead you are either denied boarding or have had your flight cancelled, then in many cases it is still possible to get compensation or compensation. 

Here are the rules for compensation if you are denied boarding or your flight is cancelled:

  • Your flight will be canceled more than 14 days before the scheduled departure - and you will arrive at the destination more than four hours late.
  • Your flight will be canceled seven days before the scheduled departure - and you will arrive at the destination more than two hours late
  • If you are denied boarding of the flight due to overbooking

If you are entitled to compensation, then it is your right as a traveler to have the amount paid out either in cash, via bank transfer or by check. In some cases, the airline may choose to compensate you with travel vouchers, however, it requires you as a traveler to accept this in writing.

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What are you entitled to if your flight is cancelled?

If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to the following compensation

  • Refund of the entire ticket price. If the cancellation is in connection with a connecting flight, you are also entitled to a return flight to the first point of departure as soon as possible.
  • Payment of travel to final destination as soon as possible. The airline must pay for the trip with another airline if the airline itself is unable to give you a seat on the first available flight.
  • Rescheduling the trip to a later date of your choice, if there are available seats.

Please note that you cannot change your mind and choose another compensation option once you have chosen one of the three options.

If your flight is cancelled, you may also be entitled to the following:

  • Food and drink and possibly accommodation and transport between the airport and accommodation if you are waiting for a rescheduled flight
  • Compensation for expenses for, for example, hotel stays that are lost as a result of the airline's cancellation close to the departure date
  • Economic compensation

It is the airline's duty to inform you of your rights for compensation if your flight is cancelled. It is a good idea to get this in writing.

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When can you not apply for compensation?

In certain cases, you cannot apply for compensation if you are denied boarding. Here are examples of this:

  • Check-in is too late
  • Denied access for safety or health reasons
  • Missing/not sufficient identification
  • Missing visa or other entry permit
  • Failure to comply with the airline's terms and conditions

It is always your responsibility as a traveler to ensure that you show up at airports on time, keep track of visa regulations and follow the airline's rules. Therefore, always remember to check up on all practical matters in good time from home.

In some cases, you as a traveler will not be entitled to compensation, even if the flight is delayed and you are at the same time not at fault. This may be because the delay is in no way the airline's fault, but instead is due to either bad weather, natural disasters, terrorist threats or illegal strikes that have not been announced in advance.

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Keep this in mind if you are hit with a flight delay

It is incredibly important that you save everything called documentation for your flight. This means all receipts and boarding passes. Advantageously, you can also take pictures for use as documentation of time and place, where you can prove, for example, how late you are via pictures.

If you have saved both receipts and boarding passes, there is also a chance to get compensation from delayed or canceled flights that are up to three years old.

If you are very delayed, i.e. for two hours or more, you are also entitled to food, drink and phone calls through your airline.

It will also be possible to be accommodated in a hotel if you are further delayed, however, there will be various factors that come into play, such as the time of day, whether there are small children on the journey or in case of illness/disability.

If you choose to receive additional compensation from the airline on the spot, you must be aware that this will greatly reduce the possibility of receiving greater financial compensation for the delays.

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Do you want to complain about a flight delay or cancellation?

If the airline refuses to pay compensation, you must start by complaining to the airline through which you bought the tickets.

If you do not hear from the airline within four weeks, then you must contact them for a response. According to the European Commission, the airline is obliged to respond to you within two months.

If the airline still does not respond to your complaint within two months, or if you have not received a response at all, you can complain free of charge to the Swedish Transport Agency if your flight departed from Denmark or if you traveled to Denmark from a non-EU country with an EU airline.

If your flight departure is from another EU country or from a country outside the EU to an EU country other than Denmark, you must complain to the authority in the country the flight departed from/was to depart from. In Denmark, the time limit for complaints is 3 years, and you can therefore receive compensation up to 3 years after your flight delay or cancellation.

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There is help available

For most, the rules of what you as a traveler are entitled to are quite confusing and can quickly give the feeling that it might not be worth the trouble. Therefore, many will end up not taking advantage of all the rights you have as a traveller.

But fortunately, there are various agencies that can help you get a piece of the cake. If you are dissatisfied with your decision from the airline in your compensation case, you can, for example, complain to the Swedish Transport Agency. They will help you completely free of charge and review your complaint when you fill out a form that you can find here . It therefore costs you nothing to use the Danish Transport Agency as help in your case for compensation.

If you are successful in your complaint to the Swedish Transport Agency, the airline must pay compensation and/or refund within four weeks. If this does not happen, you must contact the Swedish Transport Agency again, who will take care of pressing the airline for payment. 

There are also other companies that offer similar services. However, be aware that many private companies charge money to help you, where the Swedish Transport Agency helps for free.

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