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What Compensation Are You Entitled to in Case of a Delay?

It was the dead of winter and I was flying home on an flight from Detroit. Having gotten lost on my way to the airport, I arrived late, skipped breakfast and ran to the gate just as the final boarding call was made. Then I got the news: The flight was delayed. For the next hour and a half, I was starving while suppressing an anxiety attack until we finally took off. It was a weather issue and I never pursued compensation, but there are certainly cases where passengers are entitled to compensation in case of a delay. Here is what you’re entitled to:


Domestic Travel

In the US, there aren’t many protections for passengers caught up in flight delays. Every airline has its own policy about how passengers will be accommodated in case of a delay. If you experience a lengthy delay (especially if it disrupts onward travel), it’s absolutely worth it to share your grievance with the airline. Depending on the severity, I would stick to contacting them through the website. You may receive extra miles or a voucher of some sort. Either way, it never hurts to ask.

The Department of Transportation does have a rule in place restricting tarmac delays. Two hours into a tarmac delay, passengers are entitled to food and water. Barring a few safety exceptions, on flights delayed on the tarmac for three hours or more, passengers are entitled to deplane.


International Travel

The European Union’s Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 is much more extensive in terms of outlining passenger rights. If you’re traveling in the EU and your flight is delayed by 3-4 hours, you are entitled to food and water, as well as regular travel updates. If a flight is delayed by five or more hours, passengers are entitled to a full refund or a ticket back to their original departure point. Overnight accommodations must be offered for flights that depart a day later than scheduled.

The most generous part relates to monetary compensation. If a flight lands three or more hours late, passengers receive up to 600 Euros in compensation:

  • 3 hour delay (flight distance less than 1,500 km) = 250 Euros
  • 3 hours (flight distance of 1,500 – 3,500 km) = 400 Euros
  • 3 hours (flight distance over 1,500 km within the EU) = 400 Euros
  • 3-4 hours (flight distance over 3,500 km between the EU and non-EU airport) = 300 Euros
  • 4 hours (flight distance over 3,500 km between the EU and non-EU airport) = 600 Euros


Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection

Berkshire Hathaway offers an insurance product called Aircare, which offers additional compensation in case of a flight delay. Delays of 2 hours or more qualify for a $50 reimbursement. Meanwhile, tarmac delays of 2 hours or more qualify for $1,000 in compensation. You almost want to get stranded on the tarmac, don’t you? ;)

In case of a flight delay, the priority should always be getting you to your destination safely and soon as possible. Beyond that, it’s good to be aware of what your rights are for additional compensation. Regardless of what official policy may be, you may get additional compensation by speaking up.

Comments are Closed.
sethb December 12, 2018

The writer didn't have *time* to buy food, he ran to the gate and got there at the final boarding call. *Then* they announced a delay.

arcticflier October 17, 2018

Sounds like somebody needs to set their alarm clock earlier. Weather delays are a fact of travel. I don’t understand why people nowadays Re so quick to feel victimized.

jrpallante October 17, 2018

Fivenue, you know very well that beatings are reserved for those who refuse to follow crew member instructions, as you are clearly instructed to do in every safety briefing. If you simply follow the rules, things almost always work out well. Dr. Dao (sp?) would have been appropriately compensated if he had deplaned when instructed, but he chose to hold out for millions instead of hundreds. As for "starving" for an hour and a half, DTW has restaurants about every 100 feet. The writer should have bought some food!

fivenue October 14, 2018

wait, I thought if you are delayed with United, you are entitled for a first class of beating and get dragged out of the plane?