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:
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.
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.