What are my rights if my flight gets cancelled?

European Legislation 

This area is now much governed by European legislation. If you book a flight and this gets cancelled you will be entitled to some rights and benefits under European legislation. It is essential that you are aware of these so that you can claim your rights if your flight gets cancelled. The rights and rules given and prescribed by European regulation apply also to denied boarding or long delay of flights. This area is governed by EC Council Regulation 261/2004, known as Denied Boarding Regulation. This regulation has a direct effect and defines rules on the amount of compensation and assistance to passengers whose flight was cancelled, delayed or if the passengers were denied boarding. The air carriers are obliged to fulfil requirements stated under this regulation as it is a criminal offence to infringe any of these obligations. If you encounter a problem with your air carrier you could make a compliant to Air Transport Users Council or you could enforce Denied Boarding Regulation in English Courts.

Direct Effect

In European Law direct effect means that particular European legislation will directly be applied to and reflected in domestic English legislation and therefore has to be complied with.

Your rights

According to Article 3 of the EC Council Regulation, this regulation applies to passengers departing from the Member states of EU or from a third country to an airport in a Member state.

Third country

Third country is considered to be any other country which is not EU country.

Denied Boarding

According to Article 4 the air carrier can decide to deny boarding but before they do so they must ask if there are any passengers who will want to surrender their reservations. If there is insufficient amount of them, the air carrier is allowed to deny the boarding to the rest of the passengers for that particular flight. They will however have the right to claim benefits under Article 7, 8 and 9. The content of the articles 7, 8 and 9 will be explained below.

Flight cancellation

If your flight gets cancelled you will be entitled to the following rights. According to Article 8 of the Denied Boarding Regulation you will be entitled to reimbursement or re-routing. Re-imbursement must be within 7 days. Such a re-imbursement applies to the full cost of the flight which was not made but also a part of the journey already made if the part of the journey already made serves no good purpose anymore. Re-routing must be done at an earliest opportunity or in accordance with a passenger’s wishes but subject to availability. As in accordance with Article 9 you will also be entitled to refreshments and meals. If the carrier had done re-routing for you and a departure of a new flight is at least a day later than it was planned for your original flight you will be entitled to a hotel accommodation if the waiting time is long. You can also claim transport in order to get to the hotel accommodation from the airport. You can also be entitled to two telephone calls or emails or fax messages free of charge in that case. If your flight gets cancelled and you have not been informed of this at least two weeks before the departure or between two weeks and 7 days before departure offering re-routing you can be entitled to compensation as in accordance with Article 7. The air carrier does not however have to pay out compensation if they can prove that the flight cancellation took place due to extraordinary circumstance which they could not avoid in any circumstances despite taking reasonable measures in doing so. The amount of compensation differs according to the amount of kilometres.


Compensation for flights of 1500 kilometres or less is 250 Euros; 400 Euros for all intra-community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and other flight between 1500 and 3500 kilometres. Compensation for flights different than the ones mentioned above is 600 Euros.


As in accordance with Article 6 of the Regulation if your flight is delayed, your rights are as follows. If the delay is for two hours or more you will be entitled to free of charge meals and refreshments plus two free of charge telephone calls, emails or fax messages. If the expected departure of the new flight is at least a day after the original one, you will be entitled to free of charge accommodation at a hotel and transport in order to get to a hotel from the airport. If the delay is at least 5 hours, you will be entitled to reimbursement (within seven days) of the full cost of the flight.

Upgrading and Downgrading

If you are seated in a lower class from the one that you formerly purchased, you can be entitled to the reimbursement of 30 % of the price of your ticket for the flight which is less than 1500 kilometres.  The reimbursement of 50% of the price of the ticket is available if the flight was between 1500 and 3500 kilometres. For any other flight it is 75% of the price.

It is essential that you understand the rights which you may be entitled to. If any of these rights is infringed you could have a claim against your air carrier in an English court. It is advisable that you familiar yourself with your rights before your planned journey takes place.