What to do in case of a canceled or delayed flight: refund and compensation

One of the biggest fears of travelers is finding their flight cancelled, delayed or having to forgo departure for personal reasons. We know how frustrating this can be, especially when we plan our trip several months in advance, with immense passion and a lot of effort.

Fortunately, however, in most cases it is possible to request a refund and often even compensation.

In fact, there are regulations that regulate each specific case and to which the traveler can appeal.

Unfortunately, however, it is not always so easy to get what you are entitled to, as airlines take advantage of the laws, which are not always very clear, and do not apply all the same conditions.

This is why the Charter of Passenger Rights, a regulation issued by ENAC (National Civil Aviation Authority) that must always be respected by airlines,comes to our rescue .

It is therefore essential to know in detail all the aspects to take into account in case of inefficiencies or unforeseen events that prevent us from leaving.

And that is exactly what we are going to talk about in this definitive guide. We will investigate all possible cases and see when and how you can request a refund or compensation.

The Passenger Bill of Rights

What to do in case of a canceled or delayed flight: refund and compensation

The Charter of Passenger Rights is a document drawn up by ENAC, which contains all the legislation concerning the rights of those who travel in the event of inefficiencies on the part of airlines.

This is the Community Regulation 261/2004 establishing that in case of flight cancellation, delay of more than 3 hours or overbooking, passengers are entitled to compensation or, as they say in the jargon, financial compensation.

These rules are valid for all scheduled, low cost and charter flights in the following cases:

  • for all flights departing from a Community airport;
  • for all flights operated by carriers from a Community country departing from a non-EU airport to an EU country.

Community airports also include Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

No financial compensation is foreseen in the following cases:

  • if the flight departs from a non-EU country, arrives in an EU country but is operated by a non-EU airline;
  • the passenger is informed of the flight cancellation at least 14 days in advance;
  • the passenger is informed at least 7 days in advance and is offered a flight departing no more than 2 hours earlier and arriving no more than 4 hours after the time of the cancelled flight;
  • the cancellation is communicated less than 7 days from the date of departure but another flight is offered that departs no more than 1 hour before the cancelled flight and arrives less than 2 hours after the original time;
  • the cancellation was caused by "exceptional circumstances", accidents, natural disasters, terrorism and all those events that cannot be controlled by the airline.

Warning: while a few years ago strikes were considered "exceptional circumstances" today with the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union 17/04/2018 n ° C-195/17 it was established that the company is not always exempt from compensating passengers, but it is necessary to assess case by case.

For more information, you can download the passengers' charter of rights.

How much is the compensation?

The amount of compensation varies according to the distances traveled by the aircraft:

  1. Intra-EU flights of less than 1500 km: 250 €.
  2. Intra-Community flights over 1500 km: 400 €.
  3. International flights of less than 1500 km: 250 €.
  4. International flights between 500 km and 3500 km: 400 €.
  5. International flights over 3500 km: 600 €.

Remember that the compensation is reduced by 50% if you accept to take an alternative flight that does not exceed two (1 and 3), three (2 and 4) or four hours (5) respectively from the booked flight.

Other passenger rights

What to do in case of a canceled or delayed flight: refund and compensation

In addition to financial compensation, there are other rights to which passengers are entitled in case of airline inefficiencies:

Reimbursement: if the flight is cancelled or boarding is denied, the passenger is entitled to reimbursement of the part of the journey not made.

Re-protection: as an alternative to reimbursement, the passenger can be boarded on another flight, as soon as possible or on the most convenient date. Remember that if the airline offers you a higher class flight than the original one, you will not have to pay the difference. On the other hand, if the alternative flight is in a lower class, you may get a refund.

Support: passengers are entitled to receive adequate assistance to manage the problem: meals and drinks, accommodation and transfers to and from the airport, 2 phone calls or messages. We will see below when you are entitled to receive assistance.

information: In case of flight cancellation, delay or overbooking, the airline is obliged to inform passengers of all their rights under European law.

Damage: If the passenger suffers direct damage due to a delay and the company does not prove that it has done everything possible to avoid this interruption, he/she can claim compensation of up to 4,831.00 €.

Overbooking, cancellations and delays: reimbursement and compensation

What to do in case of a canceled or delayed flight: refund and compensation

We have seen how European legislation protects travelers in case of inconveniences related to airline flights. But now we need to look at the individual cases in which you are entitled to compensation or reimbursement of the airline ticket.

Basically, the basic situations are two:

Know that in the second case, even without insurance, you are entitled to a refund. But let's look at each of the possibilities in detail.

Overbooking: denied boarding

What is overbooking? Simply when the number of passengers exceeds the number of seats on the plane. That is why some travelers will be denied boarding.

While it can be an unpleasant, stressful and extremely frustrating situation, it also has its good sides.

The usual practice is for the airline to ask if there are any volunteers willing to leave the flight in exchange for assistance and re-routing on a new flight. If there are no volunteers, passengers who are forced to cancel their reservation are entitled to compensation.

But let's go back to the positive aspects of overbooking: obviously, first the company must reimburse the lost route or must offer an alternative flight.

In addition, in case of overbooking, you are always entitled to financial compensation which, as we have seen, is between 250 € and 600 €.

The company is also obliged to guarantee assistance to the passenger.

So, if you are denied boarding due to overbooking, go to your airline counter and assert your rights!

Canceled flight: get compensation

Just hearing the word "canceled flight" gives me chills. If you, like me, love to organize everything in the best possible way and spend months and months planning the trip, then you can understand how stressful it can be to have to forgo the flight.

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why a flight is cancelled. Fortunately, in several cases we are protected by the Passenger Bill of Rights.

If the flight is cancelled, the passenger is entitled to:

  • Refund of the ticket for the cancelled leg;
  • Boarding on an alternative flight;
  • Possible financial compensation

In case your flight is cancelled I recommend that you:

  • Write down the booking confirmation code;
  • Ask the airline in detail the reason for the cancellation;
  • Request a refund is to re-route on an alternative flight;
  • If you accept an alternative flight, note your exact arrival time. Note that the flight is considered completed only when the gates open;
  • Always ask for assistance;
  • Keep all receipts for additional charges due to flight cancellation;
  • Do not accept vouchers or offers for future travel and do not sign anything, you risk losing the right to compensation;

Flight delay: all rights

Waiting hours and hours for your flight to finally take off is not pleasant. In addition to the inconvenience, the delay can bring several inconveniences, especially if you have other connecting flights.

Let's see when and what we are entitled to.

First of all, it is good to know that for a long delay the airline is obliged to assist the passenger with meals, drinks, a hotel room if necessary, transfer from the airport to the structure and vice versa, 2 phone calls or messages.

Pre-departure assistance is available in the following cases:

  • Intra-EU flights of 1500 km or less with a delay of 2 hours or more;
  • Intra-EU flights over 1500 km with a delay of 3 hours or more;
  • International flights of less than 1,500 km or more with a delay of 2 hours or more;
  • International flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km with a delay of 3 hours or more;
  • International flights over 3,500 km with a delay of 4 hours or more;

When the delay is at least 5 hours, you can cancel the flight without paying penalties and get a refund for the segment in which the flight is delayed.

Based on the judgment of the European Court of Justice of November 2009, If the flight arrives at its destination at least 3 hours later than the scheduled time, you are entitled to compensation. This will always be calculated on the basis of the distances involved.

Tip: It is important to arrive at the airport well in advance, respecting the times indicated by the airline or tour operator.

Flight cancellation

Unfortunately, it can happen that for various reasons we cannot leave. But what many travelers do not know is that even in this case, you may be entitled to a refund.

Let's take a better look at when it is possible to recover the money spent:

  • If we have to forgo the purchased flight, we may be entitled to a refund of airport fees. This is because the fees cover costs related to boarding, security and baggage screening. Therefore, these costs are not zero to begin with.
  • If, on the other hand, we are forced to cancel the trip due to force majeure, we will be reimbursed in full even if we do not have travel cancellation insurance. Obviously the causes must be demonstrated with forms to be filled in and appropriate documentation.

Warning: However, the so-called "Exit Waiver" is linked to the contractual conditions and fair rules of each company, so it is not always possible to have a partial or full refund.
In any case, I recommend keeping the contractual conditions at the time of purchasing the airline ticket.

How to claim compensation

What to do in case of a canceled or delayed flight: refund and compensation

First of all, it is good to know that it is possible to claim compensation within 3 years from the date of the flight in question.

Secondly, it is very important to keep all documents (reservation and boarding pass) related to the cancelled, delayed or overbooked flight.

In order to obtain compensation in the case of the above-mentioned disruptions, a form must be completed and sent to the airline.

Unfortunately, however, it is not always so easy to obtain compensation. This is because, as we said before, airlines try to complicate the formalities more than they should, inserting restrictive clauses in the contracts that are not very transparent for the consumer.

However, what matters is the Charter of Passenger Rights, which cannot in any way derogate from the individual contracts stipulated by the airlines.

Fortunately, in recent years, several associations of lawyers have emerged to help passengers assert their rights.

To find out if you are entitled to compensation, simply log on to the website of these agencies and enter your flight details.

Among the best is undoubtedly Air Help.

Air Help

AirHelp is a multinational company that offers an online service, the best for obtaining compensation in case of cancellation, delay or overbooking.

From the site it is possible to check if you are entitled to compensation by filling out a specific form where you must indicate the route, the flight number, the reason for the delay or cancellation. If so, AirHelp will take care of the complaint and will give you the money withholding a percentage of 25%.


We have seen in detail how and when it is possible to receive a refund or even better compensation for damages in case of inefficiencies by airlines.

You just have to assert your rights, of course we hope it is not necessary!

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