What to do if your flight to Europe is delayed or canceled

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Flight cancelled
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Europe is more accessible than ever. You can find incredibly low fares to the continent, and budget airlines are a great choice for a cheap flight. (Charis from ClarkDeals.com just posted a flight deal to Sweden, but these fares go fast!)

My husband and I recently scored an amazing deal to Ireland. We paid a total of $900 (€759) for two round-trip tickets from Providence, Rhode Island to Dublin on Norwegian Air. (Because Norwegian Air is a budget airline, you can get these fares even cheaper if you book the LowFare option.)

Unfortunately, less than 12 hours before our flight was scheduled to takeoff, we received a disheartening text message from the airline: Our flight was canceled.

The airline shortly rebooked our flight for the next day, but we lost a night at a non refundable hotel and an entire day of our trip.

While I assumed the airline owed me for my hotel expenses, I didn’t realize just how many rights passengers actually have in this situation.

You can get paid for flight delays and cancellations

Money expert Clark Howard let me in on a little-known secret: Regulation (EC) 261/2004.

Under Regulation (EC) 261/2004, airlines must compensate passengers for severe flight delays or cancellations.

Here’s everything you need to know about the European Union (EU) regulation, including how to determine if you qualify for compensation and what you need to do next.

How to know if air passenger rights apply to your flight

Use this criteria from Your Europe to determine if your flight qualifies for a claim:

  • If your flight is within the EU and is operated either by an EU or a non-EU airline
  • If your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline
  • If your flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or a non-EU airline

The United States doesn’t have a comparable rule. According to the Department of Transportation, “Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting at the airport; there are no federal requirements.”

Read more: Your rights if your flight gets canceled

Even America’s #1 airline, Alaska Airlines, only offers a rescheduled flight or ticket refund in the event of a delay or cancellation. Delta Air Lines has a similar policy.

Here’s how much you can get for a delayed or canceled flight

  • $296 (€250) for flights covering 932 miles (1500 kilometers) or less
  • $474 (€400) for flights in the EU covering more than 932 miles (1500 kilometers), and for all other flights between 932 miles (1500 kilometers) and 2175 miles (3500 kilometers)
  • $711 (€600) for all other flights

How to claim flight delay or cancellation compensation

To pursue compensation, you need to file a claim with the airline (you’ll probably have to hunt for the form on the website). Start by searching for a customer service or help section on the airline’s website; and look for a delayed or canceled flight claims form.

The key is to keep track of your receipts and booking information so you can share the documentation with the airline and get paid for what you’re owed. The Civil Aviation Authority has several recommendations for writing a good claim.

Tip: Reference Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, and include as much information as possible about the flight information and expenses in your claim. Be specific!

My husband and I recently submitted our claim, and we haven’t heard back from the airline yet. You’ll be the first to know if we score a refund so stay tuned. The unpredictability of a low-cost airline just might be worth the ride after all.

Read more: Clark’s secret to finding the cheapest flights possible

Note: The Euro to U.S. Dollar conversions in this article may vary depending on the market.

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Sally McDonald About the author:
Sally is the newsletter editor for Clark Howard brands. She enjoys great travel deals, minimal living and saving big bucks. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband.
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