What To Do if Your Flight to Europe Is Delayed or Canceled

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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.

My husband and I scored an amazing deal to Ireland in July 2017. We paid a total of $900 for two round-trip tickets from Providence, Rhode Island, to Dublin on Norwegian Air. (Editor’s Note: As of September 2022, Norwegian Air no longer has U.S. routes.)

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

The airline quickly rebooked our flight for the next day, but we had to pay to spend the night in a hotel and lost 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 these criteria from Your Europe to determine if your flight qualifies for a claim:

  • Your flight is within the EU and is operated either by an EU or a non-EU airline
  • Your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline
  • 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 similar rights. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), “Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting at the airport; there are no federal requirements.”

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In 2022, the DOT launched a dashboard that shows what America’s 10 largest airlines do for delayed or canceled flights. For example, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines will rebook you on a partner airline at no additional cost in the case of a cancellation, but discounters like Frontier and Spirit will not.

Here’s How Much You Can Get for a Delayed or Canceled EU Flight

  • $249 (EUR 250) for flights covering 932 miles (1,500 kilometers) or less
  • $399 (EUR 400) for flights in the EU covering more than 932 miles (1,500 kilometers), and for all other flights between 932 miles (1,500 kilometers) and 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers)
  • $598 (EUR 600) for all other flights

How To Claim Flight Delay or Cancellation Compensation

Follow these steps to submit your claim.

1. Find the Form on the Airline’s Website

To pursue compensation, you need to file a claim with the airline. You’ll probably have to hunt for the form on the carrier’s website. Start by searching for a Customer Service or Help section, and look for a delayed or canceled flight claims form.

2. Gather Documents

It’s key 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.

3. Write Your Claim

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!

4. Follow Up

My husband and I submitted our claim, and we followed up with the airline a few times. (The process does take time so exercise patience, but don’t forget about it!) In the end, Norwegian Air sent the full compensation to our bank account.

The unpredictability of a low-cost airline just might be worth the ride after all.

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

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