Sometimes you strike gold while flying. The security line is a breeze. Your flight is on time. You get upgraded. You land early. Your bag is ready and waiting for you at the carousel. Of course, most travelers always hope for those kinds of travel experiences, but unfortunately, delays and cancellations can always happen. And when they do, especially if you are heading overseas, you can feel as though you’ve struck fool’s gold, buying a plane ticket that seemingly got you nowhere. However, if you are heading to or from Europe, even those tough travel days with flight delays or cancellations can have your feeling like you’ve found a pot of gold in your pocketbook.

You may be surprised to know that flights to and from Europe carry different rules for compensation when you are delayed, as mandated by the E.U. regulations. If you meet all of the criteria, you can end up taking home up to €600 per passenger if your flight is delayed!

Whether you’re facing a delay on an E.U. airline or your flight out of the E.U. is taking off late, it never hurts to see if your circumstances entitle you to some extra cash.

The Airlines That Qualify for Delay Compensation

You need to determine if the airline you were flying on falls under the requirements for flight delay compensation in the first place. According to E.U. Regulation No 261/2004, you are entitled to compensation for a flight delay if your flight was on an E.U. airline AND you were flying to or from Europe. So even if you’re not in Europe during the delay, you could still receive compensation (if your flight is heading to the E.U.). You should also look into compensation for a flight delay if you were traveling out of the E.U. on a non-E.U. airline. You may be able to get paid if you experienced a flight delay while in a European airport, no matter where the airline is based.

The Length of Delay Matters

If you’ve determined that the airline you were flying, as well as the origin and destination, qualifies for possible compensation, you’re only part of the way there. You won’t get a euro for your flight delay, unless it was long enough. If, for example, you were on any flights to Germany that were delayed less than 3 hours in, you’re not owed any compensation (although airlines are supposed to provide passengers with meals and refreshments during delays that are 2 or more hours). However, if you arrive at your final destination 3 or more hours later than scheduled, you can be compensated. So if you find yourself facing a flight delay on an E.U. airline on your way to or leaving Europe, be sure you keep track of the time. You’ll want to know if your flight is delayed beyond 3 hours.

The Circumstances for the Delay Are Also Important

Once you’ve confirmed your flight detail and the length of your delay meets the criteria for compensation, you’re done — right? Nope! Even if these two criteria match with what’s laid in the E.U. regulations, you still might not get paid if the circumstances for the delay aren’t in your favor. If the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances, those outside the airline’s control like bad weather or political unrest, then you can’t get compensated for the delay. However, if there was a scheduling issue or a technical problem with the aircraft, then you are entitled to the cash.

If you find yourself facing a flight delay on an E.U. airline on your way to or leaving Europe, be sure you keep track of the time

But Now Delays on Connecting Flights Outside Europe, Even on Non-EU Airlines Can Count!

A recent court ruling further muddied the waters on flight compensation for delays to and from the E.U. In the case, a court ruled that even connecting flights sold by an E.U. airline but operated by code shares (another airline that works in agreement with the airline that sold the ticket) are also subject to compensation if those flights are delayed. For example, if one of your connecting flights is delayed outside of the E.U, and you purchased your ticket through an E.U. airline and the journey originated in the E.U. You could have some cash coming your way, even the delay wasn’t going to or from Europe or technically on an E.U. based airline. The E.U. airline through which you booked the full reservation qualifies the delay for compensation, even if that delay didn’t occur on their watch.

Filing for Your Flight Delay Compensation

After you’ve gone through all of the steps, determining if your delay or cancellation meets the qualifying circumstances, you can then apply for compensation. You can receive between €250 and €600 euros per passenger. The amount is usually determined by the length of the flight, with longer flights getting the bigger payout. While the E.U. generally lays out a time frame of 7 days after the delay or cancellation to be issued compensation, this can vary from airline to airline. You can file a complaint directly with the airline or look into groups who will advocate on your behalf but for a cut.

If you’re still unsure what your rights are on a flight delay, the European Union offers a guide to help you determine if you can get paid.

Have you been delayed in, on your way or out of the E.U.? Did you get compensation for your delay? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

About The Author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.