Tuesday, 5 January 2021


If your flight is delayed by three hours or more or is cancelled you now have a right to compensation of up to £520 per passenger under UK law. The rights to compensation were given to air passengers in 2004 by a European Directive. Now that we have left the EU those rules have been brought into UK law with some amendments. 

The new rules apply to passengers in three circumstances.

1. They are on any flight which departs from a UK airport.

2. They are on a flight which departs from an airport outside the UK if it

    a. lands in the UK and the carrier is based in the UK or the EU.


    b. lands at an airport in the EU and the carrier is based in the UK.

The compensation applies if a flight arrives at least three hours late. The amounts of compensation are

•        £220 per passenger for flights of 1500 kilometres or less

•        £350 per passenger for flights between 1500km and 3500km

•        £520 per passenger for flights over 3500km.

Similar rules apply to cancellations at the airport or within seven days before the flight was due to leave. If you are given a replacement flight you will normally still be entitled to compensation if that arrives more than two hours later than the original flight - or departs more than one hour earlier than the original flight.

The rules are a bit more complicated than that largely because airlines have tried to find ways to avoid paying and lawyers have taken cases to court to establish what the law really means. 

One key escape airlines like to use is if the delay or cancellation was due to 'extraordinary circumstances'.   

separate blog looks at some of those complexities. Where decisions of the European Courts are referred to these still apply as they were all retained in UK law from 1 January 2021. The primary UK law is the European Directive EC 261/2004 as retained in UK law but it has been amended by the The Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing(Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/278.

Get help
An online claiming tool is provided by Resolver. It makes no charge for its service. Never use a claim management company. It will take 40% of your compensation and may or may not be good at the job.

The consumer organisation Which? also has a useful guide to claiming compensation yourself.

You can get some advice free from the Civil Aviation Authority. If an airline has refused your claim the CAA offers an arbitration service. Its decision is not binding on the airline - though they usually follow it - and there have been long delays in the past as the CAA had inadequate staff numbers to handle the volume of cases. 

If you feel you need professional help you can use the lawyer Bott & Co which specialises in compensation for flight delays. It has an online checker to see if you have a claim or not. If it takes a case then it charges 25% plus VAT (so 30%) of any compensation obtained plus a £25 administration fee (including VAT) per passenger. Altogether that will be more than a third of your compensation. There is no charge if you lose.


Now that the UK has left the EU and the transition period has ended you should apply under the UK law if you can. However, the EU regulations still give all passengers rights to compensation where flights leave from or arrive at EU airports and you can apply under those rules if your flight is outside the terms of the UK regulations. 

Now that the UK has left the EU a UK government will be able to change these compensaation rules. There is no sign of that happening.  

18 January 2021

vs. 1.1