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The European Union introduced a regulation in 2004 that meant that you could claim compensation on any flight that was delayed by more than three hours. Over the last 10 years or so, if your flight was delayed due to technical faults, this was seen to be out of the control of the airline, so they wouldn’t have to pay.

This changed last week, when the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of passengers, stating that they should be able to claim compensation on flights that were delayed due to technical issues.

What this means

Going forward, this means that you can claim on any delayed flights that last more than three hours. Just bear in mind that the delay has to be calculated from the time the flight is meant to arrive at your destination and not the time that it takes off.

To claim compensation the flight must have taken off from the UK or a country within the EU. Alternatively, you can still claim on an international flight into the UK or EU as long as the airline is European or from the UK and the flight journey is longer than 3,500km. Most importantly, the cause of the delay must be ‘within the control of the airline’.

This basically means that the airline has to be at fault for the delay. This doesn’t cover poor weather, air traffic control strikes or another plane breaking down and causing delays. But it does cover the delay of a flight due to unavailable flight crews or planes, or the cancellation of a flight due to under booking. When questioning whether you have a claim, remember the cancellation has to be caused by extraordinary circumstances that couldn’t have been avoided.

Can you claim for past delays?

You can apply for compensation on past delays as far back as February 2005. Although, due to the statute of limitations, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland you might need to take the airline to court to receive compensation (often, as a last resort) and you can only go back six years when doing this (or five years in Scotland).

To claim compensation, contact the customer services department of the airline or travel agent you used. Send them your tickets and receipts (photocopy them so that they don’t get lost) as evidence.

How much can you get?

It’s estimated that over the past 10 years, air passengers who have failed to claim compensation are owed £3.2 billion. Further potential claims are thought to be worth around £6.3 billion.

The compensation that you’ll receive will vary depending on the length of your delay. The amounts are fixed in euros, meaning that what you’ll get in sterling will fluctuate depending on the exchange rate. If you’re claiming for multiple people (say a family of four), you’ll receive compensation per person.

Individually you could be awarded anything between €250 and €600 depending on your delay. 

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