Claim EU Flight Cancellation Compensation

Air travel is not always smooth and sometimes flight cancellations happen. Did you know you may have the right to claim up to $700 for flight cancellation compensation under EU law? Sometimes even if the airline has already arranged a replacement flight. Continue reading to learn all you need to know about canceled flight compensation. Alternatively, check if previous flights from the past 3 years qualify for up to $700 compensation
Canceled Flight? You may be entitled to as much as $700 in canceled flight compensation (EU)

What is Flight Cancellation Compensation?

Under EC 261, you are entitled to canceled flight compensation if…

Definition of flight cancellation

An airline considers a flight as canceled if the plane never left the tarmac.

The EC 261 regulation defines a canceled flight as,
“The non-operation of a flight which was previously planned and on which at least one place was reserved”.

An airline can cancel a flight for a number of reasons. Sometimes, problems like bad weather or security risks can create a knock-on effect leading an airline to pull the plug on a flight.

However, when an airline cancels your flight, you may be eligible to receive flight cancellation compensation.

EU regulation EC 261 gives passengers the right to be reimbursed up to $700 for flight cancellations – providing certain criteria are met. We’ll go into detail on how much flight cancellation compensation you could be entitled to below.

Remember that a flight that takes off late, i.e. a delayed flight, is not a canceled flight. However, you may still be entitled to flight delay compensation if you arrived at your destination over three hours late.

On average, 6.4 million people worldwide are eligible for compensation under European Regulation (EC 261) air passenger rights laws

What Are You Entitled To If Your Flight Is Canceled?

We’re glad you asked! The key thing to know is that the airline must offer either a new flight or a refund.

In addition, if your flight was canceled within 14 days of the scheduled departure you could be entitled to compensation as well. We’ll break down all your entitlements below.

Flight Refund or Re-routing

When it comes to flight cancellations, EC 261 makes it clear that the airline must offer the passenger the following three choices:

Let’s break down what your choices are here.


This is a simple choice if you are yet to take any portion of your flight. You will be refunded the full cost of your ticket.

However, if you have already departed it’s a little more complex. You can get a refund for the unused portion of your ticket.

If you have used part of your ticket, but because of the canceled flight it’s no longer serving your original travel plan, you can get a refund for that used portion of the ticket too.

Whenever relevant, the airline must also provide you with a return flight to the first point of departure, and at the earliest opportunity.

Either way, EC 261 says you must be reimbursed within 7 days.

Earliest possible alternative:

Under this choice, your airline must provide you with a new means of getting to your final destination as soon as they can. EC 261 specifies it must be under comparable transport conditions too.

Alternative on a convenient date for you:

If you would prefer, you can opt to take alternative transport to your final destination on a different date – subject to seats being available of course. Again EC 261 specifies the alternative transport must be under comparable conditions.

A note about your final destination: Although airlines may offer to fly you to alternative airports to the one you originally booked, they must pay to transfer you to the original airport. Or to a nearby address if you agree that with them.

How Much Cancellation Compensation Should You Get?

If the airline notifies you of the cancellation less than 14 days before departure, you could be entitled to compensation. EC 261 specifies amounts for flight cancellation claims – up to as much as $700 (€600) per person.

The exact figure depends on several factors:

  • Travel distance
  • Whether your flight is within the EU or not
  • Length of delay (based on how much later the alternate flight would be when it arrived at your final destination)

That can be a little complicated, so this chart makes it clearer, with compensation given in €.

Compensation based on the length of delay (alternate flight vs. original flight):

Less than 2 hours
2 - 3 hours
3 – 4 hours
More than 4 hours
Never arrived
All flights 1,500 km or less
Internal EU flights over 1,500 km
Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km
Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km

You can see that the compensation amount is sometimes half, depending on the amount of time you would be delayed in arriving at your final destination (compared to your originally booked flight).

Under EC 261, all canceled flights qualify for compensation when the airline has given you less than 14 days’ notice, with one exception.

If the airline offers to re-route you, it can avoid paying cancellation compensation if the following criteria are met:

Advance Notice
Re-routing Requirements
14 Days
7 – 13 Days
Alternative flight departing no more than 2 hours before and arriving less than 4 hours after the original flight
Less than 7 Days
Alternative flight departing no more than 1 hours before and arriving less than 2 hours after the original flight

Other Flight Cancellation Entitlements Under EC 261

Right to Care

When you’re stuck waiting for the airline to get you back on track, you’re entitled to necessary assistance from the airline, depending on your situation.

For example, if your flight cancellation leaves you stuck waiting at an airport, the carrier must provide you with meals and refreshments during the delay. They must also offer you access to communications, including two telephone calls, telefax or fax messages, and emails.

If you need overnight accommodation, they must provide you with a hotel room and transport to and from the airport.

Upgrading and downgrading

If you’re offered an alternative flight and are lucky enough to be placed in a higher class than the one you booked, the carrier cannot charge you any additional payment.

On the other hand, if the class of the alternative flight is lower, you can get a reimbursement of between 30-75% of the price you originally paid.

Obligation to inform passengers about flight cancellation compensation

You have the right to be informed about the content of EC 261. Every airline has to display information on passengers’ rights at their check-in counters at every airport in which they operate.

Further compensation

Your right to compensation under EC 261 does not affect your right to request further compensation. Although this rule does not apply in cases where passengers have voluntarily surrendered their reservations. Note if you do claim further compensation the amount you are entitled to under EC 261 may be deducted from whatever additional compensation you receive.

If you’d like to know more about your rights, we have further explanations on our Air Passenger Rights page, or you can read the text of EC 261 here.

Which Canceled Flights are Covered?

Where EC 261 Applies

The regulations set out in EC 261 apply based on the flight route and the airline – it doesn’t matter where the passengers are from. So US citizens have the same rights to flight cancellation compensation as those from the EU.

Most routes that take off from a European airport are covered. And we should point out that Europe covers more of the world than you might expect. The regulations cover the so-called “outermost regions” (the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores, French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe, and La Réunion, and Saint-Martin). Plus European nations that are members of the EEA: Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.

Even if your flight was scheduled to depart from outside Europe, if your destination was in Europe and you were flying with a European carrier, you’re covered. It’s easier to explain with a chart:

EU Air Carrier
Non-EU Air Carrier
From inside the EU to inside the EU
From inside the EU to outside the EU
From outside the EU to inside the EU
Not Covered
From outside the EU to outside the EU
Not Covered
Not Covered

Extraordinary Circumstances Are Not Covered

One way airlines avoid paying flight cancellation compensation is if they can show the cancellation was due to “extraordinary circumstances.” That means that the reason behind the cancellation was something outside of their control. Airlines argue in these circumstances they could not have avoided canceling the flight, even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

Typically situations like lightning strikes, medical emergencies, serious adverse weather conditions, acts of sabotage, or terrorism all fall under this exclusion.

There is some debate over what should be considered as “extraordinary circumstances”. Often airlines give reasons like “technical difficulties” or “operational circumstances” as the cause of cancellation. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has repeatedly stated that those don’t qualify as “extraordinary circumstances.” In April 2018 the European Court of Justice also rules that strikes by flight staff are not “extraordinary circumstances” meaning that passengers should receive compensation for flight cancellations resulting from airline staff strikes.

Connecting Flights and Cancellation Compensation

What you are entitled to when a connecting flight is canceled is a question with no simple answer.

It depends on a multitude of factors, including where you were flying, whether you were flying with an EU carrier, which flight was canceled, and whether all the flights were purchased under the same booking.

In general, so long as the flights were bought together, under one booking, the rules of EC 261 will apply.

So if your whole journey (with a connecting flight) departed from Europe, or was scheduled to arrive in Europe on an EU airline, your entire journey should be covered – and the amount of compensation you receive should be based on the total journey.

However, some EU courts interpret the regulation differently and may not include prior connecting flights in the eligible distance.

You can read lots more information regarding how EC 261 applies to connect flights on our missed connection compensation page. However, the quickest way to check your eligibility is by entering your flight details in the box below.

If your flight was delayed, canceled, or overbooked within the last 3 years, you could be eligible for up to $700 in compensation.

How to File a Claim for Cancellation Compensation

What To Do If Your Flight Is Canceled

If you’re traveling to or from the European Union, here’s what to do when your flight is unexpectedly scrubbed:

How Aid-Air Can Help You Claim

If you’re going to file a compensation claim under EC 261, you can expect some pushback from the airline. Just because the law is on your side doesn’t mean they are going to be enthusiastic – or swift – about paying you.

That’s where Aid-Air can come in. We can handle all the negotiations with the airline on your behalf.

Aid-Air will get no fee unless you get compensated. For the processing of claims, we used fixed fees that depend on the type of claim. The fixed fee frequently corresponds to around 35% of the potential compensation. For more information on our fee structure, check our price list.

If you would prefer to claim your flight cancellation compensation yourself, please still make use of our tools. Our leading-edge claim eligibility check and air passenger rights education services will tell you what you are entitled to. All are completely free.

If your flight was delayed, canceled or overbooked within the last 3 years, you could be eligible for up to $700 in compensation.

Straightforward Proceeding

I would recommend Aid Air to anyone. a straightforward proceeding to apply for compensation.

Francesco Lento


When can Americans claim flight cancellation compensation under EC 261?

The EC 261 laws are often an enigma to Americans. They needn’t be. Let’s break down what you need to know when it comes to your flight cancellation compensation rights.

A common misconception is that EC 261 only applies to flights within Europe, but that’s not the case.

Under EC 261, passengers are entitled to compensation for flight cancellations if the flight was scheduled to depart from the US and arrive in one of the EU countries, so long as the flight was with an EU carrier.

If your flight was booked to depart from any airport in the EU, you are covered by EC 261, no matter the carrier.

Is there a time limit to file my cancellation claim?

Your right to compensation under EC 261 does eventually expire, so it’s important to know the Statute of Limitations for your claim.

This varies from one country to the next and is determined by where the headquarters of the airline is or what court has jurisdiction in cases concerning the airline.

Can you get money back when you cancel a flight?

When you decide not to board a flight you’ve booked this is a very different situation to when an airline is responsible for flight cancelation.

It is not EC 261, but the terms and conditions of the airline, and your specific ticket, which dictate what you are entitled to.

In some instances, when you cancel your flight you are reimbursed in full.

Sometimes, you are entitled to the fees and taxes alone. Each airline has its procedure. 

Under EC 261 if my flight is canceled before take off, am I entitled to flight cancellation compensation or a flight cancellation refund?

Under EC 261, you are eligible for a full refund of your ticket if you weren’t able to fly on any portion of your flight. In addition to this full cancellation refund, you are also able to claim a flight cancellation refund if certain criteria are met.

To be eligible for flight cancellation compensation, the airline must have made you aware of the flight cancellation less than 14 days before departure. If this is the case, EC 261 states that you could be awarded as much as $700 (€600) cancellation compensation per person.

It is important to remember that there is a distinction between a flight cancellation refund and flight cancellation compensation and they are not to be confused or used interchangeably. Whereas a flight cancellation refund is about returning the money a passenger spent on a flight ticket, flight cancellation compensation is focused on awarding passengers money for the loss and suffering endured from a flight mishap.