Updated on May 16, 2024.
Fact checked
writing Written

Delays happen when you’re flying for any number of reasons, including ones that are within the airline’s control and those that are due to extraordinary circumstances. If you’re faced with a delay, you may be given a new estimated departure time, but what happens if the conditions clear up? Could your delayed flight leave early? The answers to that and more are below.

Key Takeaways

  • Flight delays can be unpredictable, and in some cases, flights may depart earlier than initially expected. It’s wise to stay close to the airport if you’re facing a delay to ensure you don’t miss a potential early departure.
  • If your flight is delayed within the European Union and it’s the airline’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation under EC 261, which can range from $280 (€250) to $700 (€600) depending on the flight distance. Make sure to gather evidence and follow the necessary steps to claim your compensation.
  • Extraordinary circumstances, such as severe weather or air traffic control strikes, are beyond the airline’s control and may not qualify for compensation. In such cases, you can still contact customer service for alternative solutions.
  • If you encounter a delay, reach out to the airline’s customer service promptly. They can assist you with rebooking or provide travel credits as goodwill gestures. Effective communication with airline representatives can make a significant difference in your travel experience.
  • If your claim is denied, consider working with a flight compensation company experienced in EC 261 claims. They can help you navigate the process and may only charge a fee if you win your case, making it a risk-free option for seeking compensation.

Can Delayed Flights Leave Earlier than Expected?

If your flight is delayed, your airline will be in communication with you about a new estimated departure time. If the conditions clear up sooner rather than later or whatever the circumstances surrounding the delay resolve themselves, your flight can leave sooner than expected.

Any adjustments to your flight will be communicated via the airline. If you are unable to make this new time, you can work with customer service to find an alternative. While it is rare that delayed flights can leave sooner than expected, it is not impossible, so it’s important to make sure that you are close to the airport so you can make your flight in case of an adjustment.

Can I Get Compensation if My Flight is Delayed?

If you are travelling in the European Union at any point during your flight and your flight was delayed for at least two hours or more, you could be entitled to compensation under EC 261 – as long as the delay was within the airline’s control.

If your flight was delayed because of scheduling errors, routine mechanical errors, staffing issues, and more, you could receive up to $700 (€600) depending on your flight. How much you receive depends on the length of your flight and where it takes place.

  • Flights 1,500 km or less: $280 (€250)
  • Flights more than 1,500 within the EU: $450 (€400)
  • Flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km not within the EU: $450 (€400)
  • Flights more than 3,500 km: $700 (€600)

If this happens to you, work with the airline on your current delayed flight. If you are unable to travel or no longer need the flight because of the delay, you are entitled to a full refund or complimentary rebooking to a flight that works with your schedule.

Once you are settled, you can file a claim with your airline’s customer service team. Gather your reservation information and proof that the delay was within the airline’s control. Once you have everything submit it and wait for a decision.

If your claim is accepted, you will be compensated. If it’s not, you can always appeal the claim with new documentation or work with a flight compensation company. They are well-versed in EC 261 and can help you get the compensation you deserve. They will only take a percentage of your winnings if you win. Otherwise, you will not need to pay them.

What if the Delay Was Due To Extraordinary Circumstances?

Do Delayed Flights Ever Leave Early

Extraordinary circumstances could be anything from severe weather conditions to an air traffic control strike to a bird strike. Anything that’s not in the airline’s control qualifies as extraordinary, and if your flight is delayed because of it, you are not entitled to compensation under EC 261.

You can still contact customer service and see what they can do. In addition to working with you on the next available flight, they may also offer travel credits or vouchers as a gesture of goodwill.


Delayed flights can leave earlier than anticipated, so it’s best to stay close to the airport just in case. If the new time does not work with you, you can always contact customer service to get booked on a flight that does or get a full refund. If the airline was at fault for the delay, you could get additional compensation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should I do if my flight is delayed?

When your flight is delayed, stay informed by checking for updates from the airline. Be prepared to adjust your plans and stay close to the airport. If the delay becomes significant and inconvenient, contact the airline’s customer service for assistance.

  • Can a delayed flight leave earlier than the estimated departure time?

Yes, delayed flights can leave earlier than the initially estimated departure time if the conditions causing the delay improve or if the airline manages to resolve the issue causing the delay. Airlines will communicate any changes in the departure time to passengers.

  • How can I claim compensation for a delayed flight?

If you’re traveling within the European Union and your flight was delayed for at least two hours due to factors within the airline’s control (e.g., scheduling errors, mechanical issues), you may be eligible for compensation under EC 261. To claim compensation, gather relevant documentation, contact the airline’s customer service, and follow the required steps outlined in the regulation.

  • What is the compensation amount for a delayed flight under EC 261?

Compensation amounts vary based on the distance of your flight and whether it falls within the European Union:

     Flights up to 1,500 km: $280 (€250)

     Flights within the EU over 1,500 km: $450 (€400)

     Flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km outside the EU: $450 (€400)

     Flights over 3,500 km: $700 (€600)

  • Can I get compensation if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances?

No, you generally cannot claim compensation under EC 261 if the flight delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances beyond the airline’s control, such as severe weather, air traffic control strikes, or bird strikes. In such cases, you can still contact customer service for alternative solutions or goodwill gestures.

  • What should I do if my compensation claim is denied?

If your compensation claim is denied, you can consider appealing the decision with additional evidence or working with a flight compensation company experienced in EC 261 claims. These companies may assist you in pursuing compensation and will typically charge a fee only if your claim is successful.

  • Are the compensation rules the same for flights outside the European Union?

The compensation amounts and rules mentioned in the article primarily apply to flights departing from or arriving in the European Union. Different regions may have their own regulations regarding flight delay compensation, so it’s essential to research and understand the specific rules for your flight’s origin and destination.