Updated on May 15, 2024.
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Flying can be stressful enough as it is, and it’s made even worse when you face long delays, canceled flights, and more. Thankfully, if you’re traveling in the European Union, you may be eligible for compensation for your inconvenience, thanks to regulation EC261/2004. In the this guide, we’ll explore this regulation in detail, ensuring you’re equipped with the knowledge to claim what’s rightfully yours when your flight experience goes wrong. Buckle up, and let’s dive in. Information in this article was updated in 2024.

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Key Takeaways

  • EC261/2004 is a European regulation that entitles passengers to financial compensation for flight disruptions such as long delays, cancellations, and denied boarding when the circumstances are within the airline’s control.
  • Compensation rates under EC261/2004 vary based on the distance of your flight, with amounts ranging from €250 for flights under 1,500 km to €600 for flights more than 3,500 km within or into/out of the EU.
  • EC261/2004 applies to all flights departing from an EU airport, regardless of the airline, and also to flights arriving in the EU aboard an EU-based airline. It does not typically cover flights by non-EU carriers originating outside the EU.
  • Beyond financial compensation, EC261/2004 also entitles passengers to certain rights in the event of a delay, including meals, refreshments, communications, and sometimes overnight accommodation and transportation.
  • Claims under EC261/2004 can be filed by individuals directly with the airline, or through specialized flight compensation companies that will handle the process for a fee. The timeframe for making a claim varies from 1 to 10 years depending on the country where the airline is based.

What is European Regulation EC261/2004?

Passenger rights are a top priority when traveling in Europe, and these don’t apply just to European Union citizens. Instead, anyone who travels in Europe could be eligible for financial compensation if there’s an issue with their flight. So what exactly is European Regulation EC261/2004, and how can you use it to get financial restitution?

EC261/2004 is a regulation that entitles passengers to receive financial compensation if they were denied boarding, their flight was canceled or delayed, and more. As long as the circumstances weren’t outside the airline’s control, you can file a claim to receive restitution for your inconvenience.

Qualifying Circumstances

There are stipulations on EC261/2004, so not every delay is eligible for compensation. The following are some of the most common claims, but you can always check your claim here to see if you have a case.

  • Flights that are delayed more than three hours
  • Flights that are canceled less than 14 days in advance
  • If you are denied boarding because of overbooking or other cases that the airline is responsible for.

If you have a question on whether you qualify, it never hurts to check. Airlines won’t naturally credit you, so you have to seek it out.

Applicable Parties

These rules apply for all passengers who are leaving from an airport that’s in the European Union, so most continental flights will be eligible. Sometimes, it can also apply if you’re flying into Europe from destinations outside the EU, though it varies on a case by case basis.

Ultimately, the airline is being held accountable for staying on time to prevent unnecessary delays. These settlements cut into their profits, so it’s in their best interest to avoid costly delays. You will not have a case if you miss your flight or are denied boarding because you’re late, so keep in mind the circumstances matter.

What Compensation Can I Get?

The compensation you’re entitled to is a flat rate depending on how far your trip is, but remember, your flight is to be going either in or out of the European Union to qualify.

Flight Compensation Breakdown

Here’s a general breakdown of what you may be entitled to when you file a claim, though keep in mind the final amount you receive is dependent on a lot of different factors, including how far you’re traveling, the time you’re delayed, and more.

  • Flights under 1,500 km: €250.
  • Flights within the EU more than 1,500 km: €400
  • Flights in or out of the EU between 1,500 km and 3,500 km: €400
  • Flights in or out of the EU more than 3,500 km: €600

This is the baseline of what you may be eligible to receive on top of additional flight accommodation, so it’s in your best interest to file a claim.

You can calculate your flight distance bellow.

Where were you flying to?

Flight Compensation Types

Three of the most common types of compensation you’ll receive under EC261/2004 are due to denied boarding, flight cancellation, and delays.

  • If you are denied boarding because your flight is overbooked or for any other reason outside of your control, you may be entitled to receive €250-€600 for your inconvenience.
  • If your flight is canceled, you may be able to file a claim up to €600. Flights up to three years old can qualify, but flights that were cancelled because of COVID-19 are not eligible.
  • If your flight is delayed three hours or more, you may be eligible to receive up to €600 in compensation. This includes if your flight arrives more than 3 hours late, as long as you checked in on time.

You are entitled to receive this compensation under EC261/2004, but the airlines won’t volunteer it until you ask – and maybe even then they’ll try to fight it.

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Which Flights Are Covered by EC261/2004?

Unfortunately, not all flights are covered by EC261/2004, so it’s important to be aware of the stipulations of this regulation so you know your rights. Generally speaking, most flights into Europe will be covered, including those that are not a part of the European Union. There are some exceptions.

EU Air Carriers

As long as your flight has a touch-point within the European Union, you should be covered under EC261/2004. This includes:

  • Flights inside the EU
  • Flights inside the EU to outside the EU
  • Flights from outside the EU to inside the EU

Remember, if your airline is based in the European Union and one of your departure or destination is also within the EU, you are entitled of compensation up to €600. This applies to you even if you’re not an EU citizen, so don’t hesitate to make that claim.

Non-EU carriers

EC261/2004 gets a little trickier when you’re talking about airlines that are not based in the European Union. Not all issues will be covered, even if they are in the airline’s control.

You will be covered if you’re flying within the EU or from inside the EU to outside the EU. You will not be covered if your flight originates outside the EU or if you’re flying outside the EU altogether.

So What Flights Are Covered?

The flights that are covered under EC261/2004 vary, but if you are traveling within the EU, regardless of your carrier type, you should be safe. However, keep in mind the amount of compensation you’re entitled to will vary, and the maximum you could receive is €600.

If your flight has a connection in the EU, you may be eligible for compensation, so if you are traveling at any point within the EU, it is worth filing a claim to recoup your losses.

Which Flights Are NOT Covered by EC261/2004?

EC261/2004  is very clearly worded that your issue has to be inside the airline’s control to be entitled to compensation. It also has to occur within the EU at some point throughout the duration of your trip for the regulation to apply.

Carrier Rules

Flights that are outside the EU, even if you have an EU-based carrier, are not eligible, nor are flights that are from outside the EU to inside the EU if you are using non-EU-based carriers. There may be an exception if your flight is an EU-based carrier and you have a connection within the EU.

Extraordinary Circumstances

If you face any of these circumstances while flying, you will not be entitled to compensation. All issues have to be within their airline’s control for you to be reimbursed.

  • Weather
  • Airport or air traffic control strikes
  • Political unrest
  • Security risks

As long as their airline shows they have taken reasonable measures to prevent these issues, they will not be responsible. However, the onus is on the airline to prove, so it doesn’t hurt to file a claim. Lawmakers continue to review what constitutes extraordinary circumstances, so this list is subject to change.

What Are My EC261/2004 Rights in European Flights?

The biggest benefit of EC261/2004 is that it entitles you to financial compensation for delays, cancellations, and denied boardings; however, that’s not the only thing it guarantees. It also helps you receive fair treatment from the airlines.

Passenger Rights

As you check in, keep an eye out for information in EC261/2004 as long as you’re in the EU. Every airline operating within the EU is required by law to display this regulation to help you understand your rights. They may not have to tell you about it until you ask, but once you understand what you are entitled to, it can make negotiation much easier. Keep in mind that if you accept alternative accommodations or vouchers, it may disqualify you from making a claim against EC261/04.

Reimbursement Rights

If your delay is more than five hours, you don’t just have to wait to file a claim. You are entitled to a full or partial refund and a return flight back to where you left if applicable. As you wait, the airline is required to care for you with basic essentials, including:

  • Meals and refreshments
  • Communications, including calls, faxes, and emails.
  • Overnight accommodation, where applicable
  • Transportation, where applicable.

How much you’re entitled to depends on how long your delay is.

  • All flights 1,500 km or less: 2 hours or more
  • Internal EU flights more than 1,500 km: 3 hours or more
  • Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km: 3 hours or more
  • Non-internal EU flights more than 3,500 km: 4 hours or more

Just because you are entitled to at least €600 does not mean that’s all you can claim. If you feel you are entitled to further compensation for your distress, you can contact their customer service. You may have waived your right if you voluntarily surrendered your reservation.

What Are My EC261/2004 Rights in International Flights?

EC261/2004 doesn’t just cover EU to EU flights, so if you’re flying internationally, you may still be entitled to compensation, as long as your flight has a touchpoint within the European Union.

  • If your airline is based in the EU, you’ll be covered under most circumstances.
  • If your airline is based outside of the EU, you will be covered as long as your flight originates in the EU.
  • Sometimes, your flight will be covered if it connects in the EU.

Because there are always exceptions to the rule, you can always file a claim. You lose no money by trying.

European Regulation EC261/2004 Time Limit to File a Claim

You have to file a claim in a timely manner under EC261/2004, though the amount varies from country to country. Keep in mind that you need to file a claim in the country that the airline is based, not your country of nationality, the country you departed, or the country you arrived in. Filing in the wrong country could cause a delay in your compensation, so it’s important to understand where the airline is based.

Depending on the country, you can make claims between 1 to 10 years, though there are some exceptions to the rule.

CountryLimitation period
Austria3 years
Belgium5 years
Bulgaria1 year
Croatia3 years
Cyprus6 years
Czech Republic*3 years
Denmark3 years
Estonia3 years
Finland3 years
France5 years
Germany **3 years
Greece5 years
Hungary5 years
Iceland2 years
Ireland6 years
Italy2 years
Latvia1 year
Lithuania3 years
Luxembourg10 years
MaltaNo limit
Netherlands2 years
Norway3 years
Poland1 year
Portugal3 years
Slovakia2 years
Slovenia2 years
Spain5 years
Sweden***10 years
Switzerland2 years
United Kingdom6 years

Refunds & Flight Ticket Replacements

When you’re facing delays and cancellations, it can be tempting to accept what the airline is giving you. However, if you voluntarily surrender your ticket, you may relinquish your rights to further compensation. If you intend to file a claim at a later date, you should never voluntarily accept to be bumped from your flight.

If there are delays or cancellations or if you have been denied boarding due to overbooking, you can request a refund of your fare and a return flight to your original point of departure if you have a connecting flight. You have options.

How to Make Your EC261/2004 Claim?

Many people don’t file claims, allowing the airlines to get away with unnecessary delays. Don’t be a part of the statistics. You deserve to be compensated for your inconvenience under EU law.

The first way you can do this is by filing a claim yourself. Navigate to your airline carrier to start the process, and make sure you have your booking reference handy. You’ll need to enter your information and wait to hear back. If you weren’t able to find form, you can fill out and download it here. In some cases, airlines will fight the claim, so you may be forced to go to court. In most cases, they will settle, but it’s still a lengthy process.

There are also specialized organizations you can partner with, like flight compensation companies. They know EC261/2004 well, and after you enter your information, they will fight the airline on your behalf. They simply take a flat fee out of your winnings, and you owe them nothing if you lose. If the case goes to court, the litigation fees are often included in the fee. They do all the work for you. All you have to do is enjoy the settlement once it comes. You can find the best flight compensation companies bellow.

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Either option will help you get the money you deserve under EC261/2004. Just make sure you file a claim within the claim window.

Video Version


EC261/2004 is a powerful regulation that’s meant to advocate for you. Many airline delays are preventable, and by filing claims, you are holding them accountable. Your time is valuable, so don’t hesitate to claim the compensation you deserve. As long as you’re flying in the EU, you could receive up to €600.


  • What is EC261/2004?

EC261/2004 is a European regulation that entitles passengers to receive financial compensation if their flights were significantly delayed, canceled, or if they were denied boarding. The purpose is to hold airlines accountable for their services and to compensate passengers for the inconveniences.

  • What does EC261/2004 cover?

EC261/2004 covers several scenarios: delays of more than three hours, cancellations with less than 14 days’ notice, and denied boarding due to overbooking or other reasons within the airline’s control. Note that extraordinary circumstances, such as severe weather or political unrest, which are outside the airline’s control, do not qualify for compensation under this regulation.

  • Who is eligible for EC261/2004 compensation?

EC261/2004 applies to all passengers flying from an airport within the European Union, regardless of their nationality or the nationality of the airline. It also applies to passengers flying into the EU on an EU-based airline.

  • How much is EC261/2004 compensation?

The compensation varies based on the distance of your flight. For flights under 1,500 km, the compensation is €250. For flights within the EU over 1,500 km or flights in or out of the EU between 1,500 km and 3,500 km, it’s €400. For flights in or out of the EU over 3,500 km, the compensation is €600. These amounts can be higher if the delay or disruption caused substantial inconvenience.

  • How to claim EC261/2004 compensation?

You can file a claim directly with the airline providing details of your journey and the disruption you experienced. Some people choose to use specialized organizations or flight compensation companies, who handle the claim on their behalf for a fee. Remember, you can make claims up to a certain limit of years (between 1 to 10 years), and this varies from country to country.

  • Does EU regulation EC261/2004 cover flights from USA?

Yes, but only if the airline is based in the EU. If you are flying from the USA to the EU on an EU-based airline, you are covered by EC261/2004. However, if you are flying on a non-EU-based airline, the regulation does not apply. The reverse scenario (flying from the EU to the USA) would be covered by EC261/2004 regardless of the airline’s nationality.


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