Updated on May 16, 2024.
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If there are changes to your reservation after you’ve booked it, you may be entitled to compensation under EC 261. Here’s all you need to know.

Key Takeaways

  • European Regulation EC 261 provides passengers with essential rights and compensation when airlines make avoidable changes to flight reservations, including cancellations, delays, and overbookings.
  • Passengers may qualify for compensation if their flight was canceled less than 14 days before departure, delayed over three hours, canceled due to overbooking, or resulted in a missed connecting flight due to the airline’s fault.
  • Understanding the terms and conditions outlined on the airline’s website is crucial as it establishes your legal baseline as a passenger. This knowledge empowers you to exercise your rights effectively when dealing with flight disruptions.
  • If your flight is changed, you have the right to be rebooked on the next available comparable flight at no cost. Alternatively, you can opt for a full refund, even if your original fare was nonrefundable, as the airline is responsible for the change.
  • After experiencing a flight disruption, gather all necessary documentation and file a claim with the airline. Depending on the situation and flight details, you could receive compensation of up to $700 (€600) per passenger. If the claim is denied, you can appeal and provide additional evidence to support your case. Consider seeking assistance from flight compensation companies if needed, but be cautious of potential fees.

What are Your Rights Under EC 261?

EC 261 is in place to protect passengers, holding airlines accountable for avoidable issues. The best way they can do this is by making them pay out. If it hits their bottom line, then they may make changes.

You may qualify for compensation if your flight issue meets any of the following criteria:

  • If your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before your departure, and it wasn’t for an unforeseen issue like weather, political unrest, or airline strike.
  • If your flight is delayed more than three hours, causing you to arrive at your destination more than three hours late.
  • If your ticket was cancelled because of overbooking.
  • If you missed a connecting flight because of the initial delay or cancellation.

EC 261 understands that things happen; however, the airline must provide adequate notice to its passengers if something comes up that could change their plans.

Before you contact customer service, it’s important to read the terms and conditions on your airline’s website. These terms outline your rights, so you’ll be prepared for what to expect when you start to make your arrangements. This is your legal baseline, so it’s important to understand your basic rights as a passenger when you travel with the airline.

Reschedule Your Flight

If the airline changed your flight, you are entitled to get it back on track. If they immediately didn’t seat you on the next available flight or that flight does not work with your schedule, contact customer service. You are entitled to be rebooked on a comparable flight at no cost to you.

Additionally, you can also cancel your flight and get a full refund. Again, you had all intentions of making your original flight, and they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Even if your fare was nonrefundable, you should be able to get a refund because it was their fault.

The airline may try to offer additional perks, like travel vouchers, free drink tickets, and more. If you plan on filing an EC 261 claim, do not accept these. They will void your claim before you can even file it.

File an EC 261 Claim

What Are Your Rights When an Airline Changes Your Flight in Advance?

After your replacement flight is settled, now it’s time to file a claim against the airline. Gather all your documentation that proves the flight was cancelled by the airline (emails, boarding passes, text communications, screenshots, etc.). Visit the airline’s website or contact their customer service team to file a claim.

Depending on the type of change and the length and distance of your flight, you could receive up to $700 (€600) per passenger under EC 261. Some airlines may try to deny your claim, and you have the right to appeal it. You can provide additional documentation to back up your claim.

If that doesn’t work, you can work with a flight compensation company. Depending on the company, they will take a fee off the percentage of your winnings as payment; however, they are the most familiar with the law and can get you the compensation you deserve, so it may be worth it.


You have rights if an airline changes your flight without proper notice, and you could be entitled to claim up to $700 (€600) in compensation thanks to EC 261. This law covers flights in, to, and from Europe and holds airlines accountable for keeping to your schedule. You will not get this compensation automatically, so you have to file a claim after the issue occurs to receive it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I determine if I am eligible for compensation under EC 261?

To determine your eligibility for compensation, consider the specific circumstances of your flight disruption. Check if your flight was canceled less than 14 days before departure for reasons other than unforeseen issues like weather or strikes, if you experienced a delay of over three hours, if your ticket was canceled due to overbooking, or if you missed a connecting flight due to the airline’s fault.

  • What if the airline offers me travel vouchers or other perks for the flight changes?

If you plan to file an EC 261 claim, avoid accepting any offers like travel vouchers or free drink tickets from the airline. These offers may come with conditions that could void your compensation claim, so it’s best to decline them and proceed with filing your claim.

  • Can I still receive compensation if my initial flight was rescheduled for another time on the same day?

If your original flight was rescheduled for a different time on the same day, and you did not experience a significant delay or disruption, you may not be eligible for compensation under EC 261. Compensation usually applies when there is a substantial delay or cancellation with little notice.

  • What happens if the airline denies my compensation claim?

If the airline denies your compensation claim, you have the right to appeal their decision. Provide any additional evidence or documentation that supports your claim to strengthen your case. If the airline remains uncooperative, you can also consider seeking assistance from flight compensation companies with expertise in handling such claims.

  • Does EC 261 apply only to flights departing from Europe, or does it cover flights arriving in Europe as well?

EC 261 applies to all flights departing from an EU airport, as well as flights operated by EU-based airlines arriving at an EU airport. Additionally, it also covers flights departing from an EU airport to a non-EU country if operated by an EU-based airline. This means that travelers flying to, from, or within Europe are protected by the regulation.