Skip to content
A guide to flight delays

A guide to flight delays

The ins and outs of flight delay claims

Know your rights around delayed flight compensation

We’ve all been there. You’re in the airport waiting to board your flight only to get the dreaded news. Your flight’s delayed. Again.

Hopefully it’s just a minor hold-up. But if the hours stretch on, it’s important to understand the rules around flight delays. That way, you can make sure you get the help and support you’re entitled to.

If your flight to or from an EU airport is delayed, you may be entitled to both help and financial compensation. If you’re flying to or from another international destination, what you get will depend on the airline or local regulations. Most airlines follow advice from the International Air Transport Association, who recommend offering a later flight or refund.

Protection under EU regulation

The EU regulation for air passengers protects you if you’re:

  • Arriving at an airport in the EU and your flight is operated by an EU airline
  • Departing from an EU airport on any airline

Airports in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also covered by this protection.

And although Britain is no longer part of the EU, the Government has protected EU air passenger rights by making it part of UK law.

What assistance you’re entitled to

Under these EU rules, your airline is legally required to provide you with care and assistance if your flight is delayed by:

  • Two hours for a short-haul flight
  • Three hours for a medium-haul flight
  • Four hours for a long-haul flight

But what does this mean in practice? Here’s what you can expect from your airline if you’re left stranded at the airport:

  • Food and drink
  • Free phone calls or emails
  • Accommodation if you’re delayed overnight
  • Transport to and from that accommodation

Flight delay compensation

Flight delayed more than three hours? As well as things like meals and hotels, you may be legally entitled to late flight compensation if the delay is your airline’s fault. For example, if it’s due to technical issues or poor turnaround times.

The amount you can claim depends on the length of your flight and how long you’re delayed for.

This can range from £220 for a three-hour delay on a short-haul flight up to £520 for a four-hour delay on a long-haul flight.

The Civil Aviation Authority has more information about flight delay reimbursement.

Extraordinary circumstances

If your airline can prove that a flight delay was caused by an ‘extraordinary circumstance’, you won’t be entitled to any compensation.

Extraordinary circumstances could include:

  • Airport strikes
  • Air traffic management decisions
  • Bird strikes
  • Extreme weather
  • Natural disasters

In these cases, you’d still be eligible for alternative travel arrangements from your airline, but you won’t be able to claim any compensation.

If you don’t agree with your airline’s assessment of an extraordinary circumstance, you can fight your flight delay claim. And if you’re told you can’t fly due to weather conditions but other flights are departing, it may be worth stating your case for compensation.

Consider contacting the Civil Aviation Authority if you feel you’ve been unfairly treated.

How to claim flight delay compensation

If your flight is delayed and you believe you’re entitled to compensation, the first thing to do is contact your airline directly.

Most airlines will have a specific claims procedure that you need to follow. And some won’t deal with your claim if it’s made by a third-party claims company.

Before you contact your airline, familiarise yourself with their terms and conditions or ‘conditions of carriage’. These can usually be found on the airline’s website.

Get protection with flight delay insurance

If you’re worried about being left out of pocket by expensive travel delays, travel insurance may be able to help.

Our travel insurance can cover delays and missed departures, and help protect you if:

  • You are delayed by more than 12 hours
  • You decide to abandon your trip because of a delay of at least 12 hours
  • You miss your departure through no fault of your own

So, relax and enjoy planning your trip, knowing that you'll be covered if something goes wrong.

Sainsbury’s Bank Travel Insurance is underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance UK Limited.

Terms, conditions, excesses, exclusion and limitations apply. You can find out more about the terms of our cover in our policy documents.


More helpful travel guides

Want more help and support? We’ve got a host of handy travel guides packed with useful information.

Lost documents

Lost documents

Here’s what to do if you lose your passport or driving license abroad

flight disruption

More flight disruption

How to deal with cancelled or overbooked flights

European insurance

European insurance

See what you’re covered for when you’re travelling in Europe

Any questions?

Check out our  most frequently asked questions about travel insurance. If you still  need to talk to us, our friendly team will be happy to help. 

Call 0345 305 2621.

Sales and service lines are open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday. Closed weekend and Bank Holidays. Calls may be monitored or recorded. Calls are charged at local rates from landlines and mobiles.

Helpful phone numbers.

Terms and conditions

* Up to 20% discount applies when you tell us your Nectar card number. Discount does not apply to premiums for pre-existing medical conditions or enhanced gadget cover. You won't be eligible if you buy through a price comparison website. We reserve the right to change or cancel this offer without notice.

This guide aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any decision, financial or otherwise. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this guide. All information correct at date of publication.

Sainsbury’s Bank Travel Insurance is underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance UK Limited. Great Lakes Insurance UK Limited is a company incorporated in England and Wales with company number 13436330 and whose registered office address is 10 Fenchurch Avenue, London, United Kingdom, EC3M 5BN. Great Lakes Insurance UK Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 955859. You can check this on the Financial Services Register by visiting;

Sainsbury’s Bank Travel Insurance is sold and administered by Hood Travel Limited, registered at Companies House 08318836. Hood Travel is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority under registration number 597211. Hood Travel Limited’s registered address is at 2nd Floor, Decora Court, Tylers Avenue, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS1 2BB.