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Few things suck worse than flight delays. You’re all packed, ready to go, at the airport (maybe even on the plane?) and suddenly- something goes wrong.

Such was the case last month as I sat on my flight from Los Angeles to Inverness, Scotland, a basic economy deal that I had jumped on months ago for a cool $440 round-trip. In my case, an aborted takeoff, an hour-long stint on the tarmac, and three more hours in the terminal culminated in the news of our completely cancelled flight. Long story and a lot of headache short- I ended up in the wrong city (Edinburgh) nine hours after my original arrival time, with no means to get all the way to Inverness. 

What Is EU 261?

Now, if you’ve any familiarity with travel, you’ve likely heard of EU 261. According to the law, barring a number of certain circumstances, airlines must pay you for flight delays or cancellations:

The airline is also required to pay cash compensation as described below, unless one of the following conditions applies:

  • the airline notifies the passengers at least two weeks prior to departure
  • the airline notifies the passengers between one and two weeks prior to departure, and re-routes passengers so that they can:
    • depart no more than two hours earlier than scheduled, and
    • arrive no more than four hours later than scheduled
  • the airline notifies the passengers less than one week prior to departure, and re-routes passengers so that they can:
    • depart no more than one hour earlier than scheduled, and
    • arrive no more than two hours later than scheduled
  • the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided by any reasonable measure.

Luckily for me, my case counted, as the issue was a ‘slight problem with the engine’ (according to our pilot). So, I filed my claim for compensation. (SEE: Submitting and EU261 compensation claim for a delayed or cancelled flight) A few days later, after a slightly heated call with a KLM representative who thought I had only missed a connecting flight, a $680 (600 Euro) check was on its way to me. Let me repeat that: KLM paid me $680 dollars because of my flight delay. On a $400 flight. And since the representative felt so bad about the earlier misunderstanding, he also offered to refund my unused return leg. (This was because I never ended up making it to Inverness, instead using points to book a one-way from Edinburgh-Los Angeles in business class).


So, to recap: KLM paid me $680 for my flight delay. They then refunded me $220 for my unused return flight. While the second half was a fluke, the $680 illustrates how important it is to know your rights as a passenger. Every single person on that flight was entitled to that compensation. While I’d like to be optimistic and say most of them did, the unfortunate likelihood is that many aren’t aware of the law and even fewer are willing to take the time file a claim. If that’s the case, using a service could still net you great results with none of the work. For me, it meant turning an impulse purchase into a money-making endeavor. For others, it could mean the difference between financial hardship caused by the delay and a nice little bump when they get home.

There’s never a time when flight delays don’t suck. But if you’re flying to/from the EU, you can take advantage of strong passenger rights laws to help compensate for the hassle. 

Has anyone here filed an EU 261 claim before? Were you successful?

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