We tend to think that European airlines such as Lufthansa, Swiss International, KLM, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic are ranked as top airlines because they’re always on time and they never overbook. While it’s true they may perform better than their rivals, flight disruptions happen to even the best. Under EU Regulation 216/2004, if the airline is responsible for causing the inconvenience, passengers have a right to be compensated.

Compensation is due under these circumstances

First of all, you can’t seek eu flight compensation just because your flight got in 20 minutes late. EU 261/2004 applies only in cases of flight arrival delays of three or more hours, cancellations that aren’t communicated to passengers at least 14 days in advance, boarding denials due to overbooking, and missed connections caused by flight delays of at least three hours. In addition, a passenger cannot have checked in late for the flight in question, defined as checking in with less than 45 minutes to go before the scheduled departure time.

Where the flight originates and terminates matters, too. Flights taking off from an EU airport are covered by EU 261/2004. So are flights landing at an EU airport, but only if the carrier has its headquarters in the European Union. Also, the cause of the delay or cancellation must be attributable to the airline. This would include things like mechanical issues and problems with the flight crew but not political unrest, natural disasters, or strikes by airport staff.

Steps to take to file for compensation

Depending on the length of the delay and the distance the flight covers, the amount of eu flight compensation you can claim will vary from €250 to €600. Third-party advocacy groups exist who help passengers with the claim process for a fee or who work on a commission basis. However, filing a claim directly with the carrier is a simple process that you can undertake yourself.

First, make sure all of the requirements for a valid claim have been met. Then, visit the airline’s website or call their customer service number to inquire how they handle the EU 261/2004 process. Some have claim forms available that can be filed electronically; others want the incident along with a request for compensation detailed in writing and sent in via e-mail or even snail mail. The European Commission also has an Air Passenger Rights EU Complaint Form you can fill out and send to the airline.

Carriers are required to provide compensation in the form of a check or electronic bank transfer. Travel vouchers are another option, but an airline can only supply these when you agree in writing to receive them in lieu of cash.

It’s unlikely one of our top airlines in Europe will reject your claim or fail to respond in a timely fashion, but should this happen, you can escalate the matter to a National Enforcement Body. Each member state has one, and you should contact the organization in the EU nation where the problem took place or, if you were outside the EU, the member state to which you were traveling.

Fortunately, EU regulations are among the most robust in the world when it comes to protecting the rights of passengers. Money won’t erase the unpleasant memory of having a vacation or business itinerary disrupted because of a flight cancellation or delay, but it will at least take the sting out of it.