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Everything you need to know about travel compensation schemes

Everything you need to know about travel compensation schemes
The amount of compensation you can claim for flights depends on the flight length and the delay period. Photo: Getty (Viktor_Gladkov via Getty Images)

As long-haul destinations open up for travellers this Christmas passenger demand is set to surge. This could lead to an increase in delays as millions of people begin to travel once more.

Here's our guide to understanding what your compensation rights are when delays or cancellations occur.


Under European law passengers are entitled to compensation for delayed flights departing from UK/EU airports, regardless of the airline, or when a UK/EU airline lands at a UK/EU airport. This is as long as the fight is not delayed due to extraordinary circumstances such as severe weather or a natural disaster such as a volcanic eruption.


This includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, and post-Brexit UK.

For example a Birmingham to New York flight would qualify regardless of the airline but for New York to Birmingham customers only receive compensation when flying with British Airways (IAG.L) but not on Air India.

The amount of compensation you can claim for depends on the flight length and the delay period. For flights up to 1,500km and three hours delay, compensation is £220, whilst more than 3,500km and four hours delay is £520 payment, per passenger. If a European flight is cancelled altogether, passengers are entitled to a full refund or alternative flight and may be able to claim compensation too.

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You can also backdate claims to 2015. In order to make your claim contact the airline using a template like this. But be warned, some airlines are more receptive than others.

If you do not get a response within 14 working days then you can use a free online tool like Resolver or report it to the airline's approved alternative dispute resolution body (if they have one) or to the Civil Aviation Authority. Another option is the European Consumer Centre.

As a last resort you can use a claims management company like RefundMe but be aware that after their commission, VAT and PayPal charges you may lose around a third of what you are entitled to.


Unlike airlines, train companies now have a relatively smooth and easy refund process for delayed journeys. The Delay Repay scheme is nationwide and sets out the bare minimum that companies must meet.

The amount passengers receive will depend on the length of the delay, the type of ticket and the rail company, but they have to pay out for delays of 30 minutes or more. Compensation ranges from 12.5% to 100% of the ticket price. Some companies like East Midland Railway pay compensation for delays as low as 15 minutes.

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Claims are made online or via the post through the relevant train company and the process takes minutes. The money can then be paid directly into a bank account and usually this happens within a couple of weeks.

Bus or coach

Unfortunately there is no Delay Repay equivalent for buses or coaches in the UK and it is always best to check the policy of each individual company.

For example Centrebus in the East Midlands will compensate for cancellations or delays of more than an hour. The payment is via a voucher towards any Centrebus group journey.

Under European Law (which still exists in the UK) passengers can get a refund if a bus route within the EU of at least 250km is delayed by more than 90 minutes.

However this only applies if the bus does not leave at the right time from the established stop. If you are already travelling and arrive late at your destination, then you cannot receive a refund.

The claim is made directly to the bus company and if not upheld then passengers must contact the relevant national enforcement body.

London Underground

Transport for London do not issue refunds for late or delayed buses or trams but there is a service delay refund scheme for the tube.

If you are delayed for 15 minutes or more for reasons within TfL's control — defective train, faulty track, overrunning engineering works — then you are entitled to a refund.

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You will receive the value of a single pay-as-you-go fare for the Underground, Overground or Docklands Light Railway (DLR) journey at the time you travelled no matter what you paid for.

Wait 48 hours before claiming here as you may receive an automatic refund.

Watch: Airline refunds: What are your rights as a consumer?