Flight Delay: What Do You Need to Know?


Why do flights get delayed, and when is a passenger entitled to compensation?

Flight delays can be a major inconvenience, especially when you have a tight schedule or important commitments. From unexpected weather conditions to technical issues, there are many potential reasons for delayed flights.

If your flight is delayed or canceled, you may be entitled to compensation. In this article, we’ll explore common flight delay reasons, as well as in which cases you may expect compensation.

Why do flights get delayed?

Flights can get delayed for various reasons, including inclement weather, air traffic control issues, mechanical problems, and staffing issues. Let’s consider the most common ones:

  • Bad weather conditions;
  • Airplane technical issues;
  • Airplane rotation issues;
  • Strikes and incidents;
  • Bird strikes.

Bad weather conditions

Bad weather is one of the most common reasons for delayed flights. This usually implies natural calamities such as storms, tornadoes and so on. If your flight is delayed due to weather conditions, the airline should provide you with updates about the status of your flight.

Airplane technical issues

Air carriers must ensure that their planes meet strict maintenance requirements. Therefore, any minor technical issues can cause flight delays, including fuel contamination, parking issues and others.

Airplane rotation issues

An aircraft is typically assigned to several consecutive flights, so if the plane’s previous flight was delayed, it’s obvious that your flight will be delayed too.

Rotational issues can cause flight delays for a variety of reasons. If a plane is not properly serviced or checked for mechanical issues, it can cause delays in takeoff. Or, for instance, if the pilot is not adequately trained on the aircraft, this can lead to delays as well.

Staff strikes

An airline staff strike can cause flight delays ranging from a few hours to multiple days. The airline would need to negotiate with their staff regarding the conditions of the dispute. Depending on the nature of the strike and the resolution process, the airline may be able to mitigate delays caused by the strike.

Bird strikes

Bird strikes are relatively common and usually happen during either takeoff or landing since the plane is at low altitudes. If a bird strike causes a flight delay, the airline may need to inspect the aircraft to determine if it has sustained any damage and make repairs before it can be flown safely. Depending on the severity of the strike, this process could take anywhere from a few hours to several days.

What to do if your flight was delayed?

  • Contact the airline you are flying with to get information about the cause of the delay, potential rebooking options, and any potential compensation they may offer;
  • Stay informed of the status of your flight and any potential changes;
  • Make sure to ask customer service representatives about potential meal vouchers, hotel accommodations, and other amenities if your delay is lengthy;
  • If you are a frequent flyer, check if you can receive additional points for the delay;
  • If your delay is significant, talk to an airline representative to see what accommodation options are available.

Cases in which you will not be refunded

You can’t file a flight delay claim in case of unexpected circumstances that are not an airline’s fault. These include strikes and incidents, bad weather conditions, and airplane manufacturing flaws.

What factors determine the amount of compensation?

Your compensation depends on flight distance, origin, destination, and other conditions. In general, you can get anywhere from €250 to €600. You can calculate flight delay compensation according to the distance of the flight:

  • For flights up to 1500 km, the compensation is €250;
  • For flights from 1500 km to 3500 km, the compensation is €400;
  • For flights that are longer than 3500 km, the compensation is €600;
  • However, for flights that took place entirely within the European Union, the maximum amount of compensation can only reach €400.

When can I get compensation for flight delays?

The Flight Compensation Regulation (EC No 261/2004) doesn’t state the rules on how fast your compensation payment has to be provided. That’s why you need to be patient, as it depends on a carrier’s willingness to help and abide by the law.

Some carriers may confirm the claim as soon as the request has arrived, so the entire procedure can take up to a week or less. Others might ignore it or deny you’re eligible for compensation, which may delay the outcome for many months.

Bottom line

If you’re going to claim compensation, it’s crucial that you show up at check-in for the flight, even if your flight gets delayed. Otherwise, the airline might assume that you would miss the flight anyway and there is no need for compensation.

In other cases, if your flight is delayed for more than 3 hours, a carrier should at least provide passengers with support services that include free meals and drinks as well as access to two free calls.