Missed Flight Compensation

Probably the most common problem with not flying on your chosen flight is being ‘bumped’. This is where the airline has over booked the flight. This happens because airlines predict that a certain percentage of passengers will not show up. Unfortunately, every now and then, everybody does show up. If there aren’t enough volunteers and if you have a cheap ticket, you may be first to be ‘bumped’.

Denied Boarding Compensation

If you are bumped by a scheduled airline from an airport in the European Union, then you will be entitled to ‘Denied Boarding Compensation’. This is set by factors such as length of the flight (less than 3,500km and over 3,500km) and the extension to your journey time. For example, you are entitled to €75 if you are delayed by 2 hours and your flight is less than 3,500km, up to a maximum €300 for more than 3,500km and a delay greater than 4 hours.

Refuse any vouchers without also receiving cash compensation. You are still entitled to a free hotel room and meals if it is required and you can ask the airline to contact your destination to explain the delay. Do not agree to be put on a ‘standby list’. Demand to be placed on the next available flight.


USA is different

In the USA, check-in staff will offer vouchers to volunteers. If not enough passengers come forward then any bumped passenger is also entitled to cash compensation if the delay is greater than one hour. This is currently $200 for up to two hours and $400 for longer waits. If possible, refuse the vouchers and ask for cash instead.

Most airlines will provide refreshments or overnight hotels if a flight has been cancelled or delayed. They will also try to find you room on an alternative flight to your chosen destination.


If you are flying in Europe and you are unable to land at your destination, due to bad weather for example, then the airline should take actions to ensure that you get there as soon as possible. They should also cover any accommodation that you had to book while waiting to complete your journey. This will be explained by airline staff as they should hand out information on EU261 (a European passenger rights regulation) which will outline passenger entitlement and give a reminder to keep any receipts for hotel expenses so that the airline can refund them where applicable.

The airline staff will not hunt for passengers, so ensure that you make yourself known and ask for the information if it is not volunteered to you.

However, you may need to go to court if you are also after cash compensation. The reason for this is that airlines can get out of paying up to £3,000 (set by The Montréal Convention) by saying that they have taken all reasonable actions to try to prevent the delay and it is a result of circumstances beyond their control, such as the weather, airport strikes and terrorism. I think that it’s true to say that most airlines state unforeseen mechanical breakdown to get out of compensation claims.

Package Holiday

If you are on a package holiday which has been put together by a tour operator that is a member of ABTA, they have a recommended Code of Conduct to follow. If the flight is delayed, the operator must keep the passengers up-to-date, and if it is for more than three hours, light refreshments must be provided. A delay of 6 hours or more will entitle the passengers to full meals as appropriate for the time of day.

If you are delayed or cancelled, don’t rush to the queue at the airline’s desk. Grab a seat and call them instead. Also check your travel insurance policy; it may cover you for delays and cancelations.

To reduce the chances of being ‘bumped’ try;

  • Reserving a seat in advance using online check-in or online seat selection
  • Print your own boarding pass
  • Don’t check-in late

Always remember to check the terms and conditions for any vouchers before you agree to accept them.