LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 24:  Passengers wait in the departure hall of Gatwick airport's North Terminal as severe weather has caused delays and cancellations to numerous flights from the airport on December 24, 2013 in London, England. Christmas plans have been badly affected for thousands of people after storms across the UK have resulted in flooding, power cuts and significant problems with transport infrastructure.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
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Do I Really Qualify for Delayed Flight Compensation?

Do I Really Qualify for Delayed Flight Compensation?

Depending on the destination, smart travelers may qualify for compensation

One of the most common problems travelers face is the constant threat of trip delay or trip cancellation. No matter where we venture, travelers can consider their flights successful if they arrive and depart on time. Though a common annoyance, is it possible to get paid for a delayed or cancelled flight?

In some parts of the globe, an on-time flight is more than a request: it is a demand put upon air carriers. Do you know your rights as you travel? Knowing the available avenues of resolution could mean the difference between simply arriving, and being paid for your travels.

Flying in Europe: consumer protections available under law

Travelers flying to and from Europe have the most consumer protections when it comes to delayed and cancelled flights.

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According to travel advocacy service AirHelp, travelers flying on an airline registered in a European Union country flying to or from the European Union, or non-EU airlines with flights originating from within the EU, are all covered under consumer protection laws.

Travelers who have their flights cancelled and will not arrive to their final destination within two hours may qualify for compensation. Under EU law, those covered traveling between 932 and 2,175 miles qualify for 200 Euros compensation for their cancelled flight. Those who are traveling less than 932 miles or more than 2,175 miles may qualify for more.

For delayed flights, the compensation is similar, although travelers must be delayed longer before they receive payment from their airlines. Travelers delayed getting to their final destination for more than three hours, or travelers involuntarily denied boarding who cannot get to their destination within three hours of their flying time may qualify for delayed flight compensation.

This can run from 250 Euros for short flights, to 600 Euros for flights covering over 2,175 miles.

While these situations are generous, they do come with some qualifiers. First off, the flyer must be involuntarily involved in their situation – accepting anything else from an airline could disqualify the flyer from further compensation. Second, the cancellation must not be for an “extraordinary circumstance.” For instance: if the cancellation or delay is caused by weather, then travelers may not qualify for compensation.

Flying in the United States: some consumer protections available

Those travelers flying within the United States also have some compensation available to them, but not as many as those provided in the European Union. If your flight gets delayed in the United States, certain consumer protections are still available.

Under United States law, travelers may receive compensation if they are involuntarily denied boarding by the airline because of an overbooked flight. The law sets limitations for delayed flight compensation based on how long they are ultimately delayed: those delayed less than two hours while traveling domestic or less than four hours traveling internationally may be entitled to 200 percent of the one-way fare (up to $650), while those delayed longer could receive 400 percent of the one-way fare (up to $1,300).

Once again, these compensations are subject to certain rules and situations. If the flyer voluntarily accepts a travel voucher from their airline in order to take a later flight or be delayed further, then their opportunity to claim compensation is waived. In addition, the situation only applies to travelers involuntarily denied boarding: anyone delayed for another reason (including weather or mechanical issues) may not qualify for compensation.

Flying in other parts of the world: consider purchasing travel insurance

In other parts of the world, regulations vary across national regulations and airline policies. In a statement to Gulf News, Middle East carrier Qatar Airlines claimed they would provide refunds or other assistance to passengers depending on the situation, while officials for carrier Emirates advised travelers to understand their rights prior to purchasing their flights.

Those travelers concerned about delays and cancellations and not qualifying for delayed flight compensation should consider purchasing travel insurance prior to their next trip. With a travel insurance policy, travelers may be covered for incidental expenses with a delay of only six hours. Meals, ground transportation, and hotel rooms may be covered under a trip delay benefit.

While trip delay is never fun, being stuck at the airport can turn into a very lucrative proposition. By understanding your rights as a traveler, you can be prepared to cash in on a cancelled or delayed flight through flight delay compensation.

Ed. Note: No compensation nor incentive was given to mention or link to any product or service in this article. Neither About.com nor the author endorse or guarantee any product, service, or brand mentioned in this article, unless otherwise stated

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