How to claim compensation for delayed or cancelled BA flights

By David Flynn, May 28 2017
How to claim compensation for delayed or cancelled BA flights

The weekend meltdown of British Airways' computer system left thousands of travellers stranded and saw hundreds of flights cancelled  – including flight BA15 from London to Sydney via Singapore – with knock-on effects to the rest of BA's worldwide schedule.

Passengers can make claims for compensation by British Airways under the EU ' Flight Compensation Regulation' 261/2004, for sums ranging from €250 (A$375) through to €600 (A$900) per passenger.

This is a cash payment which airlines must pay by EU law for cancelled or heavily delayed flights.

EU Regulation 261/2004 covers all flights departing from the EU – which includes the UK, obviously – as well as flights arriving in an EU country and carried out by a European airline – which includes flights from Australia to the UK on British Airways.

What are the rules if my BA flight was delayed or cancelled?

If your flight was delayed for two hours or more you're entitled to 'care and compensation' under EU 261/2004.

The airline is obliged to  provide food and drink appropriate to the time of day – usually  in the form of a voucher to redeem at the airport – and in the case of overnight delays, the airline must provide hotel accommodation and transport to reach it.

If that can't be done due to the scale of the disruption, as was the case with BA this weekend, you can make your own arrangements and claim the cost back (just don't go booking yourself into a luxury suite at some six-star hotel unless that's the only room available).

This naturally also extends to cancelled flights.

This weekend's system outage saw British Airways advising customers to find hotels on their own with a promise of reimbursement by the airline, at £200 per night for accommodation, £50 round trip between the airport and the hotel, and £25 for 'refreshments'.

What sort of compensation can I expect?

Given that BA is responsible for the computer glitch, the airline is also required to pony up a cash payment of €250 for short flights under 1,500km and €400 for flights of 1,500 to 3,500km.

For flights over 3,500km, a delay of 3 to 4 hours will result in a €300 payment, with €600 for more than four hours.

What about travel insurance?

Your travel insurance policy should also offer compensation for delays, but the amount on offer and number of hours defined as a 'delay' will vary from one insurer to the next.

For more information, visit the EU's Air Passenger Rights page and download a copy of the EU 261/2004 complaint form to print out, complete it and send to British Airways.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

28 May 2017

Total posts 1

Finally - an article about this fiasco that's useful! Thank you, David :) The only thing I'd add is that it's extremely difficult for an individual to make a successful claim. By all means, give it a try on your own but, as you can imagine, airlines don't make it easy! This is why AirHelp has become so successful so fast - they have processed millions of claims for people around the world and aren't afraid to take legal action to prove their point (which doesn't otherwise make economic sense).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 303

A lot of the websites that help you claim take a small share of your compensation.  I suggest making the claim by yourself direct with the airline first. I made an claim against AA and they didn't make it easy. Keep bugging them via email and social media and keep a good record of all correspondence. Patience prevailed in the end and I got compensation. It took 4 months to finally get my compensation. 


30 Jun 2016

Total posts 49

After Brexit I assume EU 261/2004 no longer applies to BA? Will compensation then no longer be mandatory?

An article on compensation and passenger rights by region would be well received 😀

05 May 2016

Total posts 552

Once Brexit is complete they can decide which of the EU rules to ditch and which to keep, I think. It's possible they may keep regulations for passenger compensation that are similar to that for the EU.

In any case Brexit is far from complete so it'll be some time still before any changes take effect.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jun 2013

Total posts 38

Done this claim many times for delayed trains in the UK. I wouldn't go through another company to claim compensation as the process is usually simple, just provide the info requested and be prepared to wait a few weeks for your money to come back. Just note for example that train compensation was paid back by voucher unless requested so you may want to make sure you request refund from BA in something you can spend it on (unless you plan to use BA again)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Nov 2016

Total posts 14

Thanks for this article BT.

 It's quite timely for me. I have a booking with them which is part of a massive itinerary in November. I noticed the other day that they have changed this flight, resulting in a 20 hour delay. It has also resulted in me having to rebook with another carrier. It will certainly be interesting to see if, (A) They refund me and (B) if they pay compensation.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

It's hardly a delay if you know about it before the flight?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jun 2013

Total posts 38

If you booked and paid for a service and didn't get it - yes you can get compensation. There's some really tight rules in the EU to protect consumers, much more than The ACCC has in place for us - you can even get a refund for things like Skype over there but in Aus you can't!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

The airline got you to do your destination, you got the service

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

The airline got you to do your destination, you got the service

As to bugging the airline, I had a United refund sent to my old Diners Club account by them some years ago, and Diners straight out denied it from their offshore call centre. Caught in the middle, I took United to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) after being advised to do so by Fair Trading. I may add that Fair Trading also supplied me with a street address so I could serve United with the notice of action. They didn't turn up, and were ordered to refund me direct which they did. Long process!

29 May 2017

Total posts 2

In my experience, using the standard complaint form on their website, BA (unlike QANTAS and American Airlines) usually respond with a choice of either EU261 compensation or Avios (at approximately €1=100 Avios) within about a week. Their customer service when things go wrong is surprisingly quite good given the usual inflight experience. It makes you wonder how much better Qantas and Virgin could be if similar compensation laws existed in Australia.

Compo...I love it

31 May 2017

Total posts 1

BA did not give stranded pax any information or assistnace and did not meet its legal obligations to pax. The figures for hotels, food and transport were not given to us and, anyway, try getting into London & rtn for £50 if unable to use the tube... £25 for food to the day???

The whole situation was a total omnishambles and complete failure on the part of BA managment to do anything at all to assist its customers. 
The so-called personal apology form CEO Cruz was bulk mail addressed to dear customer. My email provider filteredit to spam which, given the content, was correct.
There has been zero good will towards us and no help whatsover although many  staff at the coal face tried, they were not allowed tbo help. 
It was a near riot in LHR T3 when BA stopped rebooking pax and told us we had to leave immediately...
BA failed its customers and its front of house staff and did not do what they are obliged to do or what the BA website says it would do in the event of a cancellation. 
Bad luck if you did not book directly with BA: the call centre staff were telling us we had to call the ticket issuing agent to rebook!
Given similar issues have affected other cariers there should have been contingency plans to manage this risk. 
UK media are scathing about BA and its mishandling of the problem: rightly so.
Epic fail by BA

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