Compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight. Lost luggage

Dream vacations with your family? A business trip upon which so much depends? A short city break that will recharge our batteries for the whole upcoming week at work?

And although our thoughts are already elsewhere, reality can brutally bring us down to earth. A “Delay” or even worse – “Cancelled” sign on the departure board can effectively exhaust our patience.

In return for such situations, as long as they are not caused by force majeure, we are entitled to compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight in accordance with the rights of air passengers.

My plane is delayed – what am I entitled to?

In case of a delayed flight, from as little as 2 hours for shorter flights, passengers can get compensation already on the spot in the form of:

  • meals and drinks (free of charge) – in proportion to the waiting time, i.e. the longer you wait, the more you should be entitled to; it is the carrier that should take care of this, however, in practice it tends to happen differently, so it is worth collecting receipts for purchases made to have a basis for reimbursement later;
  • hotel accommodation – when necessary, that is if you are waiting for your connection for at least 24 hours. Much depends on the airline’s policies and their capabilities. Some on their own behalf, offer passengers to spend the night at a hotel near or within the airport, however, sometimes it is necessary to pay by yourself and later claim compensation;
  • transportation between airport-hotel-airport – when you have to spend the night due to complications with the flight connection,
  • possibility of transportation – the airline should provide, among others, two connections with selected persons, free of charge,
  • information – you have the right to be fully informed, by the airline, about the development of the current situation, your passenger rights and relevant procedures. A leaflet with information on your rights as an airline passenger, either printed or in electronic form, must be clearly displayed at the airport check-in counter, self check-in counter and online. In the case of denied boarding, flight cancellation, delay of your flight by 2 hours from the scheduled departure time or arrival at your final destination with a long delay, the airline must notify you in writing of the rules for granting compensation or assistance.

“If the wait for your flight exceeds 5 hours, you can cancel your contract with the carrier and demand a full refund of your ticket, as well as an assurance of your return as soon as possible if you arrived at your destination too late to carry out your plans.”

How to receive compensation for a delayed flight

Air passenger rights within the European Union apply:


for flights within the EU operated by an EU or a non-EU country airline


on flights from a non-EU country to the EU operated by EU airlines


for flights from the EU to a non-EU country, operated by an EU or non-EU airline


for benefits not yet received (compensation, re-routing, airline assistance) under the applicable laws of a non-EU country, due to problems with the flight.

Pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and the Council of 11 February 2004 on establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, hereinafter referred to as “Regulation No 261/2004”, the following cumulative conditions must be met to obtain compensation for a delayed flight:

  1. the minimum duration of the delay is 3 hours, i.e. the opening of the aircraft doors at the airport of destination was at least 3 hours later than the initial itinerary provided by the airline,
  2. the delay or cancellation is not caused by extraordinary circumstances.

Sometimes, the delay or cancellation is caused by circumstances beyond the control of the airline, such as bad weather conditions such as fog reducing visibility, strong wind or heavy snowfall. It should be noted that in such situations, the most important thing is to ensure an appropriate level of passenger safety, and compensation is not due for such situations, which reduces the obligation to pay compensation.

How much is the compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight?

The compensation amounts are strictly defined in Regulation 261/2004. The EU legislator made the amount dependent on the distance between the departure and destination airports in order to make it easier for passengers to file a claim. The amount of compensation is therefore the following, depending on the length of the route:

  • 250 € – for all flights up to 1500 km
  • 400 € – for all flights over 1500 km and less than 3500 km, and if both airports are within the European Union, also for flights over 3500 km
  • 600 € – for all flights other than specified above (i.e. for flights over 3500 km, if at least one of the airports is located outside the territory of the European Union)

Cancellation of a flight

A flight cancellation occurs when:

  • when the original flight schedule is changed and the passenger is transferred to another scheduled flight by the airline,
  • the aircraft has taken off but was forced to return to the airport of departure, and the passenger is transferred to another flight,
  • the passenger arrives at an airport that does not correspond to the airport indicated as the destination on the ticket, unless::
    • the passenger has accepted re-routing ( under comparable conditions of carriage, at the earliest possible date) to the airport at the original destination, or to any other destination agreed upon by the passenger. In such a situation, the flight is treated as delayed, not as cancelled, which excludes the possibility of compensation for flight cancellation, however, it does not exclude the possibility of claiming compensation for the flight delay.
    • The airport of arrival and the airport of original destination operate flights to the same city or region. In this case, the flight is treated as delayed and not as cancelled.

If the flight is cancelled, compensation is available to the passenger in terms of a refund, re-routing or a return flight, and the passenger is entitled to assistance and compensation. Compensation for a delayed flight can also be claimed if the passenger was informed of the cancellation less than 14 days before the scheduled departure time. It is upon the airline to prove that they personally informed you of the cancellation and the date when they did so.

When are you not entitled to compensation for a cancelled flight?

In the case of a cancelled flight, a passenger may claim compensation unless:

  1. they were notified at least two weeks before the scheduled departure date,
  2. they were offered optimal conditions, i.e., conditions that are closest to the passenger’s original travel plan.

The traveler must be notified of the cancellation between 14 and 7 days before the scheduled departure date, and according to the new itinerary proposed by the carrier, they are to depart a maximum of two hours after the time in their original plan and arrive a maximum of four hours later. Otherwise, they are entitled to receive compensation.

If you receive the message late, i.e. less than 7 days before your scheduled departure time, the new offer from the carrier should start no more than one hour before your scheduled departure time and you must arrive at your destination no more than two hours later than your original travel plan.

It is important to note that all this must be done as part of a single booking, and confirmation of your booking is required for evidence purposes each time you make a change.

Lost/delayed luggage

You look out for your luggage on the conveyor belt, other travellers pick up their bags and you… end up alone and the belt stops moving. Your luggage is now missing.
Such situations are regulated by the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air, concluded in Montreal on 28 May 1999. (Journal of Laws 2007, no. 37 item 235). The air carrier is responsible for checked baggage, i.e. baggage placed in the cargo hold, from the moment it is checked in until the moment it is collected by the passenger at the destination airport. Therefore, if the plane has arrived and the baggage has not, in such a case financial compensation is due.

Lost or damaged baggage must first be reported to the lost and found office at the airport, by completing a Property Irregularity Report (PIR). In order to submit your claim as quickly as possible, please come to the office with:

  • a boarding pass from the baggage and ticket check-in
  • proof of identity
  • baggage registration receipt
  • your ticket
  • other flight data

Complaints about damage, delay, loss or theft of luggage should be addressed directly to the air carrier, and it is only the air carrier to whom the complaint must be addressed. That is why it is so important to read the regulations of a given airline at the stage of buying a plane ticket. They often contain information about compensation for a delayed flight.

If 21 days pass and all trace of your baggage is still missing, it should be considered lost. The airline is obliged through the Montreal Convention to pay compensation for lost luggage, although the amount paid depends on the airline, which may be decisive in obtaining compensation. This is a very individual issue, so it is a good idea to have the contents of your baggage well documented. It does not hurt to take a photo of the suitcase before the trip. It is also a good idea to have a complete list of lost items with their approximate value. You are in the best position if you have receipts documenting the purchase of certain items, in which case attach copies. Remember that the airline or insurance company will consider the current value of the items or their replacement cost, not the price you paid in the past.

However, it is a common situation that the baggage will indeed arrive, albeit several days later. Then, within 7 days of receipt, you must file a claim directly with the air carrier. For the delay of the baggage itself, you are entitled to a refund of the basic costs you have incurred, such as buying the necessary cosmetics and clothes to change. However, it is advisable to contact the airline in advance in this matter and keep the proof of purchase. They will be necessary to document the expenses incurred in the compensation process.

If the airline carrier refuses to respond to your complaint, or its response is unsatisfactory or refuses to pay compensation for the delayed flight, your rights may be successfully pursued in court.

RPMS Staniszewski & Wspólnicy Legal Office, as a partner of provides comprehensive services in the field of protection of passengers’ rights in disputes with airlines, and in particular specialises in compensation for delayed flights.

We represent passengers not only in proceedings with air carriers, but also in court proceedings.


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