International Flight Delays and Compensation


Recently I flew from Iceland to Los Angeles via IcelandAir and found myself missing my Boston flight due to delays. I arrived in LAX a day late. European regulations entitled me to about 650 euros in compensation. I wrote an email to Icelandair regarding my flight details and my delays.  It took over 3 months for customer service to respond, but they did in fact refund me 600 euros.

Domestic American flights have no federal regulations on compensation.  Most passengers will ask airlines for meal vouchers or hotel vouchers if the flight has significant delays.  Each airlines has it’s own set of regulations. For example, Jet Blue established a Customer’s Bill of Rights in 2007 to address a series of negative customer experiences from flight delays and cancelations.  Now customers are entitled to compensation after 1 hour of on board arrival time as well as 3 hours delay on departure time. Dependent on the amount of time delayed, customers can be compensated anywhere from $25 to $200.


In Europe, customers have more options for compensation.  The European Union has regulation 261/2004.  In short, airlines are required to compensate customers when a flight is delayed longer than 3 hours depending on the distance of the flight.  For example, if the flight is within the EI and under 1,500 km, then a customer is entitled 250 euros. Otherwise, if the flight is over 1,500 km, the customer is due 400 euros.  For EU to non EU destinations (like Los Angeles) then the customer is entitled between 250 euros up to 600 euros.

In addition, customers are also entitled food, phone access and even accommodation. This regulation far exceeds anything in the United States.  The European Union regulation states that the customers must be given these free of charge.  One could argue that if you are not in a hurry, you would might want a delayed flight in order to gain compensation.

It seems that Europe has the best regulations and customer protection in regards to flights.  For Asia and Australia, there are no set guidelines for compensation. In fact, for Australia, the purchase of an airlines ticket is a contract that guarantees you journey from point A to point B.  It does not guarantee the time length of the journey.  In these situations, I would recommend to buy travel insurance as a way to offset any cancelations or delays.  Trip insurance cost depends on the cost of the ticket.  However, if you plan on traveling for a long period of time, you could purchase a generic trip insurance (such as World Nomads) that would insure every airline ticket within the time frame of travel.  This trip insurance would also cover rental cars, accidents, and airline related delays.  One note for trip insurance, a person must record all the trip delays and then submit receipts for reimbursement.

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