Millions of air passengers travel each year, but a large number do not realize that there are air passenger rights to protect them while in transit.
If your flight was delayed, cancelled, or overbooked, you could be entitled to up to £510 (€600) in compensation.
Missing a connecting flight is an awful experience. The good news however is that if you were traveling to or from Europe you might be protected by regulation EC 261. This says if you miss a connecting flight due to flight delay, cancellation, or being denied boarding you could be entitled to up to €600 in flight delay compensation.
What is missed connection compensation?
A connecting flight is the term used for a flight which is not direct. Though these flights are bought as one booking, they involve flying into or ‘connecting’ via other airports on the way.
If something disrupts one of your flights, it may cause you to miss your connection. It is often the airline’s responsibility to arrange a new flight for you. Plus if you are flying in or out of Europe you may be entitled to additional compensation (thanks to EC261!).
Although there is no specific category of missed connection compensation, if the airline has caused you to miss your connecting flight due to flight delay, cancellation, or denied boarding, you can still make a claim for compensation.
Are you eligible for compensation?
You can claim EC 261 compensation for a missed flight connection if…
Missed connections are only eligible where both flights were part of the same reservation. That means that you booked a single journey from your departure to your destination, and the airline issued you with a ticket for connecting flights. Most often the connecting flights are with the same airline, but that isn’t always the case.
This is different to if you made two (or more) bookings for flights and plan to catch one following another. This situation would not be covered for missed flight connection – although you may be able to claim compensation for the original disruption.
Some travel agents will book two separate flights as part of the same journey. But they should make clear if they are not part of the same reservation and highlight the “self-transfer” at the connecting airport.
If you’re still unsure if your journey is a single reservation, a simple way to tell is by looking at your booking reference number.
If this is the same for all flights they are considered part of the same reservation.
The EC 261 regulations apply to all passengers on flights within Europe – regardless of where the passenger is from. The definition covers all flights that depart from a European airport, and those that land in Europe on a European airline.
Missed connection compensation may even apply to flights outside of Europe, if part of your journey includes a European connection. This table makes the coverage clear:
|Itinerary||EU air carrier||Non-EU air carrier|
|From inside the EU to inside the EU||Yes||Yes|
|From inside the EU to outside the EU||Yes||Yes|
|From outside the EU to inside the EU||Yes||No – unless your journey originated in EU*|
|From outside the EU to outside the EU||No – unless your journey originated in EU*||No – unless your journey originated in EU*|
* If flights were purchased under one booking, EC 261 considers them part of the same journey. Consequently, journeys departing the EU are covered by EC 261 regardless of where disruption occurs or where you miss your connection. This rule generally holds true, though some EU courts interpret the regulation differently.
EC 261 also applies in Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the so-called “outermost regions” (French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and La Réunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira and the Azores, and the Canary Islands).
Delays which are the fault of the airline
Under EC 261, passengers are eligible to claim compensation when airline fault causes one of these three flight disruptions to occur:
Therefore, if you miss a flight connection as a result of these flight incidents, you are eligible for missed connection compensation.
Note that in many cases airlines will reroute passengers on cancelled or overbooked flights, negating the possibility of a missed connection.
Delays over 3 hours at final destination
One important point in relation to missed connection compensation is the 3-hour (or more) delay principle.
If you miss a connection due to a delayed flight, it doesn’t matter how long the delay is that caused the missed connection. The focus is on the length of delay of your final destination – which has to be three hours or more to be eligible for compensation.
If you missed your connection due to a cancellation or denied boarding, the total delay to your final destination can be any length.
Extraordinary circumstances are excluded
Extraordinary circumstances are events deemed to be outside the control of the airline.
These include situations like lightning strikes, medical emergencies, air traffic control strikes, serious adverse weather conditions, acts of sabotage, political unrest, acts of terrorism.
If you miss a connection due to these kinds of extraordinary circumstances the airline isn’t obligated to pay compensation, since they are only held responsible for things that they control.
Airline strikes do not fall under extraordinary circumstances!
In April 2018, the European Court of Justice made a ruling stating that internal ‘wildcat strikes’ by flight staff do not constitute as ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
Therefore, airlines must now compensate air passengers for flight delays and cancellations when an airline strike is to blame.
Missed connections for personal reasons
We know there are sometimes good reasons why you’ll miss a connection. Mishaps like a family emergency, a sudden sickness, or simply losing track of time can make you a no-show on your flight.
Regardless of the reason, if you are responsible for missing a connection you will not be entitled to compensation under EC 261.
Compensation amounts under EC 261
How much compensation you are owed depends on the reason for your missed connection.
The most common reason for a missed connection is flight delay. If that’s what happened in your case, you can use the following table to understand how much you are owed (in Euros).
Compensation based on length of delay:
|Distance||Less than 3 hours||3 – 4 hours||More than 4 hours||Never arrived|
|All flights 1,500 km or less||€ –||€250||€250||€250|
|Internal EU flights over 1,500 km||€ –||€400||€400||€400|
|Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km||€ –||€400||€400||€400|
|Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km||€ –||€300||€600||€600|
When you are claiming compensation for a missed connection, it is the total length of the journey that is important, not the leg of the journey that you missed.
That means any legs of the journey that came before the disruption might be included as well, if they were operated by the carrier responsible for the delay (and there were no intervening flights operated by a different carrier).
In other words, if an airline causes a missed connection, they are usually responsible for all of their own flights, even if they came before the disruption. They are also responsible for any later flights that are affected, even if they are with a different airline.
In addition to EU airline compensation which is monetary, EC 261 includes other rights relating to your treatment. Here are some of the highlights:
Right to care
If you’re waiting for the airline to get you back on track toward your destination, EC 261 says you’re entitled to a number essentials, depending on your flight details.
After several hours of delay, your airline must provide meals and refreshments as well as access to communications (two telephone calls, fax messages, or emails).
If overnight accommodation becomes necessary, they must provide you with a hotel room, and transportation to and from the airport.
Right to reimbursement or re-routing
If your delay exceeds five hours, you are entitled to a full or partial refund of your original ticket and a return flight to your point of departure, if needed. That’s in addition to your compensation.
Upgrading and downgrading
If you are offered an alternative flight and placed in a higher class than the one you booked, the air carrier cannot charge you any additional payment. On the other hand, if the class of the alternative flight is lower, you can get a reimbursement between 30% and 75% of the price you originally paid.
Your right to compensation under EC 261 does not affect your right to request further compensation. This rule does not apply in cases where passengers have voluntarily surrendered their reservations. Of course, the amount you are entitled to under EC 261 may be deducted from whatever additional compensation you receive.
So you just arrived at the airport only to find out that your next flight has departed without you…what happens next?
1) Hold on to your boarding pass and other travel documents
You’ll need these later to make a compensation claim.
2) Speak to an airline representative
Most airlines are now aware of such issues and will try to contact you with a replacement flight. If there’s no-one waiting when you disembark the plane find the customer services desk or speak to your airline on the phone.
3) Request an alternative flight to your destination
Your airline is obligated to get you on the next available flight to your destination. Or, if that doesn’t work for you, ask them to refund your flight and put you on a return flight to your original destination instead.
4) Ask if the airline will cover your meals and refreshments
If you’re at the airport longer than planned, the airline can provide food and drinks to keep you comfortable. It’s not just good hospitality, in Europe it’s a requirement.
5) Ask the airline to provide you with a hotel room
If by 6pm the airline has still not managed to rebook you to another fight, hasn’t found a seat on a night flight or for the next day, the airline must arrange your hotel accommodation. They must also cover transportation to and from the airport, if necessary.
6) Check what will happen to your bags
Did your luggage also miss the connecting flight? Ask if they can be returned to you if you’re going to be waiting a while for your replacement flight.
7) Let people in your destination know
If you’re visiting friends or relatives you don’t want them to worry when you don’t show up on time. If you’re staying in a hotel you should also contact them. They might put you down as a no-show and cancel your booking otherwise. The airline should offer you a way of communicating as part of your right to care.
8) Keep your receipts if your missed connection ends up costing you extra money
Whether it’s missing out on a pre-paid reservation, hotel, rental car, or other unexpected costs, passengers on international flights may be able to recover expenses caused by travel disruptions.
9) See if your missed connection is eligible for compensation
Use our eligibility checker to quickly and easily find out what you’re entitled to.
How to claim compensation with Africlaim
Africlaim simplifies the entire process. Fill in a few details about your flights, tell us what happened, and the rest they say is history…
We’ll check the details of your flight and build a case for compensation. And we’ll handle all the negotiations with the airline on your behalf.