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Published on: 15 June 2022

The compensation system for delayed or cancelled flights

Summer holidays are almost here. For many people, that means one thing: holidays! Many of the Dutch holidaymakers go by plane. Are you also a “flier”? Then pay attention. When you fly, you have certain rights according to the European Regulation (261/2004).

What does this regulation mean and when does it apply?

The Regulation applies when you fly from one EU Member State to another, or when you fly from a non-EU Member State to an EU Member State. This Regulation provides people flying with a commercial airline with certain ”minimum rights”. These rights cover three situations:

  1. When you are denied boarding;
  2. When your flight is cancelled; and
  3. When your flight is delayed.

What does the compensation entail?

The right to compensation varies from one situation to another. Broadly speaking, compensation entails the following.

1. Monetary compensation

  • For flights up to and including 1,500 kilometres: compensation of €250;
  • With regard to intra-Community flights of 1,500 kilometres or more: a compensation of €400;
  • For flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres: an allowance of €400; and
  • For other flights: an allowance of €600.

2. Another supplementary form of compensation

For example, a comparable flight or reimbursement of the airline ticket. This is in addition to the monetary compensation. In some cases, you may also be entitled to ‘care’. This means that you are entitled to a free meal, accommodation and/or transport between the airport and accommodation, for example, in the event of a delay of several hours. In addition, you may also be entitled to two free telephone calls or e-mails.

The additional forms of compensation are described per situation below.

Denied boarding

If, for example, the flight is overbooked and therefore not everyone can travel, the airline must first check whether there are any volunteers to stay on the ground. Only if there are no volunteers can the airline involuntarily deny passengers boarding. The volunteers/refused passengers must then be compensated. This compensation may consist of: a full refund, a return flight to the first point of departure, a comparable flight at the first opportunity, or a comparable flight at a later date.


If the airline notifies you of the cancellation at least two weeks in advance, you are not entitled to compensation. If you are informed of the cancellation between seven days and two weeks before departure, you are entitled to compensation unless you are given a comparable flight as compensation. However, this flight must depart no more than two hours before the original departure time and arrive at the final destination no later than four hours after the scheduled arrival time.

Where notice of cancellation is given less than seven days before departure, the airline must offer you a replacement flight. This flight must depart no more than one hour before the scheduled time and land no more than two hours later at the final destination. If you are entitled to (additional) compensation, this may consist of: reimbursement of the flight, a comparable replacement flight and the so-called ‘right to care’.


Whether you are entitled to monetary compensation for a delay depends on the flight distance.

You are entitled to compensation when:

  • Your flight is 1,500 kilometres or less and is delayed by two hours or more;
  • Your flight of more than 1,500 kilometres within the EU is delayed by three hours or more; and
  • Your flight of between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres was delayed by three hours or more;

In this case, the additional compensation consists of the ‘right to care’. In the event of a delay of five hours or more, you are also entitled to reimbursement of the flight or a replacement flight.

Articles by michiel postma

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