Compensation in Case of Extraordinary Circumstances

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How many times have you been planning a grand trip, but then, some sudden circumstances changed everything? It is no fun, for sure. In many cases, passengers have a right to demand compensation. But how about the extraordinary circumstances flight delay? It is always frustrating to face any problems with your flight. Especially if you are in a hurry and it is important to get to the final destination on time.

As per the EU261 regulation, people can claim reimbursement of up to €600 if their flight is either delayed or canceled. Yet, there is one crucial condition: it must be the airline company’s fault for the flight disruption. Only in this case you are eligible for reimbursement. All the situations where the airline is not at fault are considered extraordinary circumstances.

What Are Extraordinary Circumstances?

Thinking about some common extraordinary circumstances, natural disasters may pop into your mind first. These include volcanic eruptions and extreme weather conditions such as floods or storms. However, that’s not all. Other circumstances can be political unrest, terrorist attacks, or strikes by airport or air traffic control personnel. So, you can see that all these examples have one thing in common: they are unexpected and unpredictable.

According to the EU regulation 261 of 2004 extraordinary circumstances, the airline company may be exempted from the obligation to compensate for the flight’s cancellation or delay if the reason for these is extraordinary circumstances. The point is that such circumstances are events beyond the airline company’s control and cannot be avoided even if appropriate measures are taken.

List of Extraordinary Circumstances

We have mentioned some of the extraordinary circumstances of flight delay examples. However, let’s dig deeper and discuss these in detail. Here are some of them::

  • Bad weather: such conditions as heavy rain, thick fog, or thunderstorms;
  • Natural Disasters: such as hurricanes or volcanic eruptions;
  • Political Circumstances: for instance, security risk caused by political unrest or terrorist attacks;
  • Strikes Within the Aviation Industry: such as strikes of air traffic control employees of an airport. Note that a strike of the airline company crew is not an extraordinary circumstance.
  • A Flight Delay Caused by the Airport Staff: for instance, very long queues to security checks;
  • A Collision Between the Aircraft and Foreign Objects: for instance, with birds;
  • An Undisciplined or Ill Passenger.

These are extraordinary circumstances flight cancellation. And if none of them applies to your case, you can claim a flight reimbursement. However, you should also understand that the list we provided is not complete. For instance, some new issues may occur, such as the recent pandemic restrictions. In such situations, you will need a court’s assessment to know whether you can expect compensation or not.

Compensation in Case of Extraordinary Circumstances

In case of a flight delay extraordinary circumstances, you can get compensation theoretically. Nevertheless, if the airline company states that the flight was disrupted due to a certain emergency, it should provide proof. It may happen that an airline company can hide behind an emergency not to pay reimbursement for a delayed or disrupted flight. And it would really help if you have support from a professional lawyer like the one from our partners. It is essential to study each extraordinary circumstance carefully and separately. Consider that it all depends on the flight distance:

Flight’s distanceCompensation
If the flight is shorter than 1,500 km€250
If the flight is between 1,500-3,500 km€400
If the flight is over 1,500 km (within the EU)€400
If the flight is over 3,500 km (outside of the EU)€600

Which Flights are Covered by EU261

Whether it’s a flight cancellation due to an air traffic controllers’ strike or any of the extraordinary circumstances from our list, it would be wise to get acquainted with the ways the EU 262 applies. Let’s get this clear.

The first thing to remember is that passengers of any country of origin can count on the reliable EU 261 regulations. These regulations deal with flight routes and airline companies and protect people from around the world.

Keep in mind that the majority of flight routes from European airports fall within the competence of EC 261. Furthermore, when we speak about European airports, it also presupposes the outermost regions and the countries that are part of EEA — the European Economic Area. Here are these:

  • The Canary Islands;
  • Mayotte;
  • Madeira and the Azores;
  • Saint-Martin;
  • Guadeloupe and La Reunion;
  • French Guiana and Martinique;
  • Iceland;
  • Switzerland;
  • Norway.

The EU 261 is applicable to flights where the final destination is within Europe and if you are using the European operator. Now, to make it simpler and understand if your case qualifies for the flight delay compensation air traffic control, see the table below:

ItineraryEU Air CarrierNon-EU Air Carrier
From inside the EU to inside the EU✅ Covered✅ Covered
From inside the EU to outside the EU✅ Covered✅ Covered
From outside the EU to inside the EU✅ Covered❌ Not covered
From outside the EU to outside the EU❌ Not covered❌ Not covered

How to Claim Flight Compensation

Knowing the do’s and dont’s of getting your compensation is essential. We will cover two variants: legal representation and contacting the airline company directly. See the details!

Legal Representation

Being the partner of companies that provide legal services in the air passenger rights field, you can smoothly solve the compensation issue by choosing the legal representation option. Using the EU 261, our partners aim to help passengers solve a variety of flight problems, be it flight cancellation, baggage problems, or delays. Based on your request, we can help you reach a professional lawyer who can assist you in getting the rightful compensation you deserve as a passenger.

Contact the Airline Directly

Another way to receive compensation is to contact the airline company personally. You have a right to apply for reimbursement if you have all the required documents. These are the documents related to your flight. Note that it is essential to be sure that it is the airline company’s fault and you can expect to get compensation.

Choosing this variant — personally contact the airline — you should realize it might be hard to prove the company’s fault in some cases. It is up to you to decide how to solve the issue. Nevertheless, it can be time-consuming and quite challenging. 

For that reason, we advise you to keep in mind the option of legal representation. Specialized companies, as our partners, have an individual approach to every client. Therefore, we are sure of the successful outcome of each compensation claim.

Other Rights That Come With EU 261

The EC 261 regulations are extensive in covering flight passengers’ rights. And there are also some crucial rights to consider that come with EU 261. Specifically, you should understand three of them: the right to care, re-routing, and upgrading/downgrading.

Right to Care

Aside from reimbursement, the passengers have a right to demand some “perks” if the flight is delayed by two or more hours. The regulation is in force regardless of whether the airline company is in charge of the delay or not. So, the airline is obliged to provide passengers with the following:

  • Food and refreshments;
  • Two free phone calls, emails, or fax messages.

Additionally, if the flight has been delayed by six or more hours, the airline company must provide the following:

  • Overnight hotel accommodation (where it is really necessary);
  • Transportation to and from the airport.


There might be times when the airline company is not able to provide a passenger with an alternative flight. Often, it can be due to circumstances that considerably impact flight operations in general. If such happens, you can face a significant delay and may need to arrange an alternative flight route or accommodation at your own expense. So, it is important to know the circumstances of the delay.

Upgrading and Downgrading

As for the alternative flight (even if you get an upgrade), note that the airline company cannot charge you anything extra. Here is some more good news for you: if the alternative flight’s class is lower, you can expect compensation of 30-75% of the original cost.

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