The latest consumer research by Explore for Travel Weekly has found members of the public have unrealistic expectations of their rights following a recent European court ruling. Ian Taylor reports.

A majority of consumers believe they now have a routine right to compensation for flight delays after a European ruling in October.

Research for Travel Weekly suggests 60% of adults believe “airline passengers are entitled to compensation in the event of a lengthy delay to any flight”.

Yet this is incorrect: the European court ruling means only that passengers whose flights arrive more than three hours late may be entitled to compensation.

The ruling applies only to EU airlines or flights departing the EU, and it does not apply to delays due to “extraordinary circumstances” such as bad weather, strikes or airspace closures.

Figures from pan-European air navigation body Eurocontrol suggest less than 0.5% of flight delays are of more than three hours, so the ruling applies to a tiny minority of delays.

However, a survey of 500 adults by Explore Research last weekend found three out of five believe the ruling applies to any lengthy flight delay, with two-thirds of older adults (64%) believing this.

That could be because of the media coverage given to a Stoke-on-Trent County Court ruling on January 28 that granted £687 compensation to a couple whose Thomas Cook flight was delayed for 22 hours in 2009.

Now websites such as and suggest passengers claim for delays under straplines such as “Flight delays compensation: get up to £515 per person back to 2005” and “Why a three-hour flight delay could get you £500: How to claim”.

The research for Travel Weekly found less than one in six respondents (16%) understood the ruling applies only to delays of more than three hours, while half thought compensation rules applied regardless of the reason for delay.

Two out of five wrongly believed “most passengers who suffer a delay” are entitled to compensation, yet almost half (45%) were aware passengers may be able to claim compensation for a past delay.

Three out of five (60%) said they would be likely to claim compensation for a future delay – one in four “very likely”. Indeed, one-third of over-55s said they would be “very likely” to claim.

The figures suggest a deluge of claims is likely, generating costs for carriers and inevitably pushing up fares.

Abta recently updated its guidance on flight delays, warning: “Businesses may find they are approached by customers who have seen the media coverage and want to know their rights.”

Younger adults appeared most likely to understand the compensation rules, 53% agreeing “the overwhelming majority of passengers delayed won’t be entitled to compensation”.

Women seemed more on the ball than men about compensation limits, and less likely to make a claim: 71% of men said they would claim for a future flight delay compared with 50% of women.

Better-off households were more likely to claim (65%) than less well‑off (53%) and older adults more likely than younger.

Only one in five were aware of the maximum limit on compensation (€600).