Length of your delay
What you’re entitled to, depends on how long you’ve been delayed for. So, if you’ve been delayed for two or more hours, then the airline has to provide you with vouchers for food and drink, as well as ensure you can email and make telephone calls. If you’re delayed overnight, then you’re also entitled to accommodation and will be reimbursed for transport between the hotel and the airport. Bear in mind though – airlines will only cough up for ‘reasonable’ expenses so don’t use it as an excuse to drain the hotel bar, order caviar or demand a suite.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be delayed for three or more hours, then you’ll also be entitled to financial compensation – but only if the delay is the airline’s fault (this doesn’t include strike action). What you’ll get, will depend on three things: distance of the flight, the length of the delay, and whether or not you’re flying to an EU country. Depending on your circumstances, you could be entitled to anything between €250 and €600 (approximately £217 - £521**).
If your flight ends up delayed for five or more hours, then you’re not obliged to take it at all and the airline must give you a refund if that’s what you want. A full refund means being refunded for the cost of any flights you haven’t used that are included in the same journey, such as onward or return flights.
Even if you decide not to take the flight, the airline still has to provide you with food, drink, overnight accommodation (if needed) and transport between the hotel and airport, as well as the ability to make phone calls or send emails.
If you’re worried about being stranded part way through a journey, then don’t worry, airlines must also ensure they put you on a flight back to where you started from.
If you’re able to muster up some holiday spirit even after a five-hour delay, then you can still make a claim for financial compensation of up to €600 depending where you’re going and the distance.