Follow these steps to EU 261 compensation from Delta Air Lines

Doug Marshak wants EU 261 compensation from Delta Air Lines. The reason? An almost six-hour delay flying back home from Europe. Delta doesn’t bother telling passengers they’re entitled to anything under the European consumer rights law. But we will.


I’m writing from the Amsterdam airport, where my family and I are waiting to board a flight to Minneapolis on Delta Air Lines.

Our flight was scheduled to depart at 1:30 p.m. today, but the plane arrived late in Amsterdam. It’s been delayed three times and will arrive in Minneapolis five-and-a-half hours late. At first we were told that the delays were due to weather issues. But according to Delta’s gate agent, a panel on the plane has to be replaced.

I regularly read your site, so I’m familiar with EU 261, the European consumer protection law. Delta’s agents did not inform the passengers of this law.

Once I arrive home, I’ll file an EU 261 claim with Delta Air Lines. I’m sure I’ll prevail because a panel replacement is a mechanical issue and not an “extraordinary circumstance” that the airline can’t control.

How do you file for EU 261 compensation from Delta Air Lines? Do I need to contact Delta’s customer service first? Or is there a form I need to fill out? I don’t want to cause a riot at the airline gate, so I’m not saying anything to the other passengers. — Doug Marshak, Duluth, Minn.


I’m sorry for the annoying experience you had with the flight delay. Luckily, you and your family all arrived safely home the following day.

You are correct that EU 261 requires airlines to pay compensation of 600 euros ($738) to each passenger for departure delays of more than four hours on flights 3,500 kilometers or longer. So Delta Air Lines owed you 2,400 euros.

How to get EU 261 compensation from Delta Air Lines

One of your concerns was that Delta would invoke the “extraordinary circumstance” provision in EU 261. Sadly, airlines subject to EU 261 often stonewall or delay payment of compensation to passengers by claiming that extraordinary circumstances were in effect. They get away with it because the law doesn’t define “extraordinary circumstances.”

This provision exempts airlines subject to the law from having to pay the compensation when circumstances beyond their control, such as weather delays, cause the delay. But as you correctly note, mechanical issues do not qualify as “extraordinary circumstances.”

Your tips for dealing with airlines

You offered some excellent advice in dealing with airline customer service agents:

  • When the delays are adversely affecting you in the airport, keep your head.
    It’s not the gate agent’s fault.The gate agent is not the one responsible for finding alternative equipment to get you home quicker. He or she is there handing out free water and snacks, knowing there are 200 to 300 very upset people whose schedules are being disrupted.
  • Don’t get angry. As you sit there stewing about what a pain this delay or cancellation is going to create for you, keep in mind that you are still hundreds or thousands of miles from home, and this airline is the one that has to help you get there. Making it angry is not going to encourage them to help. Consider that among the 200 to 300 people in your same predicament, there are probably a few who will be irrational and aggressive with the airline employees. If you can smile and be patient and understanding of the stress the employees are facing, they will remember that. Maybe that will result in a seat upgrade or some other perk. Or if it doesn’t, the good karma you create may still help you later.
  • Keep your voice down. You do not need to create a EU 261 stampede in the waiting area, arming the less patient with information that would make the gate attendants’ lives more miserable. Again, the way you behave in an adverse situation can still affect your outcome later. When you submit the form to the airline, ask, don’t demand. Don’t point out specifics like, “You appear to owe me 600 euros per person.”
How to file an EU 261 claim with Delta Air Lines

As a regular reader of our site, you were aware of your rights. That’s the first step to getting EU 261 compensation from Delta Air Lines. You wanted to know how to assert them.

Our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman, provided you with our company contacts for Delta Air Lines.

She advised you that if Delta didn’t approve your claim for compensation, you should file a complaint with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the Dutch governing body that administers EU 261 in the Netherlands. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation can’t force Delta Air Lines to pay your claim, but it can require the airline to explain why it isn’t doing so. If Delta doesn’t have an adequate reason for not paying your claim, the Directorate General can sanction the airline.

Success! EU 261 compensation from Delta Air Lines received

You wrote a polite letter to the executives listed in our company contacts for Delta Air Lines, and the airline agreed to pay you 2,400 euros in EU 261 compensation.

Should air passengers familiar with EU 261 mention it to other passengers when their flights are delayed or canceled?

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