Short-Haul vs. Long-Haul Delays: Is There a Difference In Compensation?

Date: 13 OCT 23



In the world of air travel, delays and cancellations are occasional hurdles that passengers must navigate. However, not all flight disruptions are treated equally, especially when it comes to compensation. European Union (EU) law provides a framework for passenger rights, including compensation for flight delays. The intriguing twist lies in the fact that the amount of compensation varies depending on the distance traveled. In this article, we'll delve into the distinction between short-haul and long-haul flights and explore why the amount of compensation differs. We'll also provide examples of journeys for each distance band to illustrate the concept clearly.

Understanding EU Passenger Rights

Before we dive into the differences between short-haul and long-haul flights, it's essential to grasp the fundamentals of EU passenger rights. Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004, commonly referred to as EU 261, outlines the rights of passengers when their flights are delayed or canceled. These rights include compensation, assistance, and re-routing, all aimed at minimizing the inconvenience experienced by travelers.

The Three Distance Bands

EU 261 categorizes flights into three main distance bands:

1. Short-Haul Flights (Less than 1,500 kilometers)

Short-haul flights encompass journeys within the EU or those connecting to or from an EU airport. Typically, these flights cover relatively shorter distances and include domestic and regional routes.

2. Medium-Haul Flights (Between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometers)

Medium-haul flights include journeys that extend beyond the EU's borders but still fall within a moderate distance range. These flights often connect European cities to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East, or the eastern fringes of Europe.

3. Long-Haul Flights (Over 3,500 kilometers)

Long-haul flights encompass intercontinental journeys, connecting Europe to destinations in North America, Asia, Africa, and South America. These are the longest and most extensive routes.

Compensation Amount for Each Distance Band

Now that we've defined the distance bands, let's delve into the compensation amounts you can expect based on the length of your flight delay.

Short-Haul Flights

For short-haul flights, if your journey is delayed by:

2 hours or more, you are entitled to assistance and refreshments.

3 hours or more, you can claim £220 in compensation.

4 hours or more, you have the right to a refund or re-routing and compensation.

Medium-Haul Flights

In the case of medium-haul flights, compensation is as follows:

3 hours or more of delay results in a compensation of £350.

Long-Haul Flights

For long-haul flights, passengers can expect:

Compensation of £220 for delays of 3 to 4 hours.

Delays of 4 hours or more warrant a compensation of £520.

Example Journeys

To put this into perspective, let's consider some example journeys:

Short-Haul Example

Imagine you're flying from London to Paris, a distance of approximately 344 kilometers. If your flight is delayed by 4 hours or more, you're eligible for £220 in compensation under EU law.

Medium-Haul Example

Suppose you're traveling from Madrid to Cairo, a journey of about 2,800 kilometers. In the event of a 3-hour or longer delay, you could claim £350 in compensation.

Long-Haul Example

If you're on a flight from London to New York, covering a whopping 5,585 kilometers, and you experience a 4-hour delay or more, EU law entitles you to £520 in compensation.


In conclusion, the difference in compensation for flight delays under EU law is primarily determined by the distance traveled. Whether it's a short-haul, medium-haul, or long-haul flight, knowing your rights as a passenger is essential. By understanding the distinctions between these flight categories, you can be better prepared to assert your rights and seek compensation when your journey is disrupted.


Can I claim compensation for a 2-hour delay on a short-haul flight?

No, compensation under EU law starts at a 3-hour delay for short-haul flights.

What if my medium-haul flight delay is exactly 3 hours?

You're eligible for €400 in compensation, as long as the delay is 3 hours or more. The time is calculated by the time it arrives at the gate and not the time it landed.

Are there any exceptions to these compensation rules?

Compensation may not be applicable in cases of extraordinary circumstances beyond the airline's control, such as extreme weather or air traffic control strikes.

Do these compensation rules apply to all EU member states?

Yes, EU Regulation 261/2004 applies uniformly across all EU member states and the UK.

Do I have to be an EU citizen to claim flight delay compensation?

No. As long as you flew from an EU airport OR on an EU airline you are eligible.

How can I claim my compensation for a delayed flight?

Contact the airline or let us help with your flight delay claim. We can guide you through the entire process.

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Have you had a flight delay, missed connection, cancelled flight or have been denied boarding in the last 6 years? If so try our free flight checker to see how much you may be entitled to in compensation for you AND your fellow travellers.

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