14.12.2020

Diverted flight compensation: What are the rules?

What if your flight is diverted?

Could you be entitled to diverted flight compensation?

It can be confusing and irritating. You are on the plane en route to your destination, and then you hear an announcement that your plane will be diverted to another airport. You will be landing at another airport. Why? Reasons could be different, everything from technical problems with airplane to bad weather at the destination airport and medical emergencies.

In some cases you will be entitled to compensation, in other — you will not.

Check your compensation online.

Or continue reading to learn more about your rights.

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Air Berlin airplane in the air

What is a diverted flight?

Sometimes it is called diverted flight, other times — rerouted flight.

It is a flight that has landed in another airport (not where it was supposed).

The decision to divert or land somewhere else can be made either by the pilot or by Air Traffic Controllers. In some situations it may be decided to return back to the departure airport. These things happen for a number of reasons. What you should know is that in Europe your airline still has an obligation to take you to your destination at no extra cost to you.

Why do flights get diverted?

What should you do when that happens?

Could you be entitled to diverted flight compensation?

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How much can you claim - Refundor

Diverted flight compensation

Could you be entitled to it?

Simply consider it as a flight delay.

Just like with regular flight delays, it depends on the situation. To learn more about the rules in Europe and when flying with European airlines, see our EU flight delay compensation page. Generally speaking, if it is airline’s fault you can get compensation up to 600 euro per passenger, if it is not airline’s fault — you cannot.

If it was airline’s fault (including technical problems), and if you reached your final destination 3 or more hours later than planned, file a claim for compensation.

Plane landing during the sunset

Why do flights get diverted?

Flights get diverted because of various reasons.

In some situations you can, in others — can’t get compensated.

1. Severe weather conditions

Bad weather is one of the top reasons why flights get diverted.

When the weather is bad at the original destination, and the plane cannot land, it gets rerouted to a new, safer destination, to another airport.

Example — a Wizz Air plane could not land at Sarajevo International airport due to the thick fog that had descended over the city. The plane was circling over Sarajevo, waiting for the fog to clear. As the fog wasn’t dissipating, the flight got rerouted to Tuzla Airport which is located some 100 km from the original destination in Sarajevo. After the plane landed in Tuzla Airport, several buses were assigned for transporting the passengers to their original destination (Sarajevo Airport).

Mostly you can’t get compensation in these situations.

2. Technical problems

Technical problems — another popular reason why flights get diverted.

A flight will get diverted if it faces technical problem mid-air and it is not safe to continue flying. In such case the flight is rerouted to the most convenient airport — an airport where it has maintenance facilities, unless it is an emergency.

You can get compensation if it is considered airline’s fault.

3. Medical emergency

Medical emergencies happen also in the air.

A flight could also be diverted because of a medical emergency on board. In such case the flight will be diverted to the closest suitable airport with available medical facilities, or to the airport from where it is easier to get to a such hospital.

If there’s an immediate need for a passenger or crew on board to be on land, it’s an emergency landing, not a diversion. Even if that causes a long delay, you can't get diversion compensation.

4. Disruptive passenger or passengers

Sometimes flights get diverted because of unruly passengers.

Unruly passengers ruin the flight and often can be a threat to cabin crew and other passengers. If a cabin crew can’t find a peaceful resolution, the pilot can choose to reroute the flight to another airport.

5. Security issues

It can be issues on the plane or at the destination airport.

Security issues include armed conflict, “bomb threat," terrorism threat, etc.

It is not airline’s fault, accordingly — you can't get compensation.

Star Alliance airplane at the airport

Diverted flight vs emergency landing

It is important to understand that it is not the same thing.

The flight is usually diverted when a precaution is being taken. Or when it is in the best interest of passengers on board (e.g., drunk passengers).

An emergency landing, however, occurs when there is an imminent or ongoing threat to the safety of the aircraft or its passengers, when the situation requires landing as soon as possible. For instance, an onboard fire or failure of or damage to vital systems can be a reason for an emergency landing. In both situations you might be entitled to compensation, depending on who is the one to blame.

What happens if your flight gets diverted?

The airline should take you to your destination.

When a flight gets diverted, the airline must get you to the destination airport (as shown on your ticket) at no extra cost to you. It could be by a bus, train, taxi or another flight. If it was just a leg of your journey, you may get a new ticket to your destination for the new airport.

If a serious technical problem occurs on a long haul flight, the plane may be returning to the origin airport. The goal is to solve the issues as quickly as possible and get the passengers on their way ASAP. Returning to the origin airport allows airlines to find a replacement aircraft or put passengers on other available flights.

If you have to wait at the airport, you have the right to care.

If you arrive 3+ hours late, don’t forget to file a compensation claim.

If you are flying with EU airline, all of the above mentioned apply to flights to and from Europe. If it’s a non-EU airline, it applies only to flights departing from Europe.


By Europe and EU we mean all EU Member States, the United Kingdom (UK), Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion, Mayotte, Saint Martin, the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.