Compensation for a flight delay: how to determine the distance in connected flights?

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in its judgment has interpreted the rules by indicating how the flights distance should be determined in the case of right to compensation.

The question asked by the German court concerned a flight from Rome to Hamburg, with a connecting flight from Brussels. By its question, the referring court asks, in essence, whether Article 7(1) of Regulation No 261/2004 must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of ‘distance’ relates, in the case of air routes with connecting flights, only to the distance calculated between the first point of departure and the final destination on the basis of the ‘great circle’ method, regardless of the distance actually flown.

As a preliminary point, it must be noted that it is common ground that the applicants in the main proceedings suffered, upon arrival at their final destination, a delay entitling them to compensation.

The Regulation gives you the right to compensation in the event of flight delay. Passengers shall receive compensation amounting to:

  • EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
  • EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 km, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 km;
  • EUR 600 for other flights.

In determining the distance, the basis shall be the last destination. The distance shall be measured by the great circle route method*.

Based on the ‘great circle’ method, the direct distance between Rome and Hamburg is 1 326 km. The distance between Rome and Brussels is 1 173 km and the distance between Brussels and Hamburg is 483 km, so that the total distance of those two flights together is 1 656 km.

The CJEU was ruled that an actual increase in the distance travelled in the latter case, does not in itself exacerbate the extent of such inconvenience compared with that suffered by direct flight passengers. Therefore, when determining the amount of compensation, account should be taken of the distance between the first point of departure and the final destination, excluding any connecting flights. Consequently, passengers received 250 EUR compensation for delays.

In particular, the CJEU stated that the basis of their compensation was the inconvenience of having suffered a loss of time in relation to the original planning of that transport, as established, including in the case of connecting flights, upon arrival at their final destination. In view of the nature of the inconvenience thus suffered, any differences in the distance travelled do not in themselves influence the extent of such an inconvenience.

*Great circle: A circle on the surface of a sphere which lies in a plane passing through the sphere’s centre. As it represents the shortest distance between any two points on a sphere, a great circle of the earth is the preferred route taken by a ship or aircraft., Oxford Living Dictionaries (


Source: Judgment of The CJEU in case C‑559/16.

Read in Polish: Odległość w lotach łączonych przy odszkodowaniu za opóźnienie