How We Got €400 Flight Diversion Compensation Paid Out by Ryanair Commission Free

Michael Smulian
cabin crew demonstrating safety instructions inside a diverted Ryanair flight
Inside a diverted Ryanair flight from Greece to Germany

Our personal experience on how we got €400 flight diversion compensation directly from the airline without paying commission. We’ll show you how you can also claim for flight delays, denied boarding, and even flight cancellations, all commission free.

Don’t trust airlines! That’s what we learnt when our claim for flight diversion compensation, as per regulation EC 261, was initially rejected but then later paid by the airline.

After a year long tussle with Ryanair, we found out that you don’t have to rely on companies such as AirHelp to get flight compensation. You can easily do it yourself and save on paying 35% commission.

In this guide, we’ll show you how you can claim compensation for flight delays, denied boarding, and cancellations, without paying a single cent in commission.

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Our Ryanair Flight Diversion Ordeal

About a year ago, we boarded a Ryanair flight from Rhodes, Greece to Berlin.

Unfortunately, our flight never made it to the capital of Germany. Instead, we were diverted to Hannover which is more than 3 hours away.

How Our Flight was Diverted

It was a normal Saturday on the Rhodian island. There was a clear blue sky, the sun was shining, and the weather was just perfect.

We even stopped at a beachside restaurant for one last meal to enjoy stunning views of the sea before returning the rental car.

We arrived at Rhodes International Airport well ahead of time. Checked-in, and were now waiting to catch flight FR 352 from Rhodes (RHO) to Berlin (BER). Besides the normal few minutes delay boarding the plane, nothing was amiss.

It was only after we were sat in a stuffy plane for over an hour that we received an email from Ryanair informing us that our flight would be delayed. This was followed by a message from the captain that our plane was being diverted to Hannover Airport.

passengers disembarking a Ryanair plane parked on the tarmac at Diagoras Airport
Ryanair plane at Diagoras Airport

At this point everything was up in the air (except our flight), and cabin crew were none the wiser. Which, to be honest, is what we’ve come to expect from low cost airlines in Europe.

Just before take off, a flight attendant informed us that a bus had been arranged to transfer passengers from Hanover to Berlin. But warned of the possibility that there might not be enough space to transport all passengers.

Seconds after landing in Hanover (yes, I’m that person that can’t wait to disable airplane mode), we received a text message from Ryanair.

In it, an announcement that no ground transport would be provided and that we had to make our own way to Berlin. It also instructed us to keep receipts, and mentioned that all reasonable expenses associated with the diversion would be reimbursed.

Essentially, we were on our own and it was going to be a long night, and day.

Claiming Travel Expenses and EC 261 Compensation

After arriving in Berlin (our final destination) by train, more than 13 hours after our flight was scheduled to land, we began the process of claiming for travel expenses as well as EC 261 compensation.

Claiming travel expenses via the Ryanair website is actually really easy. All you need is a cellphone, your receipts, and patience while taking pictures.

That’s because you need to ensure that all receipts are clear and readable to avoid any delays getting reimbursed. Here’s a list of expenses we racked up travelling from Hanover to Berlin:

  • One night stay in a double room with breakfast at 4 star airport hotel (cheapest option)
  • Train ticket (2nd Class) from Hannover to Berlin
  • Meal (sandwich and coffee) at the train station
  • Drink (water) at the train station supermarket
  • Ferrero Rocher chocolates and wine (“sorry we’re late” gift for the pet sitter)
  • Uber from the train station, home

Claiming for EC 261 compensation is done using the same form and also just takes a few steps to complete. Both travel expense and compensation claims were submitted on 2nd May 2023.

All travel expenses, excluding wine, were reimbursed on 26th May 2023. Turns out wine isn’t considered important for stranded passengers’ wellbeing.

Unfortunately, we experienced some difficulties with our compensation claim.

Airline Refused Our Claim for Flight Diversion Compensation

Ryanair rejected our claim for EC 261 compensation 4 days after we submitted it. Their reason?

Air traffic controllers impeded them from taking off. Meaning they diverted the airline because they wouldn’t land in Berlin before the airport’s midnight curfew. Ultimately, they asserted that the flight diversion was outside of Ryanair’s control.

email from Ryanair rejecting EU 261 compensation because the disruption was outside of the airline’s control
Ryanair initially rejecting our flight compensation

Now, most people would gladly accept this response at face value and move on. I mean, why would an airline be dishonest with their own frequent flyers?

But something didn’t quite feel right. Sitting in that plane, stranded on the tarmac for all that time seemed a little suspicious to us.

That’s why we decided to use AirHelp to check if our flight diversion was indeed eligible for compensation. Lo and behold, displayed it black and white, AirHelp confirmed without a doubt that €400 compensation was owed to us.

Why would AirHelp contradict Ryanair’s response? Do they know something we don’t? We decided to look deeper into Regulation EC 261 and under what circumstances compensation is paid.

What is EU Regulation EC 261?

EC 261/2004 is a regulation in European Union (EU) law that protects passengers against flight disruptions. It holds airlines financially accountable as long as the disruption wasn’t caused by something outside of the airline’s control (extraordinary circumstances). Something that cannot be dreamt up like Ryanair did.

The EC 261 passenger rights law applies to all European Union countries including several other countries. It’s also adopted in Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway, giving air travelers comprehensive protection throughout Europe.

Apart from ensuring the minimum care passengers can expect, it also clearly outlines exactly how much compensation airlines must pay. And the circumstances when passengers should receive payment. These circumstances, or flight disruptions, include:

  • Delayed flights over 3 hours
  • Flight cancellations less than 14 days in advance
  • Denied boarding

You may also be protected by regulation EC 261 if you have missed a connecting flight due to flight delay, cancellation, or being denied boarding.

Here’s a chart showing how EC 261 compensation amounts are paid for flight disruptions:

Flights (Any)
Less Than 1,500km
Flights (Within the EU)
More Than 1,500km
Flights (In/Out of the EU)
More Than 3,000km
Flights (In/Out of the EU)
Between 1,500 and 3,000km
EC 261 Compensation Amounts

If the above infographic is a bit confusing, don’t worry. It also took us a while to understand how EC 261 compensation works.

The easiest way is to imagine that there are two types of traveler categories eligible for compensation. And compensation depends on which one of these two categories you fit into.

One category would be travelers flying within the European Union. Which means you’re flying from one EU member country to another.

Other eligible travelers would either be flying from the EU to non EU countries. Or, flying into the EU from a non-EU country.

Once you’ve established which category you fall into, the chart is a bit easier to understand. Here’s a summary of the compensation amounts based on each traveler category.

Compensation for Passengers Flying Within the EU

The compensation amounts for flights departing from one EU member country to another EU country are as follows:

  • Flights Less Than 1,500km: €250
  • Flights More Than 1,500km: €400

So if you’re flying within the EU, the minimum compensation you can get for flight disruptions is €250. The maximum is €400. Which is what we received for our Ryanair flight diversion from Greece to Germany.

Compensation for Passengers Flying In and Out of the EU

Compensation based on regulation EC 261 applies to flights arriving in the EU from outside ONLY if the flight is operated by an EU airline.

However, ALL flights departing from the EU are eligible for compensation, irrespective of where the airline is operated.

Here’s the compensation amounts for fights arriving in the EU or flying out of the EU:

  • Flights Less Than 1,500km: €250
  • Between 1,500 and 3,000km: €400
  • Flights More Than 3,000km: €600

So for flights flying into or out of the EU from and to non EU countries, you’ll receive a minimum compensation of €250 and a maximum of €600 for flight disruptions.

How to Check if You Qualify for EC 261 Compensation?

What we presented to you in this guide is merely a summary of EU regulation EC 261. The surest way to know if you qualify for compensation is to get legal opinion from a qualified lawyer.

But even then, you wouldn’t know for certain if the airline is being dishonest about whether or not the flight disruption was indeed within their control. Like in our case.

So how do you check if you qualify for EC 261 compensation without having all the facts and team of lawyers? It’s easy! Just use AirHelp’s compensation checker. It’ll workout if you qualify for compensation, and exactly how much you’ll get.

According to AirHelp, they are the number 1 air passenger rights experts. So why not use their expertise for free. That’s exactly what we did for our Ryanair flight and found out that we were indeed entitled to compensation.

💡Useful Tip: Bad weather is the most commonly encountered extraordinary circumstance. Airlines might also cite technical problems as grounds for not paying compensation, which may be incorrect. If you’re unsure, simply use the AirHelp compensation checker to see if you’re entitled to payment.

How to get Flight Compensation Without Paying Commission?

If the airline continues to play hardball, and you’re not willing to entertain AirHelp’s offer, you might be tempted to file a complaint using the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform.

But even though ODR is free, we feel it’s a complete waste of time. That’s because in order for ODR to be successful, both parties to the complaint (consumer and trader) need to participate to resolve the problem. And 90 days is given to reach an agreement.

In our case, Ryanair were complete ghosts and didn’t even bother replying to our complaint. In the end, the ODR route took 3 months from the date we submitted our complaint. And nothing ever came of it. So don’t waste your time filing an ODR complaint.

The first real step to getting compensation without paying commission is to file a complaint with an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body. Since our flight landed in Germany, we approached Söp, an independent conciliation body responsible for public transport in Germany.

email from Söp confirming that the EC 261 compensation arbitration process was successful
Successful Söp arbitration process for compensation

Submit a Complaint to Söp, the ADR Body in Germany

Schlichtungsstelle für den öffentlichen Personenverkehr e.V., or Söp for short, is a German body responsible for enforcing passenger and air passenger rights.

It handles complaints about delays, missed connections and cancellations in rail, bus, air and ship transport. Basically, they help travelers reach out-of-court settlement free of charge.

Submitting a dispute for flight disruptions on Söp is relatively straightforward. All you need is about 30 minutes to fill in the form, and to add supporting documents at the end.

What’s nifty is that the form can be completed in either English or German. And you can also add other passengers to the same dispute. Saving fellow travelers time from repeating the same process.

💡Useful Tip: You may submit a complaint to the Söp even if the airline is not based in Germany. But it is essential that the journey is related somehow to Germany (departure, arrival or transit).

After submission, do nothing! Literally, don’t even email to ask for updates. All correspondence from this point forward will be done in German. So Google Translate skills will be essential.

Every few months, you can expect to receive the same regular update that they’re inundated with cases and that you need to patient. Söp staff need to comb through every detail of your case, so the arbitration process will take some time to conclude.

We made our submission on 15th August 2023. But a settlement for flight compensation with the airline was only reached on 15th April 2024, exactly 8 months later. The arbitration process is lengthy, but it works!

acknowledgement that flight diversion compensation will be paid within 6 weeks
€400 compensation to be paid by Ryanair

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Bodies Assisting Air Passengers in Europe

So which alternative dispute resolution body should you contact if you need to submit a complaint for a flight disruption?

The appropriate ADR body is usually based in the same country as the airline. And you can easily find where an airline is based just by looking at the imprint on its website.

Here’s a list of main ADR bodies assisting with air passenger rights in Europe:

Check out the full list of ADR bodies assisting air passenger in Europe, if you were unsuccessful with solving a dispute with an airline and still need assistance with a complaint for flight compensation.

Other Ways to Get EC 261 Compensation

The fastest way to get EC 261 compensation if airlines are playing hardball, is to use the services of companies like AirHelp. But it comes at a cost.

AirHelp will do all the dirty work for you at a fraction of the time (on average 3 months). But they keep 35% of your compensation, which can rise to 50% if the matter goes to court.

AirHelp can also check if you’re eligible for compensation for flights taken in the past 3 years. And in addition to enforcing air passengers rights in Europe, AirHelp can also assist with air travel disruptions for flights departing or landing in Brazil, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and over 135 countries using the Montreal Convention.

We used AirHelp in 2017 and it took just under 4 weeks to get compensation paid into our account (minus 25% commission). Although we feel their commission has become exorbitant, they seem committed to helping air passengers getting fair compensation for air travel disruptions.

But if paying 35% seems a bit steep, there are other AirHelp alternatives that may even charge a lower commission. Here’s a list of AirHelp competitors that can also assist with air travel disruptions:

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a guide on how to get EU 261 flight delay compensation
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Wrapping Things Up

Is Ryanair a bad airline? Not at all. We use them all the time to fly to Greece and other destinations in Europe. But that doesn’t mean you should trust what their cheeky customer service tells you.

Unfortunately airlines will try to find any excuse to avoid paying compensation, even if law EC 261 is crystal clear. It’s not in their financial interest to do so. So always get a second opinion.

One way you can do that is by using the AirHelp compensation checker which will work out if and how much compensation you’re entitled to. Then simply reach out directly to the airline responsible for your flight disruption to request compensation.

If the airline refuses to pay you and you think AirHelp’s 35% commission is a bit steep, you can then approach an ADR to ask for assistance free of charge and commission free.

The arbitration route might be a lengthy process, but it does work! And it will save you from paying any commission.

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