My flight was cancelled due to non technical reasons (allegedly air traffic congestion) so my compensation was denied. I suspect they are just trying to avoid paying the compensation by declaring a non technical problem (in EU passengers are entitled a compensation if the aircraft doesn't depart due to a technical fault, as noncritical it may be). Is there any reliable source out there where I can find out the real reason for a cancelled flight and use it as a proof?

  • Without a court order compelling them to release records, you will have little luck. Nov 20, 2018 at 9:28
  • What makes you believe that? The mere fact your compensation was denied?
    – Relaxed
    Nov 20, 2018 at 9:37
  • @Relaxed basically yes. If the compensation is granted then it is a technical fault 100%. if the compensation is denied it can either be a non-technical fault or a technical one Nov 20, 2018 at 9:43
  • 1
    The basic 'rule' is that you are entitled to compensation according to the EU regulation if the airline could have prevented the delay. It is not relevant wether the cause was technical or non-technical. If the delay for example is caused or prolonged because the airline misses an assigned landing slot, they can likely not avoid compensation payment just because they blame it on 'air traffic congestion'. Nov 20, 2018 at 11:58
  • 2
    How was it denied? Was your actual claim denied by writing? There is, by the way, a complaints court where you can appeal - that is somewhere in fine print when you book tickets. Or at least some airlines are part of this system. You'll have to check that yourself, it is dependant on the particular airline. You can also "sell" your claim to different kind of companies - usually the easiest option for non-trivial claims.
    – Stian
    Nov 20, 2018 at 20:41

3 Answers 3


Unfortunately, there is no definitive list of the reasons for delay of every flight. As you mentioned, the airline probably won't give out any information to avoid the possibility of paying the compensation.

You might be able to find out some supplemental information from a third party, though. By using FlightAware or one of several similar flight tracking websites, you could find out whether the aircraft held in the air somewhere, whether inbound flights on that aircraft had previously been delayed, causing a cascade, or if the airplane had just been sitting in the departure airport for some time. This might be helpful in your factual understanding of the issue, but might not be so great at explaining why an event (like a hold or an inbound delay) took place. (Note that this only works if the delay was fairly recent, as you tend to have to pay for information older than 30 or 60 days.)

Otherwise, your best bets to get the compensation probably are either to

  • Try to sell the claim to a company like Claim Compass as mentioned in the comments to your post
  • Submit a formal complaint to the regulator in the country where the delay took place. The EU has a form for this, but the process will almost certainly take a long time, even if it is resolved in your favor.

That said, unless you have a specific reason to doubt that the delay was caused by a non-technical problem, since ATC delays are pretty common in Europe, your chances of getting compensation are not that great.

TLDR: You might be able to get some information from FlightAware or similar, but convincing the airline or a regulator is going to be complex and time consuming.

  • Just pointing out (because your answer isn't entirely clear), FlightAware does not, as far as I can see, provide any definitive answer (or "official statement" from the airline) as to why flights were cancelled or delayed. Or at least so far as I can tell. One can use it to confirm certain facts about the status of a flight, but nothing like a statement declaring "delay due to technical fault". Dec 26, 2019 at 18:59

This kind of question comes up a lot, and usually boils down to: If an airline denies compensation due to "extraordinary circumstances", how can I prove otherwise?

The answer is: You don't have to. The burden of proof is on the airline.

If you suspect the airline is lying to you, you can demand proof. If they don't, or you don't believe them, and you take it to court, they will have to submit proof or pay compensation.

Of course you can check publicly available information to see if their explanation is plausible. If you know that there was bad weather, for example, it makes no sense to enter into a legal fight.

Also: "Technical" or "non-technical" has nothing to do with compensation. The only question is: Was it impossible for the airline to prevent the delay?

Bad weather cannot be prevented by the airline, so they don't have to pay. If a crew member falls sick, they do get to pay: They could have prevented the problem by having enough reserve crew available. If they have a technical malfunction, they could have prevented the problem by having a spare part (or plane) available.

In your case: "Air traffic congestion" may not even be a reason to refuse compensation. The airline would have to prove that this was something that could not have been expected and was completely out of their control. This could be the case if the "congestion" was caused by bad weather; but if the congestion is something that happens regularly, the airline still has to pay compensation.

As for how to resolve such situations: I would first insist with the airline, in writing, the go to the regulator and only use a claim site as a last resort. (Some claim sites even use the free services of the regulator and then take a hefty fee from the compensation).


If you can't reliably determine the cause, but think you were denied unfairly, you should contact EU mobility and transport, or contact your country's Consumer Centre.

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