According to EU regulations, passengers are entitled to compensation if their flight is delayed by at least three hours in relation to the originally scheduled arrival time.

But how exactly is the arrival time calculated? Is it the moment when the plane wheels touch the ground? Is it the moment when the plane comes to a full stop? Is it when the doors are opened? Or maybe when passengers actually exit the plane?

This question is inspired by another post that was necessary for a delay of less than 3 hours?) where the person was delayed by 2 hours 50 minutes.


2 Answers 2


I have recently asked an Alternative Dispute Resolution agency to make a determination on a case that had me affected.

According to the adjudicator, my plane arrived at destination with a delay of 2h49m. My claim was that the doors of the plane opened more than 11 minutes later, and since I was familiar with the interpretation presented in @dunni's answer, I considered myself eligible for refund.

The adjudicator agreed that the time the doors are opened is what should be taken into account for calculating the flight delay.

As detailed in the case of C-452/13 Germanwings GmbH v Ronny Henning the concept of arrival time for the purpose of EC261/2004 is when the first door of the aircraft is opened.

However, at least in my case, there wasn't any available record of when the door opening took place, and since I couldn't provide a proof, they determined, on the basis of probability, that the doors were most likely opened before 11 minutes.

it is reasonable to suggest that eleven minutes is sufficient time for the first door of the aircraft to be opened.

The Passenger does not accept that the delay was less than 3 hours but has not provided any evidence in support of his position.

In short, and based on a single experience, the arrival time is the time the doors are opened, BUT unless the passenger holds proof of when that time is, it's likely that the time of landing, plus a "fair" time for ground operations (apparently less than 11 minutes), is what will be considered by a Dispute Resolution agency.

  • I truly am curious how such proof could be obtained.
    – user4188
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 15:24
  • @chx you could probably start taking a video as soon as the plane touches the ground, with a clock visible somewhere in the frame.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 16:26
  • @JohnathanReez Why would you need a clock in frame?
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 16:53
  • @MJeffryes to make the timing more obvious, I guess
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 17:26

https://ec.europa.eu/ireland/services/air-travel_en#4 specifies that the arrival time is determined as the time when the doors are opened and the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft.

How is the length of the delay determined for the purpose of payment of compensation?

A flight is deemed to have officially arrived at its destination only when the doors open and passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft.   This was decided by the Court of Justice of the EU in September 2014 in the case of Germanwings GmbH v Ronny Henning, Case C-452/13.

  • You cite the ruling misleadingly. The relevant part of the ruling is that a plane has arrived when 'passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft'. Even if the doors are opened, the plan has not arrived in the sense of the regulation if the passengers are not allowed to leave the aircraft. Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 20:55

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