British air travellers are missing out on more than half a billion pounds in compensation for delayed and cancelled flights, according to compensation claims firm Flightright.

Based on an evaluation of 3 million flights, the German firm claims more than 1.6 million eligible passengers are entitled to £539 million.

A study claims passengers in Germany have yet to claim more than £468 million, while Spanish and French travellers are entitled to more than £400 million and £355 million.

Based on EU law, airlines must pay compensation to passengers for flight delays of more than three hours, cancellations and overbookings.

Marek Janetzke, managing director of Flightright, said: “Delayed or cancelled flights can ruin holidays for British families and it’s a shame that airlines so often get away without paying compensation where it’s due.

“While awareness of passenger rights is gradually improving, we estimate that more than 1.6m UK air passengers missed out on compensation that they were entitled to over the past year.

“It only takes a three-hour delay for air passengers to be entitled to compensation and passengers have up to six years to make a claim.”

Passengers who book flights in the UK have up to six years after the date of the scheduled departure to make a claim.