Flight delayed? You may be entitled to compensation

Flight delayed, know your rights!

Flight delayed, know your rights! Source: cc/Oatsy40

The media and social networks have been full of stories about flights out or UK airports being delayed, but did you know what compensation you might be entitled to and what your rights are?

In the UK (and in the EU) flight delays can result in compensation being payable, but only where the airline is at fault.

The law

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) you have important legal rights on many flights to, from or within the UK, however, to be covered, your flight must be either:

  • departing from an airport in the UK on any airline, or
  • arriving at an airport in the UK on an EU or UK airline; or
  • arriving at an airport in the EU on a UK airline.

Delays prior to your flight

Airlines are required to provide care and assistance to passengers where there is a significant delay prior to the departure of their flight, including providing a reasonable amount of food and drink, means to communicate, accommodation and travel to and from that accommodation.

Airlines become responsible when:

Length of flight Waiting time
short-haul flight of under 1,500km (e.g. Glasgow to Amsterdam) more than two hours
medium-haul flight of 1,500km – 3,500km (e.g. East Midlands to Marrakesh) more than three hours
long-haul flight of over 3,500km (e.g. London to New York) more than four hours

Importantly the airline must provide you with these items until it is able to fly you to your destination, no matter how long the delay lasts or what has caused it.

Under normal circumstances this should be arranged by the airline, however in practice, this may not be possible in which case you are entitled to organise and pay for reasonable care and assistance yourself, then claim the cost back later.

You will need to provide receipts and you do need to keep the expense reasonable. For example, buying alcohol is not considered reasonable, nor are luxury goods.

Am I entitled to compensation?

Under UK law, airlines may have to provide compensation if your flight arrives at its destination more than three hours late, however that only applies if the airline was at fault.

Where delays are caused by situations out of their control, like bad weather, airport or air traffic control employee strikes or other ‘extraordinary circumstances’, compensations will not be payable.

The level of compensation is determined by the length of the flight, however, it only applies to delays of four hours or more.

Length of flight Compensation
short-haul flight of under 1,500km (e.g. Glasgow to Amsterdam) £220
medium-haul flight of 1,500km – 3,500km (e.g. East Midlands to Marrakesh) £350
long-haul flight of over 3,500km (e.g. London to New York) £520
long-haul flight of over 3,500km (e.g. London to New York) £260 (in case you arrived at your destination with a delay of under 4 hours)

View a list of flights that the CAA has investigated for entitlement to compensation.

What if my flight was cancelled?

If your flight is cancelled at the airport, then the airline should rearrange flights for you. However, if the flight is cancelled more than five hours prior to departure then you are entitled to a refund.

Importantly if you are a transfer passenger and missed your connection flight because your first flight was delayed, you are also entitled to a flight back to your original departure point.

Should you deice to take a refund then the airline will no longer be under any obligation to provide you with food, drink or accommodation. If you are on a package holiday and you decide not to travel on your outbound flight, you may lose your holiday too.

In all cases, it is best to talk to the airline or travel agent to make sure you understand what your options are.

What if I still want to fly?

If you don’t cancel your ticket then the airline is still under obligation to get you to your destination, however, you might have to be patient while they rearrange transport and rebook passengers. But the law says they must get you there and they must take care of you by providing food, drink, access to communications and accommodation (if you are delayed overnight) while you wait for your rearranged transport.

In some cases, airlines may advise you to make alternative travel arrangements, then claim back the cost later. But you do need to keep this within reason and you will need to keep evidence of any expenditure etc.

The current situation

For many of the passengers struggling through airport queues, delays at check-in and security, the law will be of little comfort as most of this will not be considered the airline’s responsibility. Sadly there is no law that covers delays in airports due to the lack of terminal staff, whether it be border control or security that is the issue.

But if you are not sure whether you do have rights as your flight was delayed, then you can visit the CAA website for more information and details on how to make a complaint. Bear in mind you do not need to use a complaints company to claim compensation, remembering always that they will take a commission for doing this on your behalf.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.


    • Tobi

      31 May 2022 • 15:28

      EasyJet cancelled my flight last week after I had already checked in and offered no alternative at all. Just sent us all home from the airport without an explanation of why it was cancelled. They said you could switch to another flight without charge (I should think so!) but there was nothing available on that route until seven days later.

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