Flight cancellations and delays: know your rights
Confused about your rights when you fly? Have you been left stranded with no help after a flight cancellation or a long delay? Recently, we have seen the European Courts throw out a test case appeal by Ryanair which now makes it clearer what you are entitled to. And there was also a ruling involving Thomas Cook and passengers who had claimed compensation for their flight arriving late.
When you fly, all you really want is to depart and arrive on time and everything to go to plan. However, the moment you see the dreaded words 'delayed' or 'cancelled' it's enough to sink the hearts of the most stoical traveller. All of us will have endured long delays at some point in our travelling lives and when children are involved it can be a recipe for disaster if the airline does not handle the delay well.
Your rights are protected under the EU261 rules. You can easily see these on the Civil Aviation Authority website under the passenger rights section OR you can download them to your smartphone via an app called ‘Your Passenger Rights’.
What do the rules cover?
Let’s start with flight cancellations. If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund. Your monies will be returned to you and you are free to now find new arrangements. Depending on how far out from the travel date your flight is pulled, the airline must also pay compensation up to €600. However, this will only apply if the cancellation is within 14 days of the take-off date and even then the airline only has to pay if the reason for the cancellation is due to the airline itself. Things such as bad weather are not covered; however technical reasons are, such as a fault on a plane.
Of course, full service airlines like British Airways will generally offer you a different flight, maybe even on a different airline. Or they may re-route you, where you take a connection to reach your destination.
When it comes to delays, the rules apply depending on how far you are flying. For flights under 1,500km from home e.g. London to Malaga, they kick in when your flight is delayed for two hours or more. For flights from 1501km to 3499km away, such as London to Istanbul, they kick in at a delay of three hours or more. And for all other flights they start at a delay of four hours or more.
Firstly, the airline must arrange suitable welfare such as food and drink for the length of the delay and if you are stuck overnight they should also arrange accommodation and transport to it. You can also have access to make two phone calls at the airline’s expense. If they don’t arrange welfare then ask them what they consider to be ‘reasonable’ in terms of cost, get the name of the person you spoke to from the airline and then organise yourself, submitting a claim to them within 28 days. However do NOT take this course of action without having it agreed by the airline first or you may face problems getting your money back
If the delay on any of the above flights reaches five hours you then have the right to cancel and receive a full refund of the parts of the ticket unused.
And if you decide to continue on your flight and arrive three hours or later at your destination, then you are entitled to compensation from €125 to €600 depending on the length of your flight.
Of course, it’s all well and good receiving a refund for a cancellation. However, an airline is not responsible for your onward travel once they get you to your destination or to cover off hotels that you now can’t use but have paid for. So it’s essential to have a good quality travel insurance policy to cover you for curtailment and travel delay. This will help protect against losses you cannot claim from the airline itself and give you some additional piece of mind.
The only exception to the above is when you book a full ATOL package. If your flights are cancelled, your operator must look after you in full and you will not lose out on any part of your holiday monies.