When flights are delayed or cancelled, EU and UK airlines are legally obliged to look after their passengers and provide care packages, hotels and alternative flights, as well as compensation in certain circumstances, even though they will do everything they can not to. Here are the top 10 questions and answers about flight cancellations, delays and passenger rights in the EU and UK.
As flight cancellations and delays become increasingly commonplace, and UK and European airlines continue to be less than honest with customers about their obligations to them, it is hardly surprising that customers are more confused than ever about their rights as passengers, and what they can expect from airlines when things go wrong. Fortunately the law makes it very clear what passengers can expect and more importantly what airlines are legally obliged to do, so when things go wrong make sure you know your passenger rights and demand them.
What Law Protects Passenger Rights In The EU And UK?
The rules set by the Civil Aviation Authority apply to Europe and the UK, and are confusing at best and often inconsistently applied, but it is important to remember that there are rules and you do have rights.
Under EU passenger rights legislation, specifically EU regulation EC 261, you have a lot of rights if your flight is to, from or within the European Union. This means:
- Any flight departing from any EU airport, or
- Any EU airline flight arriving at an EU airport.
Are UK Citizens Still Protected By EU Law After Brexit?
This legislation still continues to be applicable for UK passengers after Brexit, and courts are still operating under current precedent. So UK passengers still have exactly the same legal rights as EU passengers.
What Am I Entitled To Under The Law?
Depending on the specific circumstances, length of delay and distance travelling you are entitled to some or all of the following: information and updates in a timely manner, a care package including food and drink, overnight accommodation, transport to and from that accommodation, a new flight to get to your destination as soon as possible, even if that is on a rival airline and finally compensation.
What Am I Not Entitled To?
In the event of a delay, cancellation or denied boarding, you won’t be eligible for compensation for any onward arrangements you have covered, such as a pre booked hotel room at your destination for example. This is where travel insurance is essential.
What Happens If My Flight Is Delayed Or Cancelled While I am At The Airport?
First of all don’t panic, stay calm and talk to the gate agents as nicely as possible. Everyone is tired and angry but showing that will help no one.
For simple delays there is really nothing much to do but wait, but if it passes a certain length of time you will be legally entitled to food and drink vouchers or hotel accommodation and transport to and from that accommodation. How long that length of time is depends on the length of your journey. For short haul flights (less than 1,500 km) it is 2 hours, for mid haul flights (up to 3,500km) it is 3 hours, and long haul (above 3,500km) it is 4 hours. Anything above those numbers you are entitled to assistance.
For cancellations you are entitled to a full and complete cash refund, or another flight. If you choose another flight it is the airlines duty under law to get you to your destination as quickly as possible on the next available flight. If they cannot get you to your destination in a reasonable time on their own or sister airline, they have a duty to book you onto a rival carrier if that will get you there sooner. Depending on the length of delay you will also be entitled to the care package and a hotel stay, as well as transport to and from the airport.
On top of this, dependent on the length of delay you are entitled to compensation.
How Quickly Can I Expect Airlines To Get Me To My Destination?
The law states you are entitled to ‘re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity’, and that means the earliest possible opportunity no matter what the airline tells you, even if they have to book you on another airline.
How Much Compensation Am I Entitled To?
Under 1,500KM and over 2 hours – £250.
1,500 – 3,500KM and over 3 hours – £350
Over 3,500KM and over 4 hours -£525
If there is a delay but it is within the time limit then you are still entitled to half that.
What If I Miss A Connecting Flight Due To A Delay?
If your missed connection is the airlines fault then they must re book you onto the next available flight to your destination. If the next flight is the next morning then you have a reasonable right to demand that they book you on another carrier at their expense, or if one is not available you have the right to a full care package including food, drink, access to phone calls and email, and accommodation and transport.
Be aware this does not apply to two separately booked tickets on two separate airlines, it must be a connecting flight.
What If The Airlines Refuse To Help Or Give Me What I Am Entitled To?
This is actually a pretty common complaint, especially at the airport itself where staff are often less than honest or forthright when it comes to giving you what you are owed. In that instance all you can do is save all receipts for reasonable expenses and claim later.
How Do I File A Claim?
It is actually not as daunting as it may first seem. All you do is file a claim online with the airline directly. Remember, they will always try to offer you vouchers first, which is fine if you want them, but if you don’t you are legally entitled to cash. The airlines don’t always make these online forms easy to find but they are always there on the websites. If you are unhappy with the response, are being ignored or they are simply dragging their heels too much (which is common) you can take it to the small claims court (which always gets an instant payout) or a no win no fee service for a flat fee and a percentage of the payout. You can also refer the case to the relevant aviation body such as the CAA.
I hope these most common questions cover your own but if they don’t please feel free to ask a question in the comments down below.
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