Top 10 Q&A On Flight Cancellations And Passenger Rights.

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.

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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64 comments on “Top 10 Q&A On Flight Cancellations And Passenger Rights.
  1. Angela Knox says:

    British Airways cancelled my flight a couple of weeks ago how long does it take for the refund please?

  2. Jess says:

    Amazing work, thank you. It is so hard to find important information like this and everyone needs to know it! Our flight was cancelled by BA last week and we were never given a proper explanation as to why, I have been trying to get through to them since so will definitely be taking your advice and claiming. I am still shocked at how poorly customers are treated by airlines. No other business would get away with it!

    • You are very welcome Jess. Sorry to hear of your experience and I agree completely, no other business would! That is why I tell everyone to not feel a seconds remorse in claiming as much as possible back off them.

  3. Harsha Choudary says:

    Would you recommend using those no win no fee services?

    • It’s entirely up to you Harsha, doing it yourself is relatively easy but can be time consuming and a little bit of a hassle if you aren’t used to it. Using a firm like this takes all the onus off you, they sort everything and you just get a nice compensation cheque in a month or so, but they do take roughly a third of your claim.

  4. Steph says:

    We have just filed our claim for a delayed flight a few weeks ago, hope it comes through soon. We still lost our first nights hotel room and a day of our holiday though! Fuming!

  5. Lee says:

    Have you ever had a successful claim come back?We’ve been waiting a month for ours?

    • Oh yes, lot’s of them! And some have taken a month or two so don’t worry. I once had a string of about 7 or 8 flights all free because they were all paid for by compensation claims from the previous delayed or cancelled flights, and the original flight was a free one because I had paid for it with a flight voucher for attending a medical emergency! Haha! That is how to travel for free!

  6. Paul says:

    Thank you for this! Our flight with ******* easyjet was cancelled yesterday after we’d already dropped our bags and they rebooked us on one for Wednesday! So upset at this, missing half our holiday and had no idea they had to book us on another airline, they just said this was the mext flight! Lots of upset fellow passengers too. Do you know if we can get it changed now they have already rebooked it?

    • Sorry to hear that Paul, that’s a bit of a tough one if you’ve already accepted the alternative, you can try but I wouldn’t be hopeful. The best you can do at this point is turn to your insurance to claim back some of the losses.

  7. Dave says:

    Great tips! So sick of airline BS now.

  8. Craig Stewart says:

    I’ve had my last two flights cancelled now. I wish the compensation they had to pay was a lot more than that, and enforced heavier by the airline watchdogs. They just can’t keep treating people like this.

  9. Laura says:

    Compensation is all well and good but Easyjet cancelled my flight hours before and now no holiday for me. Cost me a fortune with hotel and activities being non refundable. Absolutely livid!

  10. Stottie says:

    It is getting to the point where there is no point flying at all with easyjet or BA. Cancellations all over the shop.

  11. Alan says:

    Why do you think so many flights are being cancelled at the moment? Its not just BA, there are so many!

  12. Mel says:

    Very useful, thanks for putting this together. I’m so angry at airlines for not making this common knowledge

  13. Andy says:

    This chaos with BA and easyjet is what happens when you open up and drop mask mandates. Covid is still here! We are still in a pandemic!

  14. Sue says:

    What about flights on the US? They have all been a nightmare lately too and I’m guessing EU law doesn’t cover them?

    • Unfortunately not Sue, no. The US does have a charter of rights for passengers but it is pretty weak and the reality is the mantra of private companies can do what they want extends to this too. A lot depends on what is stated in the contract of carraige when you buy your ticket.

  15. Simon says:

    The amount of cancellations are ridiculous. Everyone off sick with covid.

  16. Angie Nichols says:

    What are my rights if airport security make me miss my flight?

    • That’s a hard one Angie as essentially you don’t really have any. I think this is absolutely wrong too but essentially the airlines will say it is not their fault – and technically they are right – so you aren’t covered by the same rights that govern the airlines, and the airports will always just rely on the safety excuse.

  17. Scott says:

    There are so many flight cancellations and delays lately with BA and Easyjet. but passengers are constantly misinformed by the airlines with respect to their right to refund, rebooking and compensation in such an event. Thank you for this.

  18. Mike says:

    What about Canada and Canadian flights?

    • Canada does have its own charter that cover Canadian passengers rights. You can find it on the Canadian Tansport Agency website. It’s not as good as their EU charter but is so much better than the US one, and does give rights to compensation for cancellations and delays if the warning the airlines give is anything less than 14 days.

  19. Kate says:

    I did this on my last flight before the world got FUBARd. BA cancelled my flight while I was at the airport, quoted EC261 at them and got a new flight that evening plus the full compensation a month later!

  20. Michele says:

    A friend had her flight to Spain cancelled on Saturday, only being notified a few hours before departure from Heathrow. They really can’t do this to people! I’ve been trying to help her find out how to claim everything back and this has been so helpful, thank you!

  21. Tara says:

    Thanks for this I didn’t know how to go about filing a claim. BA cancelled my flight within hours of take off. Disgusted at this treatment, I was only going away for a week and its ruined now.

    • Sorry to hear that Tara, at least you can get your flight cost and compensation. I know its not a replacement but still. I know airlines don’t care but things like losing holidays mean a lot to people and they need to pay.

  22. emma says:

    Wish I had this at the airport 2 weeks ago! 😪

  23. Craig says:

    This is essential information that should be pinned up at everybinfo desk in EU airports!

  24. Carla says:

    Excellent resource, thank you

  25. Sean says:

    As an American I wish we had rules like this. Three flights in a row to NY got cancelled… no reschedule or refund. 🤬🤬🤬🤬

    • Yeah I really feel for American passengers, but the entire US was screaming private company, their rules for the last year when it came to mask mandates, so … can’t have it both ways. Either they get away with doing what they like or people accept that private businesses do have obligations to behave and provide services in a reasonable way.

  26. Sara says:

    Love your take on this. If the government came out with a law that punished airlines for behaviour like this and tripled compensation just to stick it to them I’d be all for it!

  27. Lauren says:

    It’s all well and good saying they have an obligation but what do you do when they just aren’t there at the airport and won’t answer calls or emails?

    • That’s a common problem Lauren and unfortunately there’s not much you can do there and then but you can organise your own transport, hotel, flight etc (not ideal I know, but when there is no option it is all you can do) and then claim the money back. Save all receipts for everything, remember it has to be reasonable or they will dispute it (so no first class), and don’t be afraid to go fully legal with a solicitors letter either. You are legally entitled and they will pay. You can also document everything and tag them on social media, don’t go to DMs unless it is to give personal info and embarrass the hell out of them, they hate that.

  28. Sally says:

    We need more of this info out there!

  29. Simon says:

    Got an email from BA last night cancelling my flight on Easter Monday. I’ll be using this advice. Thanks.

  30. Amanda Foster says:

    This is really helpful, as a family of five adults had bad luck with BA this Easter, our trip to Faro we were bumped off our flight due to overselling of seats by 11! The next flight they booked us on 7 hours we had to wait, had an emergency landing back to Heathrow mid flight so a delay claim of 18 hours then our return flight was cancelled so a cancellation claim going in too, I’ve totalled up the claim for compensation for all 5 of us will be around 5k!! Will we ever see the money though, within days they have offered to pay back our out of pocket expenses but no mention of compensation?

    • Thanks Amanda, I’m really glad you found it useful! That sounds like an absolute nightmare to be honest, and yes of course you’ll see it. They will try every trick in the book to delay it but legally they have to, even if you have to resort to a solicitors letter (although that is rarely needed!) I hope it all comes through for you soon! Good luck!

  31. Tim says:

    Very useful post, thank you!

  32. Will says:

    My flight got cancelled last month and I had no idea I could claim compensation from them. Is it too late?

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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