What to do when your flight is delayed

Denied Boarding Regulations

flying_plane_190518The Denied Boarding Regulation applies to passengers departing from an airport within the EU, whatever the airline is, and also applies to passengers departing from an airport outside the EU for an airport within the EU, if the operating air carrier is a Community carrier. (I.e. a carrier with a valid operating license granted by an EU state).

Under European regulations (EC261), passengers have significant rights if their flight is delayed, cancelled or they are denied boarding. These rights have been in place across Europe since February 2005 and the CAA is the national enforcement body for them here in the UK. The rights cover the following:

  • Flight cancelled or delayed for several hours – the airline must look after passengers. It must provide food, drinks, and some communications. If passengers are delayed overnight, this also means providing them with a hotel and travel to and from it. (All these must still be provided even if the delay was out of the airline’s  control).
  • Flight is cancelled – the airline must offer an alternative flight or a full refund. The passengers may also be entitled to compensation if the flight was cancelled less than 14 days before the scheduled departure.
  • Denied boarding or “bumped” from a flight – the airline must offer an alternative flight or a refund. Passengers are entitled to compensation.
  • If a passenger’s flight is delayed by more than 5 hours and they no longer want to travel they are entitled to a full refund.
  • The Civil Aviation Authority says “Sometimes airlines may advise you to make alternative travel arrangements, then claim back the cost later. If you do this, try to keep costs down as much as you can, keep receipts and record the name of the person giving this advice. Book with the same airline if at all possible.”

Regulation (EC) 261/2004 applies to all flights wholly within the EU/EEA or Swiss region, or departing an EU/EEA or Swiss airport, or arriving in the region and with an EU/EEA or Swiss airline. Under EU rules, airlines must pay compensation for cancelled or heavily delayed flights, however, they can escape this under some ‘extraordinary circumstances’. This can include sudden severe weather events for example. Pilots turning up late, cancelled booking due to under booking etc. are examples of the airline at fault and so passengers can complain and get compensation.

The decisions made in the Huzar v Jet2 and Dawson v Thomson cases confirmed that routine technical difficulties are not extraordinary circumstances. Ron Huzar was delayed for 27 hours on a Malaga to Manchester flight. The delay had been caused by faulty wiring and Jet2 had claimed that this was unforeseen and categorised as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’. In the Dawson v Thomson case, James Dawson was claiming for an eight-hour delay on a flight to the Dominican Republic in 2006; his claim was made in 2012. The airline refused to pay, citing the Montreal Convention, which limits claims to two years after an incident.

On October 31st 2014 the Supreme Court upheld the rulings at appeal. Delays caused by technical problems cannot be categorised as ‘extraordinary’ circumstances and not liable for compensation and consumers have up to six years after the flight to make qualifying compensation claims. A judge in Liverpool county court threw out applications on the 25th February 2015 by Jet2, Ryanair, Flybe and Wizz Air to keep claims on hold  until a case in Holland about technical delays (Van dear Kans v KLM) was decided. He stated that cases should be settled in line with existing passenger-rights rules.

Note: 17/09/15 further ruling against KLM  in the European Justice Court today.

Consumers who have had compensation claims rejected for either of these reasons can now re-submit the claims to the airlines as long as the delay was less than six years ago.

If you have had a claim refused write again citing the relevant legal case above and follow the tips for complaining. If it is refused again write to the regulator. Sadly the regulator does not work like an ombudsman so if the airline still doesn’t pay up your next port of call will be the courts. But cases are very unlikely to go to court now if you follow the advice and quote the right things! Airline claim compensation letter template

The airlines do not have to respond to complaints within an official time limit, so set them a date by which you expect to receive a response. At the very least a “holding letter” of investigation should be sent.

You are not covered for strikes but if you are delayed a day or so after a strike you may be entitled. I await someone taking an airline to court over industrial action not being an exceptional circumstance arguing that had the airline done something then the action could have been avoided and therefore was in their control. So if you were affected by industrial action and had your flight cancelled, I encourage you to go to court! Let me know if you do!

Compensation for delays is only due on flights arriving over three hours or more late. How much you are entitled to depends on how long the delay and how long the flight. It changes again if the flight is cancelled before/after seven days before you are due to depart. It does not reflect the price of the flight and is straight out compensation. Personally I don’t like this, it buys into the “compensation culture”. Genuine redress and goodwill gestures reflect time and amount spent on matters but these regulations do not take this into account and therefore there is a risk that the low cost airlines will be hardest hit and consequently have to put up their fares. I feel compensation should be reflective, but while it isn’t, this is what we have, set amounts set in Euros so depends on where we are with exchange rates! When I wrote How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! which includes more details about how to claim for what, the exchange rate meant you would be getting £200 for a flight up to 1,500km as of  29th June 2015 and the new edition you’ll be getting £178! Updated amounts for various delays here.

Connecting flights
If, due to a delay of less then 3 hours, you miss your connecting flight and so arrived at the final destination more than 3 hours late, you are entitled to compensation of between €125 and €600. However, this is only the case if you book both flights together.

Airlines will really fight this one! But! The Air France SA v Heinz-Gerke Folkerts& Luz-Tereza Folkerts 26/02/13 case the Judge ruled that “Article 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 must be interpreted as meaning that compensation is payable, on the basis of that article, to a passenger on directly connecting flights who has been delayed at departure for a period below the limits specified in Article 6 of that regulation, but has arrived at the final destination at least three hours later than the scheduled arrival time, given that the compensation in question is not conditional upon there having been a delay at departure and, thus, upon the conditions set out in Article 6 having been met.” So quote that!

BBC Breakfast discussing flight delays
With apologies for the scary face (although that’s normal you should see me when I’m angry) at the beginning, didn’t realise the camera was on me! D’oh! It’s called resting bitch face.

Don’t feel like you need a no win no fee solicitor or a similar firm. They cannot and will not do anything that you cannot do for yourself and keep the whole amount! More here.

Airline claim compensation letter template

BA powercut debacle: Airline keeps passengers in the dark about their rights including giving people a premium number to phone. A free phone or low cost number not 084, 087 or 09 numbers must be provided.

You can complain to an airline in the EU but if you having difficulty or need further help  contact the UK European Consumer Centre which helps with cross border disputes.

There are of course lots of other complaints about airlines. Here is just one regarding Easyjet.

There are no such rules for flights operating outside of the EU/EEA or Swiss region (that are not an EU/EEA or Swiss carrier) and you should contact the Civil Aviation Authority for advice.

More details of amounts of compensation per type of/length of delay or denied boarding and advice on how to complain about loads of sectors in the bestelling book, How to Complain: The Essential Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

See All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights for numerous scenarios, regulations, laws and complaining!

17 thoughts on “What to do when your flight is delayed”

  1. We have tried to claim compensation for delays from Jet2 holidays, have provided all necessary information and have a letter agreeing that our claim meets requirements – now, however, they are saying that since we did not bring LEGAL proceedings within the specified time period (despite our original claim being within required time limits) we cannot take our claim further. Where do we stand? Is this a smokescreen or are Jet2 correct? I should add that legal proceedings were never mentioned in correspondence until early 2015.
    Thank you in advance,

    1. If your claim is for a flight is less than 6 years ago they are fobbing you off but see the post Jet2 are not exactly the best! See post above quote info (standard letter and more details in the book) and threaten to take them to small claims court. Also see Tips For complaining.

  2. Hi Helen, have you had any experience of complaining to a non EU carrier? We are currently in dispute with Qatar Airways after our flight from Singapore to London was delayed for 11 hours. Unfortunately we’re not safeguarded by the EU Denied Boarding regulations. The airline had offered us vouchers so far for the ‘inconvenience’. Any help or advice would be much appreciated!

  3. Last week an easyjet flight I was on was delayed for 5 hours at Almeria airport because one of the toilets was broken and it took that long for an engineer to drive from Malaga and make the repair.
    I have applied for compensation and await a reply. I do not see this as extraordinary circumstances.
    I have checked on- line with the CAA there site says toilets are not compulsory on airplanes? This does sound odd however.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I notice that you don’t request comment/advice from me but I would say that if toilets are not compulsory (and if so I’d like to see how the Equalities Act works with that!) then the plane could have gone and therefore you are entitled to compensation as post above. Anyway, if it was only one and there was one or more working then it could have flown. Toilet not working = technical = not extraordinary or exceptional. See my book? Throw it at them.

  4. Hi I had a delayed flight with Swiss Airlines from United States to Switzerland, and it was more then 2 years ago, so I would like to know if I can still claim for it, because in some country’s is the time limit for 1 or 2 years

        1. “Consumers who have had compensation claims rejected for either of these reasons can now re-submit the claims to the airlines as long as the delay was less than six years ago.” EU regulations same for every country.

  5. I am in the process of an EC261 claim from easyJet for a flight cancellation. At the time, easyJet stated that the cause was crew hours. They subsequently changed the story and now just say that it was air-traffic control restrictions. I have asked for an explanation as to how the ATC restriction led to the delay, but so far have not received an answer. Are you able to advise which regulations govern the information which the airline has to provide to its customer about the detailed causes of a cancellation? Many thanks in advance!
    Bryn Clarke

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