With the summer now in full swing, millions of us Brits are expected to head off on holiday and enjoy a week of sun, sand and relaxation. Combined, we took more than 72 million overseas trips last year, spending an eye-watering £44.8 billion in the process. But before we can enjoy a well-deserved break, we have to first catch a flight from one of the UK’s many airports.
If you booked a holiday or a flight that departed from an airport in the UK or in Europe, or a flight that arrived into an EU airport on a European airline, then you might be able to claim compensation if that flight is cancelled or delayed.
What am I entitled to if my flight is delayed?
If your flight is delayed for two or more hours, your airline must give you food and drink, access to telephone calls and emails, and accommodation if you’re delayed overnight.
For flights delayed more than three hours, you’ll also be entitled to compensation if the flight is delayed at the fault of the airline. Such cases include technical faults with the aeroplane, or if the airline did not get enough bookings and decided to cancel or delay the flight as a result. You won’t, however, get compensation on flights delayed for reasons such as bad weather or strikes.
The amount you’ll be able to claim is dependent on the distance of the flight (you can get a rough estimate of your flight distance on the World Atlas website). For flights less than 1,500km, you’ll be entitled to €250, and for flights between European countries for more than 1,500km, you’ll get €400. If your flight is between EU countries and the rest of the world between 1,500km and 3,500km, you’ll also be entitled €400 compensation, and for everything else, you’ll receive €600.
If you don’t receive help while you’re at the airport for things such as food and accommodation, make sure that you keep proof of purchase for expenses, which you can use to claim from the airline later. Keep in mind that most airlines only pay out for ‘reasonable expenses’, so you won’t get any money back for things such as alcohol, luxury accommodation or expensive food.
Being sensible is the only way to guarantee a refund on your airline expenses, so don’t go over the top in the airport lounge if you’re not prepared to pay for your meals and drinks yourself.
What if my flight is delayed for more than five hours?
If your flight is delayed for five hours or more, then you don’t have to take the flight. If you don’t, the airline must legally provide you with a full refund for the cost of the flight, as well as a full re-fund for any other flights from the airline that you’d be using in the same booking (for example, a return flight or an onward flight to another airport).
And just like for flights delayed for two or more hours, they must also provide you with vouchers for food, drink, accommodation and access to phone calls and emails.
What if my flight is cancelled?
If your flight is cancelled, then you’re legally entitled to a full refund, including other flights from the airline, such as return or onward flights to other destinations. Alternatively, the airline must take responsibility for helping you find a replacement flight to get you to your destination. Again, it’s important that you communicate with members of staff at the airline as soon as possible – if you decide not to fly with them, they can give you information on processing a refund.
If you choose to stay at the airport and wait for a replacement flight, it will be the airline’s respon-sibility to provide you with food, drink and accommodation, as well as compensation subject to when you were told of the cancellation.
What if my flight is outside of Europe?
If you’re travelling outside of Europe, you should find that most airlines are part of the Internation-al Air Transport Association, meaning that they have a contractual obligation to offer you a later flight, alternative transportation or a refund if your flight is delayed or cancelled. Make sure that you read the terms and conditions of the airline you are flying with before you book, and have travel insurance in place so that you’re covered should your flight be cancelled.
If you depart from an EU airport to a destination outside of Europe, then the usual EU Compensa-tion policy will still apply. The policy will also apply if you depart from a European airport and have a stopover or transfer in a non-EU airport. So, if your flight is delayed, and that delay causes you to miss your connecting flight somewhere else in the world, you’ll be entitled to compensation if you arrive more than 3 hours later than when you were scheduled to.
For example, you book a flight from Heathrow to Sydney with a connection in Dubai, and your Heathrow to Dubai flight is delayed. The delay causes you to miss your flight from Dubai to Syd-ney. Provided that you arrive in Sydney more than three hours later than your original scheduled arrival time, you would be entitled to €600 in compensation.
An experienced solicitor can assess your flight delay and advise you as to whether you are entitled to compensation. They'll work with you closely to complete the necessary paperwork, and pursue the airline on your behalf to arrange your compensation.