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Flight delay? How to claim compensation!


What are the rules on delays?

If you are departing from an EU airport on any airline, or arriving at an EU airport on an EU carrier (this includes Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) you are entitled to care and compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004 for a delayed arrival time of more than three hours - though, if the flight was delayed then it needs to be over three hours to get compensation.

If the flight was cancelled and you take a replacement flight then that flight only needs to be over two hours later than the arrival time or the original flight in order to get compensation.

The airline must provide food and drink appropriate to the time of day (this is often in the form of a voucher) and a means of communicating your delay or a refund of the cost of essential calls.

For overnight delays, the airline must provide hotel accommodation and transport to reach it - or to return home. When there’s a major disruption, airline staff may not be able to assist in booking hotels. In such cases, you can make your own arrangements and claim the cost back. But don’t expect a full refund for an expensive hotel unless there’s no alternative. Supporting receipts are essential.

What compensation am I entitled to?

For delays of three hours or more you are entitled to a cash payment of €250 (£230) for short flights and €400 (£365) for a flight distance of 1,500-3,500km. For flights of over 3,500km you will receive €300 (£275) for a delay of 3-4 hours; €600 (£550) for more than four hours.

Are there exceptions?

Yes. The compensation is not payable in the case of an “extraordinary circumstance”. For example, when the delay is due to war or civil unrest, security issues, natural disasters, extreme weather conditions (including an airport’s failure to de-ice the aircraft on time), air traffic control restrictions, strikes by airport staff, a medical emergency on board, and some crew issues.

So what is covered?

Most things that are within the airline’s control including “unexpected flight safety shortcomings”. In June 2014 the Court of Appeal finally ruled on Jet2 vs Huzar and said compensation should be paid for delays caused by ordinary technical problems such as component failure and general wear and tear.

This ruling only applies in England and Wales but the rest of the UK is expected to abide by it. In September 2015, the European Court looked at the same issue and came to a similar ruling.

I know my flight had a technical fault because the pilot said so. So why has my claim been refused due to a ‘hidden manufacturing defect’?

This is the new defence airlines are using to avoid paying out, but it is not washing with the courts. Judgements have made it quite clear that a hidden manufacturing defect is comparable to a product recall; it has to be initiated by the manufacturer.

Can I claim if I travelled on a codeshare flight?

It is the nationality of the airline operating the flight that applies. For example, if you are delayed on a flight from New York to London booked through British Airways but the operating carrier is American Airlines, you are not covered by the Regulation even if your e-ticket shows a BA flight number.

Can I claim if a shorter delay means I miss a connecting flight?

Yes, if all the flights are made under the same booking reference and the connection is made at an EU airport. For example, if you are due to fly from London via Madrid to Buenos Aires and you miss your connection in Madrid because the flight from London arrives an hour late, you can claim for long-haul compensation as long as the delay in arriving at your final destination, in this case Buenos Aires, is more than three hours.

Can I claim for a delayed flight outside the EU on a non-EU airline if my journey began in the UK?

It depends. If, for example, you were flying London-Dubai-Singapore and your London-Dubai flight arrived more than three hours late you can make a claim. However, if the delay was on the Dubai-Singapore sector you probably would not be eligible for compensation.

There is also no compensation for delays on any sector of your return flight to the UK.

The airline has offered me vouchers as compensation, what should I do?

It is your choice whether to accept them or not. The Regulation says that the airline should pay compensation in cash.

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What if my flight is cancelled?

When a flight with an EU airline or from an EU airport is cancelled at the last minute, the airline must pay for a hotel if an overnight stay is required and subsistence for all those stranded until a replacement flight is provided. Similar rules and amounts for compensation apply as for delays and there are particular conditions and variations depending on how far in advance the flight was cancelled.

What about other arrangements I have paid for?

If you have booked a hire car, a hotel, a villa or other accommodation independently of your flight, and you are delayed or unable to travel, the airline is not liable for any losses you may incur. You are still responsible for paying the bill.

What happens if my airline goes out of business?

If you have booked a seat-only ticket on a charter flight, or are on a package holiday, the CAA under the Atol protection scheme will arrange a refund or, if you are abroad, will take responsibility for repatriating you.

In such cases they can claim the fare back from the card company. Stranded passengers may still lose out, however, because they will have to buy a new ticket home, which will probably cost more than the original.

What can I do to protect my scheduled-flight tickets?

Apart from paying with a credit card, you could take out insurance. A few travel insurance policies will offer cover for the failure of a scheduled airline, including some of the policies offered by Direct Travel Insurance (direct-travel.co.uk) and Protectmyholiday.com. However, you should make sure you are buying a level of cover that includes this, and that the rest of the policy is suitable for your needs.

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