What are your rights if your flight is delayed this Christmas?

If you are planning on jetting away this Christmas and leaving all the ‘fun’ festivities to others, you will probably have been keeping an eye on the news over the last few days. The threatened strikes by baggage handlers and British Airways’ cabin crew will, no doubt, have been causing unwanted stress and a few sleepless nights for those who are booked in to fly in the next few days. Although it may seem like small comfort in the circumstances, it’s worth knowing that should the worst case scenario happen, you should, at least, be able to claim compensation.  The good news is if talks fail and your holiday flight is delayed, you won’t necessarily be left out of pocket by the experience.

So what are your legal rights if your flight is delayed? Well, if you are subject to a flight delay of 3 hours or more, you may be entitled to claim compensation from the airline under EU regulations. However, there is unfortunately a caveat that we need to draw your attention to: this is not a blanket rule – some restrictions and exclusions may apply.

Who can claim compensation for flight delays?

Compensation rights for passengers subjected to delayed or cancelled flights was established under European regulation EU 261/2004. This regulation was introduced to protect the rights of passengers.  Initially the regulation only applied to   passengers who were either denied boarding or had their flights cancelled: however, in 2012 the regulation was given a broader interpretation. Thereafter the wider application of regulation EU 261 meant that any passenger delayed for 3 hours or longer could be able to claim compensation.  

Are you eligible to claim flight delay compensation?

You will have a valid flight delay compensation claim if you can answer each of the following questions positively:

  • Did your flight depart within the last 6 years?
  • Did your flight take off or land in the EU, or was the flight with an EU airline?
  • Were you delayed for more than 3 hours?
  • Was the delay the airline’s fault and not due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ – [namely, acts of terrorism, industrial action, political or civil unrest, security risks, extreme weather conditions or hidden manufacturing defects.]

The term ‘extraordinary circumstances’ is a grey legal area; and some airlines have tried to take advantage of the ambiguous terminology. However, the law is clear. What’s more, technical defects are not classed as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ despite many airlines’ protestations. Although guidelines published on the European Commission website may appear to back up the airlines’ claims; these are not legally binding.

What are not extraordinary circumstances?

  • Airline staff late for duty or flights understaffed.
  • Bad weather that affected a previous flight meaning the next aircraft was delayed.
  • Denied boarding due to the flight being overbooked.
  • Technical problems with the aircraft (except hidden manufacturing defects or problems caused by sabotage).
  • Any other situation outside of the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ listed above.

How much compensation can you claim?

The amount of compensation you can claim is set out in the Regulations. It should be noted that the compensation amounts do not relate to the cost of the ticket, but are based on the distance of travel and the length of the delay. This interpretation means that passengers are not reimbursed for costs paid, but compensated for inconvenience.  

Flight Delay Compensation Amounts

Flight Distance Length of Delay Compensation Amount
Up to 1,500km 3 hours or more £180
1,500 km – 3,500 km 3 hours or more £280
Over 3,500 km Between 2 EU member states/ 3 hours or more £280
Over 3,500 km 3 to 4 hours £210
Over 3,500 km More than 4 hours £420

If passengers have been delayed by more than 2 hours, then airlines must also comply with other EU 261 obligations whilst passengers are at the airport. They are obliged to give each passenger the following:

  • Free meals and refreshments
  • Two phone calls or emails
  • Free hotel accommodation and transport to the hotel if the delay is overnight

If the airline refuses any of the above then you should purchase what you need and keep all your receipts as you will be able to claim it back later. All expenses should be reasonable so you are unlikely to be reimbursed for alcoholic beverages for example.

How far back can you claim compensation?

You can claim for any flight up to 6 years ago. Some airlines will say it’s only 2 years but this is not correct.

We sincerely hope that your Christmas flight is not too badly affected by the proposed industrial action over the holiday period, but if you do experience any delays, then contact Harold Stock & Co Solicitors. We can give you advice on the matter and confirm whether you may be eligible for compensation. For more information, contact Harold Stock & Co solicitors on 01457 835597 or email info@haroldstock.com.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>