Flight delays: what are your rights to compensation?
As we enter the summer holiday season, more and more people will be heading to the UK’s airports to jet off around the world. After the recent computer systems failure for British Airways (BA) over the spring bank holiday weekend, many people will be wondering what their rights are if they face a similar situation.
BA’s worldwide computer failure saw long delays and flight cancellations for up to three days and for those that got away, not all the bags went with them with them left behind in airports due to the technical failure.
There are EU regulations that deal with cancellations for flights leaving EU airports and they govern when and how much compensation should be given. The amount of compensation that will be awarded a passenger depends on the length of a delay and whether the flight was short, medium or long-haul.
Do I need to do anything to get compensation for a late flight?
When your flight has been delayed, the compensation is not automatically given to you. You will need to write a letter to the airline outlining the situation, how long you were delayed for, where you were going, how many of you were travelling etc.
You can download templates online on how to structure your letter or alternatively, you can use a free online Resolver tool which drafts the letter for you and keeps track of your complaint. Be aware that not all airlines except claims via Resolver so check the airlines website first for best advice.
Are there any criteria to fulfil?
Whether your flight is delayed or cancelled, when you are planning on applying for compensation it is worthwhile being aware of the criteria for a successful application.
- Only EU-regulated flights are applicable – The flight should have departed from an EU airport or you were flying on an EU airline that landed at an EU airport. Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland adhere to these regulations despite not being part of the EU.
- You can claim for up to six years – Although you could apply for compensation for a flight from 2004, it is unlikely the airline will deal with or accept your claim if it is for a flight more than six years ago.
- It’s the airline’s fault – If the delay was related to something within the airline’s control, such as a technical fault, staffing problems, under or overbooking, then you can claim. Other disruptive issues, such as bad weather and strikes, are not covered by the regulations.
- You must be delayed for 3 hours or more – This relates to when you land, not when you leave. If your flight leaves 5 hours late but you arrive at your destination only 2 and a half hours late then you cannot claim.
- Flight cancelled, you’re entitled to a refund or a new flight – You have the right to choose as long as the flight left an EU airport or was an EU airline landing at an EU airport, was within the last six year and regardless of what caused the cancellation. If you opt for a new flight, compensation will be dependent on the arrival time of your rescheduled flight or you can claim a refund rather than travelling and risking of the option of being re-routed on your journey.
How much may I get for a successful claim?
For delayed flights, you could be awarded anything from £220 to £520 this is dependent on how far you are travelling and the length of the delay. You may also be able to claim back your costs and get a fare refund if you don’t travel.
For flight cancellations 14 days before departure or less, you could be awarded £110 to £520 dependent on distance travelled and the difference in landing time from your original flight and the alternative.
Compensation is awarded per person so if six of you are travelling and experienced delays, you will receive six times the standard compensation amount for your delayed journey.
What if the airline says no?
If the airline rejects you or puts your case on hold, it doesn’t mean you have to accept that decision. If you feel like you have a legitimate claim, you can take your case to the relevant regulator or the ombudsman.
If your claim is rejected by the ombudsman/regulator, you can take it to court but there is a big cost involved in this and it is worth deciding whether the cost is worth it before pressing ahead with court action.