What to do if your flight is delayed – including free rebooking and compensation

Two young women traveling by plane, waiting for flight and napping in an airport departure area.

Instead of napping while waiting for take off, look up your rights on delays (Picture: Getty)

Many of us are surprised if our flight actually takes off by the time it’s scheduled to, even without any major issues affecting travel.

Standard issues with late passengers or toddler tantrums (yes, really) can delay things. Then there are the bigger issues such as strikes or air traffic problems, as well as rare but ever-present risks of lightning, volcanic eruptions, and torrential flooding.

While customers have a host of strongly-enforced rights to assistance and compensation when it comes to cancellations, their entitlements in the event of delays are less well-known.

In fact, travel experts say passengers are far more likely to fall into this category as the vast majority of disrupted flights will still take off, despite lengthy waits if the operator can staff them.

Here is a breakdown of what you should do if your flight is impacted by the disruption.

What counts as a flight delay?

Under UK law, airlines must provide passengers experiencing ‘significant delays’ with food and drink (usually in voucher form), means of communication and, if their flight is pushed back a day, temporary accommodation and transport to the lodgings.

Passengers waiting for flights after a widespread air traffic control issue (Picture: Getty)

Airlines must compensate passengers unless they can prove the disruption was out of their control (Picture: Reuters)

It’s not just about whether you feel you’re running late. In terms of the right to compensation and practical support, ‘significant delays’ mean waits of more than two hours for short-haul flights, three hours for medium-haul and four hours for long-haul.

Passengers due to travel on UK or EU-regulated flights are also legally entitled to compensation for delays of more than three hours to the arrival time – starting with £210 for short-haul flights – unless caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’ out of the airlines’ hands.

These rules cover any flights leaving from a UK or EU airport and do not change if the airline is based in another country, according to MoneySavingExpert.

That means they still apply if you fly between two EU countries, or fly elsewhere on an EU-regulated flight that has nothing to do with the UK.

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They also usually apply if the delay stops you from boarding a connecting flight from a non-UK, non-EU airport if both legs were part of a single booking, or if that connecting flight was similarly delayed.

If your flight is delayed by more than five hours and you no longer want to catch it, you are entitled to a full refund regardless of the cause, according to Citizens’ Advice.

Be wary of doing this if you still plan to get to your destination by other means: the return flight purchased through your original operator may be included as part of the same refunded booking.

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Source:: Metro


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