Delayed or cancelled flights - your rights
Delayed or cancelled flights - your rights
If your flight is delayed or cancelled, it can pay to know your rights. Read our guide on what you’re entitled to and how to make a claim…
What happens when my flight is delayed or cancelled?
If your flight's delayed or cancelled, speak to the airline first about compensation. Under EU law** you’re entitled to compensation for any flight departing from an EU airport, regardless of airline, or any EU airline arriving into an EU airport. The ‘EU’ in this context includes the 28 member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
If this doesn’t apply to you, you’ll have to try to get compensation through the airline or its host country’s compensation scheme (if there is one), or through your travel insurance provider. If you’re having trouble getting compensation, you can contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
**After the UK left the EU with a deal, on 31st January 2020, a transition period, that will last until 31st December 2020, began. During this time, the current rules on travel remain unchanged. Depending on the negotiations between the UK and EU, during the transition phase, new rules may take effect from 1st January 2021.
On 7 September 2020, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) updated the list of countries that are exempt from its ongoing advice against all non-essential international travel.
If you choose to travel overseas to a destination where the FCDO is advising against non-essential travel at the time of your departure, then your insurance policy will be invalid, and any claim likely to be rejected.
For domestic travel, please check the local public health rules for the destination you wish to travel to within the United Kingdom.
For more information, please see our coronavirus and travel insurance page.
How long do you have to be delayed on a flight to get compensation?
Under EU law, what you’re entitled to will depend on how long you’ve been delayed for. To receive compensation, the delay must be caused by something deemed to be within the airline’s control, such as staffing problems. Bad weather or a strike by airport staff would be deemed as outside the airline’s control (provided it’s not the airline’s staff who are striking).
If you’ve been delayed for over two hours, then the airline has to provide you with vouchers for food and drink. They’ll also need to ensure you have the ability to make phone calls or send emails.
If you’re delayed for over three hours, you’re entitled to financial compensation, which will be paid in euros. What you’ll get will depend on the distance of the flight, the length of the delay and if you’re flying to an EU country. You could be entitled to up to €600 (approx. £520) per passenger, except if the passenger travelled for free.
If your flight is delayed for over five hours, the airline must give you a refund if you decide not to take the flight. This includes onward flights and return flights, if they're part of the same journey.
If you’re delayed overnight, you’re entitled to accommodation, even if you decide not to take the flight. Airlines will reimburse you for ‘reasonable’ expenses, such as getting a taxi to the hotel.
Do I get a refund and/or compensation if my flight is cancelled?
It can be disheartening to see ‘cancelled’ next to your flight number at the start of your holiday. If that happens, your rights are similar to those in the event your flight is delayed.
You can either claim a full refund or accept an alternative flight. If you choose to wait for another flight, you’ll have the same entitlements to food, drink and accomodation as outlined above.
You have the right to claim compensation from the airline if a replacement flight delays your journey by two or more hours. The amount of compensation will depend on the distance of the flight and when it was cancelled.
Travel smart and buy travel insurance
Getting to your destination should hopefully be plain sailing. However, if things go wrong travel insurance can give you financial protection.
If you book a package holiday, you should be protected under the ATOL scheme if your holiday provider goes bust. But if you’re travelling independently, you’ll need to buy insurance that providers cover against ‘end supplier failure’. This will pay out if, for example, your hotel goes out of business.
Having travel cover also means you have financial protection against the cost of medical care, theft, and other risks.
It’s a good idea to take out travel insurance when you book your holiday. This should cover the cost of your holiday should you need to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances, such as bereavement.
Travel policies vary so make sure you check your cover to find out what it includes. We make it easy to compare travel insurance from some of the market’s leading providers.