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…

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…

Josh Daniels
From the Travel team
4
minute read
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Posted 27 JANUARY 2021

What happens when my flight is delayed or cancelled?

If your flight's delayed or cancelled, speak to the airline first about compensation. After Brexit, and the UK officially left the EU, new rules were brought in to cover the gaps left behind in UK legislation. This means you’ll still have the right to compensation if your flight was between the UK and EU (no matter the airline), or any flight operated by a UK-based airline. Depending on the extent of the disruption you suffered, the amount you could get in compensation can vary.

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).

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

Following the UK’s most recent national restrictions, you can only travel internationally or within the UK if you're legally permitted to do so while the UK is under full lockdown restrictions.

Non-essential travel is not currently permitted within the UK before 12 April 2021 at the earliest and international travel is not currently permitted before 17 May 2021 at the earliest. Any insurance for travel before these dates is likely to be invalid. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. See latest FCDO advice for further information.

Any insurance policy purchased to cover a trip to a destination where the local authority, or the FCDO, has instructed citizens not to travel, will not be valid.

For more information, please coronavirus and travel insurance page.

Until then, stay safe.

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

Our panel includes insurance providers who quote cover for all medical conditions declared on our website, with no exclusions.

On its Money Advice Service website, The Money and Pensions Service (MaPs) has launched a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone, if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at the Money Advice Service or by calling the British Insurance Brokers’ Association on 0370 950 1790.

How long do you have to be delayed on a flight to get compensation?

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. What you’ll get will depend on the distance of the flight, the length of the delay and where you're flying between. 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. 

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