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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…

Written by
Helen Phipps
Insurance comparison expert
27 JANUARY 2021
4 min read
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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 and the payment will be in pounds rather than euros..

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).

Customers with pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, your travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. Whatever happens, don’t lie to an insurance provider, because this could mean your claim is rejected. When you declare any medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show you quotes from insurance providers who will cover them, with no exclusions.

If your condition is more serious, MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone. You can call them on 0800 138 7777.

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. It’s the arrival time not the departure time that determines whether you’re eligible for compensation or not. 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, according to the arrival time. 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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