Flight Delays: What can I do?

You have got the suitcases out of the attic, purchased the sun cream and navigated the queue at airport security. The summer holidays are about to begin and you’re just about to open that new book purchased in the shop in the airport, and then DISASTER…you look at the information screens and there’s the dreaded ‘DELAYED’ message beside your flight. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately with our airports being busier than ever, airline staff and air traffic controllers on strike and unpredictable weather conditions, more and more people are finding that their flights to and from their holiday destinations are being delayed. So, if you are one of the increasingly unfortunate ones? What can you do and what are your rights?

Initially, if your flight is delayed by at least two hours, your airline is required to provide you with a meal, refreshments and two free telephone calls or emails at the airport. If you are flying within the EU, you may also subsequently be entitled to a fixed sum in compensation between €250 and €400 under European law if your flight is significantly delayed (by more than 3 hours), depending on the flight distance and the delay in your arrival.

The airline is not required to provide compensation however when the flight is delayed due to “extraordinary circumstances” such as extreme weather or civil unrest. Whether strike action counts as an “extraordinary circumstance” is currently in dispute. Ryanair have recently asserted their belief that no compensation is payable due to recent strikes by their employees, whilst the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have indicated when the strike action is by employees of the airline itself, passengers should pursue a claim for compensation.

A compensation claim should be submitted directly to the airline, following the airline’s procedure. If the claim is rejected, the claim can then be escalated to the relevant regulator (depending on the airline), and ultimately to the Small Claims Court. Claims should be submitted as soon as possible, and although European law does not set a time limit for claims, it should be possible to claim for up to 6 years after a delay.

Hopefully your flights will all run on time, however should you require any advice in relation to a potential claim for a delay, please do not hesitate to contact us.