EU to update Air Passenger Rights

Added 14/03/2013

travel insurance and flight delays

Recent changes to European Union (EU) legislation means good news for some air travellers — particularly those who have struggled to get compensation when their flights have been delayed for a long period of time or have found their flights cancelled.

The new rules are set to become law in 2014 and the European Commission is convinced they will provide more clarity and certainty for both passengers and airlines, clearing up grey areas of responsibility.

Lessons from Iceland

In 2010 the ash cloud crisis in Iceland caused chaos and confusion — flights from Europe were cancelled for several days and the extent to which carriers should take responsibility for the welfare of those undertaking a journey was unclear. Naturally, commuters who had been held up incurred additional costs and initially some flight providers were disinclined to cover these — it took warnings from the European authorities to bring them into line.

What is changing?

Subject to approval by EU member states and the European Parliament, the following changes will come into effect in 2014 and are in favour of air passengers:

  • Airlines will be obliged to use other carriers to reroute travellers if they have been detained for more than 12 hours;
  • Circumstances in which financial reimbursement will be payable will be clarified — mechanical failures will not count, but air traffic control strikes and natural disasters will;
  • For international flights and journeys up to 3,728 miles (6,000km), financial recompense will be due after a holdup of nine hours and for longer journeys after 12 hours;
  • It will be a requirement that flight suppliers inform travellers about delays and that they provide an explanation no later than half an hour after the scheduled departure time.

Only one proposed change appears to benefit carriers:

  • Compensation will be payable after a minimum five-hour holdup (currently this stands at three hours) on any flight within the EU or on any international flight that is shorter than 2,174 miles (3,500kms).

Travel insurance cover for flight delays

In addition to your rights under EU law, most travel insurance policies can also help in the event that you experience a long flight delay. Travel delay cover usually takes the form of a fixed benefit to help you cover the cost of additional expenses, such as food and drink, whilst you wait at the airport.

Gold and Platinum travel insurance from provides cover for travel delay up to £100 (£20 per 12 hours). You also get the option to abandon your holiday after a delay of 12 hours or more and make a claim to recoup the cost, up to £2000 per person on Gold travel insurance cover and £5000 per person on Platinum travel insurance policies.

As always, you should remember to declare all of your pre-existing medical conditions when you buy travel insurance.

Read our guide for more information about your current rights if your flight is delayed and how travel insurance can help.
Flight delays: Your rights and how travel insurance can help

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