Flight cancellations & delays, what are you rights?

Added 24/12/2010

Airplane taking off

Flight cancellations & severe flight delays have filled headlines over the past few days, but do you know your rights as an airline passenger?

If you do experience a long flight delay or cancellation, EU regulation 0261/2004 sets out your rights as a passenger. Essentially, you have a contract with your airline for them to get you to a certain destination, at a certain time, if they are unable to do that, they have a duty to look after you.

You may also be able to claim a benefit from your travel insurance, if you are delayed for more than 12 hours, to help with reasonable necessary expenses such as food and drink.

During the recent snow disruption many passengers ended up sleeping in airport terminals or having to make their own travel arrangements and The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has found a number of cases when airlines failed to meet their obligations to passengers.

What are your rights?

Under European regulations, passengers are entitled to various rights, even though the snow and extremely low temperatures were completely beyond the control of the airlines.

Your rights include:

  • A refund within seven days if a flight is cancelled, or
  • Re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or at a later date
  • Meals and refreshments if you choose to wait for the next available flight
  • Hotel accommodation if this means an overnight stay
  • Two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails for those waiting for the next available flight

These rules cover flights within the EU, as well as people flying into the European Union from overseas, as long as they are travelling on a European airline, and passengers on a non-EU carrier leaving from an EU airport.For more information on your rights visit the Air Transport Users Council

How to complain

If you booked your tickets direct with the airline and feel that they have not met their obligations, your first point of call should be the airline, if you are dissatisfied with their response you should then contact the Air Transport Users Council.If your flights were part of a package holiday, you should contact your tour operator.