You’re so close to your holiday, you can practically feel the sand between your toes and the bounce of your hotel bed already. Then disaster strikes, your plane is delayed or cancelled altogether and you’ve missed the first day of your holiday. It’s hellish.
You’re not alone – Which? reports that 37 million journeys, to or from the UK, were delayed by 15 minutes or more last year, which is an inconvenience at best. Good luck if you’re leaving from Gatwick Airport this summer, the biggest offender in the country. Or using airlines like Thomas Cook, EasyJet and Ryanair, who can struggle to get their short-haul flights into the sky on schedule.
900,000 people are eligible to claim for compensation, but only 38 per cent bother to claim.
Perhaps travellers don’t fully understand their rights or they hold such little faith in the system and don’t bother exercising them – bailiffs threatened to impound a Thomas Cook Boeing 747 in Salzburg, Austria, over unpaid compensation claims last month. You’re actually entitled to your legal rights as early as check-in.
When you’re entitled to compensation, you can lodge a claim for anything that the airline could have foreseen and prevented on the day, but didn’t. Anything from airline strikes when notice was given, to poor flight turn-around times and overbooking.
The European Court of Justice ruled that delays caused by technical problems are no longer ‘extraordinary circumstances’ either – because airlines ought to inform you of air carrier problems 24 hours before you’re due to take off.
This new addition bolsters your chances of a fair settlement, of up to £437 per head if you were delayed up to three hours. Sometimes compensation can exceed the cost of your fare, depending on the length of the delay and how late you reach your final destination.
Delay on the Day
If your short-haul flight is delayed by two hours, your mid-haul by three hours, or your long-haul by four hours – you’re entitled to a minimum of £190 cash compensation when the airline is at fault. Don’t feel pressured to accept vouchers.
But even during exceptional circumstances, such as extreme weather conditions beyond their control, your airline must provide two free phone calls, free meals and refreshments when your flight is delayed by three hours. If you’re kept overnight, because of technical problems for example, you should receive free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers as well.
When your flight is delayed for 5 hours or more, you don’t have to take the flight, regardless of what’s to blame. By law, you can request a full refund on this flight and your return journey with the same airline. And you’re entitled to a flight back to the airport you originally departed from. Fly anyway, and you can still claim up to £470 if there was a technical fault.
Cancelled flight? Your airline must legally provide a full refund, including the fare value, taxes, surcharges and optional extras, as well as a replacement flight to get your destination.
Back to 2010
You have six years to lodge a claim for flight delays to or from the UK, and five years to or from Scotland. So if your case was put on hold, don’t panic, there’s plenty of time to rectify it. You simply need to demonstrate that the airline company didn’t do all that it could to prevent a delay.
The final amount depends on when the flight was cancelled, the distance of the flight, and the departure or arrival times of the rescheduled flight.
Write to the airline Chief Executive, quoting the EC regulation 261/2004 and request your compensation or full refund. You’ll find some cracking templates to help you online – on Which? and Money Saving Expert. While Virgin Atlantic have forms on their website.
If you’re at logger heads with the airline, you can escalate it. The Civil Aviation Authority can take your case after eight weeks of launching your claim. Or else you can contact the small claims court – who will take commission from your reward.
Happy holidays and safe travels!