Air passenger rights: extraordinary circumstances - Flightright UK

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Passenger rights: What are extraordinary circumstances?

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The most important facts about “extraordinary circumstances”

  • Extraordinary circumstances are events that are beyond the control of the airline.
  • The airline is responsible for the flight disruption. (Example: technical problem or sick flight crew)
  • After 2 hours waiting time at the airport, you are already entitled to drinks and snacks from the airline.
  • However, under certain circumstances, passengers are entitled to care services such as meals and hotel accommodation.
  • In addition, the flight in question must not have taken place more than 6 years ago.
  • Courts have ruled that technical problems do not generally constitute extraordinary circumstances.
  • Airlines should provide passengers with clear information in the event of extraordinary circumstances.
  • Under the UK261 Regulation, you may be entitled to compensation of between £220 and £520 if your flight is delayed by 3 hours or more, cancelled, overbooked or you have missed your connecting flight.
  • Air passenger rights are protected by UK regulations and national laws.
  • Legal support from Flightright is recommended in case of difficulties.


Did you have a flight delay or cancellation? Check your rights now and increase your chances of compensation

Many passengers have certainly experienced it before. You’re looking forward to a holiday or a short city break and then, due to bad weather or a storm, you wait hours for the plane to finally take off or the flight is cancelled completely. In aviation, these events are referred to as extraordinary circumstances. But what exactly are exceptional circumstances in aviation and what rights do passengers have if something like this happens? You can find out here in our blog article.

What are UK air passenger rights?

Like many other issues affecting aviation in the UK, extraordinary circumstances are set out in the UK Air Passenger Rights and the associated regulations. The UK Air Passenger Rights Regulation was developed to protect air travellers from the inconvenience caused by long waiting times or flight cancellations that the airline could have avoided. The full name of the regulation is UK261 Legislation establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights”. Among other things, this created a system of compensation as a basic protection for passengers, which should encourage airlines to avoid delays and cancellations where possible. 

Based on the UK Passenger Rights Regulation, your flight must fulfil some conditions to be eligible for compensation. The flight must either take off in the EU or UK (from any airline) or land in the EU or UK (provided that the airline is headquartered in the EU or UK). In addition, the flight in question must not have taken place more than 6 years ago. Whether the flight was part of a package holiday or a business trip is not relevant to the validity of the UK Passenger Rights Regulation.

What exactly is enshrined in the Air Passenger Rights Regulation?

  • Your rights in the event of denied boarding against your will, cancellation and delay of your flight
  • When you are entitled to compensation payments of £220 to £520
  • Which services the airline must provide
  • When you can cancel and rebook your flight in the event of cancellations or long delays
  • How you must be informed about cancellations and your rights (flight law)

What are “extraordinary circumstances” in the event of flight cancellations and delays?

When travelling by plane, many things may not go as planned. The weather or strikes in particular can cost passengers a lot of nerves and even more patience. But what are unavoidable extraordinary circumstances? And are extraordinary circumstances also refundable in the event of a flight delay? If the airline is not responsible for the flight delay, it does not have to pay compensation, following the Passenger Rights Regulation. This applies to so-called “extraordinary circumstances”. These include

One exception: The airline could have avoided the problem. If, for example, the airline did not stock up sufficiently on de-icing fluid during the onset of winter, it may be responsible for the flight delay – especially if the aircraft of other airlines were able to take off as planned. This means that the airlines are not automatically exempt from paying compensation. Passengers may therefore be entitled to compensation if the airlines have not taken all reasonable measures to minimize the consequences of the extraordinary circumstance.

UK261 Regulation: Exceptional circumstances

Exceptional circumstances can require a lot of patience, as they usually involve situations in which passengers have to wait a very long time or are unable to fly at all. But how exactly are extraordinary circumstances described in the UK Air Passenger Rights Regulation, which ensures that passengers can be compensated with up to 520 pounds in the event of denied boarding, cancellation or a long delay to flights? “The concept of extraordinary circumstances is not defined more precisely in UK261 Regulation. However, if the wording is followed, the circumstances are extraordinary and can lead to a cancellation of the obligation to pay compensation. They are therefore outside the normal course of passenger transport. This refers to external events that may impair or make it impossible to carry out the flight as planned, such as a technical defect or severe weather.

How do I assert my passenger rights?

Are you also affected by flight delays or cancellations and don’t know how to assert your air passenger rights? We have put together a short checklist to help you find the easiest way to assert your rights:

Under the UK Passenger Rights Regulation, you may be entitled to compensation of between £220 and £520 if your flight is delayed for 3 hours or more, cancelled or overbooked, or you have missed your connecting flight

After 2 hours of waiting time at the airport, you are already entitled to drinks and snacks from the airline.

Prerequisites

  • You have checked in on time. (Normally up to 45 minutes before departure)
  • Your problem flight was no longer than 6 years ago
  • The airline is responsible for the flight disruption. (Example: technical problem or sick flight crew)
  • Your flight took off in the EU or UK (from any airline) or landed in the EU or UK (provided that the airline is headquartered in the EU or UK).
  • You have a valid ticket and booking confirmation.
  • The type of booking, e.g. individual booking, business trip or package holiday, does not affect your right to compensation.

It is often difficult for passengers to claim compensation on their own. Many airlines block, ignore, put off and misrepresent the facts to avoid having to pay compensation. Passengers quickly find themselves on their own. We help passengers to assert their rights and fight for their compensation. Because we know what tricks and excuses the airlines use and what arguments and evidence are necessary to successfully enforce compensation, we have already been able to recover over 430,000,000 euros for our customers. Simply use our compensation calculator for a free check of your flight. If you are eligible for a compensation payment, you can instruct us to enforce your claims with just one click.

How long can you claim for flight delays?

If your flight departed from or landed in the UK, your claim is valid for 6 years. Even if your flight took place more than 6 years ago, you may still be entitled to a claim. The 6-year period begins from the end of the year in which the incident occurred, e.g. if you had a cancelled flight on 01.01.2017, you can still claim compensation until the end of 2023.

If you had a case of a cancelled or significantly delayed flight during the last 6 years, check your eligibility for compensation before the time runs out! In other European countries such as France or Spain, shorter deadlines apply: here, affected travellers have 5 years to claim compensation or a ticket refund for a flight cancellation following the EU regulation.

What deadlines apply to compensation for flight delays?

The time limit depends on the country in which you wish to assert your claim. While a period of 6 years applies in the UK, it is 3 years in Germany. You can find out more about flight delay compensation deadlines here.

When does an airline not have to pay compensation?

An airline does not have to pay compensation in the case of unavoidable extraordinary circumstances. In this case, the airline is not responsible for the flight delay if the airline took all reasonable measures to minimize the consequences of the extraordinary circumstance.  For example, if the airline has sufficiently stocked up on de-icing fluid during the onset of winter and is therefore well-prepared and the flight is nevertheless cancelled, it may not have to pay any compensation.

This might also interest you:
Flying in thunderstorms – What should I bear in mind? Flight diversion due to night flight ban
What are my rights in the event of a flight delay? When will I receive my PNR number?

How can we help you?

Everything is fine with your hand luggage, but the airline is standing in the way of your holiday happiness. Your flight is overbooked, delayed or cancelled? Has your baggage been delayed or lost?

Tip: Flightright can help you enforce your passenger rights! You can check your claims with us free of charge.

As experts in the field of air passenger rights, we enforce your right to compensation against the airline!

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