What if my flight is cancelled?
Flight cancellations can be very frustrating for passengers, especially when informed of the cancellation at short notice. But what rights do passengers have? Airlines have a duty to inform the passengers as quickly as possible in the event of a flight cancellation. The airline must also endeavour to find a suitable replacement flight as soon as possible for those passengers affected by the cancellation.
What is the difference between compensation and benefits?
If your flight is cancelled, there are two different types of claims a passenger can make:
- Benefits: Meals, phone calls, accommodation – offered free of charge irrespective of why your flight has been cancelled.
- Compensation: If the airline is legally responsible for the cancellation, they are legally obligated to makes fees payable to the passenger
Passenger rights in the form of benefits
When a flight is delayed, either by technical defects, weather-related problems or strikes; passengers are entitled to certain assistances free of charge. Airlines are obliged in these cases to provide benefits in the form of free beverages and meals, and access to means of communication. The airline may withdraw these benefits only if offering them would lead to further delay.
Am I entitled to compensation?
An airline must claim full responsibility if they fail to inform you in the event of a flight cancellation at least 14 days before the departure date. In addition to any benefits, you could be entitled to receive payment anywhere in between £210 and £500 depending on the route of the flight, but only when the arrival time is delayed by at least three hours. This compensation is paid regardless of the ticket price unless passengers have travelled free of charge (e.g. small children).
Flight disruptions beyond the control of the airline
Weather-related flight cancellations are considered to be out of the airlines control and do not entitle affected passengers to compensation. Many people still recall the spectacular eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, which led to the cancellation of numerous flights in Europe. In this situation, although the flights were cancelled with short notice given to air travelers, it does not constitute a right to compensation. The airlines are not required to compensate for the inconvenience as it was not possible to prevent the incident nor put passengers at risk by flying through the ash cloud.
The topic of weather in relation to flight cancellation compensation is an issue of great debate. It is very difficult, for example, to determine whether the airline can be blamed because the aircraft was not de-iced fast enough.
Exceptional circumstances on the ground, such as airport staff being on strike, also deem the airline not liable and passengers unable to receive compensation.
What compensation can I get?
Your compensation claim depends both on the length of the delay and the distance of the flight. The following list explains what rights you have to compensation:
- If your destination is less than 1,500 kilometres away, after two hours of waiting time you are entitled to benefits, such as free meals and phone calls.
- If your destination is up to 3,500 kilometres away, you are entitled to all of the above if the waiting time exceeds three hours.
- If a flight is delayed by more than five hours, you can request to withdraw from the flight and is entitled to a full fare refund.
- If your flight or connecting flight is not scheduled until the following day, the airline must pay for your hotel accommodation and provide you with a free phone call.
What are the duties of passengers if the flight was canceled?
Even if passengers know before traveling to the airport, that their departure is delayed, they should arrive on time at the airport and at the check-in desk. If you do not arrive on time at the departure gate, your entitlement to a replacement flight or compensation claim is no longer valid.
The right to compensation in the event of a flight cancellation can be quickly checked by using our compensation calculator.