It’s high summer, millions of us are off on holiday — and some will inevitably suffer delays or cancellations. If you’re one of them, you may be entitled to assistance and compensation under European law. Here’s my step-by-step guide to getting what you’re due.
What flights are covered?
Any flight on an airline departing from a European airport; and any flight into a European airport on a European airline.
When should I get help at the airport?
You’re entitled to “assistance” if your departure is delayed for any reason by more than two hours for flights of 1,500km or less; more than three hours on longer European legs or flights between 1,500 and 3,500km outside Europe; more than four hours on all other flights; and if your flight is cancelled or you are denied boarding against your will. Assistance is defined as meals and refreshments, a hotel and transfer for overnight delays and two phone calls/emails. If your airline fails to stump up, you can incur reasonable expenses and claim back later, so keep all your receipts. If your departure is delayed for five or more hours, you can choose not to fly and demand a full refund.
When am I due compensation?
For delays, you are due compensation if your flight arrives more than three hours later than scheduled at the destination gate and the doors to the aeroplane haven’t yet been opened. For cancellations, it’s due except under the following circumstances: if you are informed by the airline more than two weeks before your flight; if you are informed later than this but offered an alternative that gets you there close to your original time of arrival; or if it is caused by “extraordinary circumstances” that the airline can’t control, such as strikes or bad weather. Technical problems are a grey area, but compensation should be payable for anything that could reasonably be foreseen — such as problems with old, less reliable planes.
What compensation am I entitled to?
If you meet the conditions above you should receive compensation of €250 (£175) for flights of 1,500km or less, €400 for longer European flights and other flights between 1,500 and 3,500km, and €600 for all other flights, payable by bank transfer, cheque or, with your agreement, in travel vouchers. If you are re-routed or offered alternative flights that get you to your destination within a reasonable time, your compensation is halved.
How do I claim?
Contact the airline first. Many have compensation forms on their websites and you will need to fill in your flight details, length of any delay and the reason for the problem (note down the reason given by the airline at the time). No-win no-fee companies such as EUclaim and Bott & Co can make the process simpler, but will take a chunk of your compensation if you win.
Unhappy with the airline’s response?
Despite the rules, some airlines refuse to pay. Check the CAA website (caa. co.uk/passengerrights) and, if you are still unhappy, contact the CAA consumer helpline
on 020 7453 6888 (Mon-Thu, 9.30am-to-2.30pm) or passengercomplaints@ caa.co.uk. Note that the CAA cannot force airlines to pay. If all else fails, there’s the small claims court — though you have to pay court fees and the process may be lengthy.