Delayed flight – can I get my money back?

By January 5, 2019Money Tips

It’s no secret that flights can feel very expensive. So it can be quite distressing when your flight is cancelled or delayed, and you worry that you might need to fork out for a replacement.

For UK travellers, when this occurs outside of the EU you are typically in the hands of your respective airline regarding whether or not you will get your money back. However, there are options open to you which we will come to shortly.

If it happens within the EU’s jurisdiction, however, then you could get up to £530 of your money back under Rule 261/2004. Certain conditions must be met in order to claim this compensation, and you are not guaranteed to win it. Yet there is a good chance you can produce this outcome.

Stuck right now at an EU airport…?

If you are at the airport this very moment and your flight has just been cancelled or delayed, then here is some important information you should know. The following applies if you are leaving an airport in the EU, or if you are on an airline from the EU heading to an airport there.

  • You have the right to regular, up-to-date information about what is going on. Speak to the check-in desk and also check any news from the airline on its website or social media.
  • If you are delayed overnight, then you have the right to ask the airline to provide you with accommodation for the evening – and well as transport to and from it.
  • If you are delayed for more than two hours, the airline needs to provide you with food and drink (or vouchers to cover the costs).
  • Your airline must reimburse you for calls you make during the delay period.
  • If your flight gets cancelled then you have the right to a refund or a new flight. You might also be entitled to compensation.

Remember to keep hold of any evidence, in order to back up any possible compensation claim you might make later.

Also, bear in mind that the above only applies for EU regulated flights. For instance, if your flight is from London to New York then your flight comes under the regulations. If you then come back, your airline is under the rules if it is Virgin, for example – but not if it is American Airlines.


Qualifying conditions

If you had an EU flight which was delayed or cancelled in the past thirteen years, then you can technically claim for it now. However, in practice, you are unlikely to make this work unless it happened less than six years ago due to the UK’s statute of limitations.

Bear in mind that if you experienced a delay or cancellation and it was not the airline’s fault, then you are unlikely to make your claim fly (excuse the pun). Reasons such as bad weather, industrial strikes or a political coup are unlikely to get the results you want.

However, an airline’s bad planning or under-staffing levels do come under the EU rules.

The flight must also be at least three hours late when it arrives in order to claim, not when it leaves. So, if you take off four hours later than planned, but arrive two hours and fifty minutes late then you cannot claim compensation.

If the airline turns your claim down after you bring it to them, you still have options open to you if you have a legitimate claim. You could try the CAA, the UK’s airline regulator. Or, the airline should provide you with the details of an ADR scheme (alternative dispute resolution).

Be mindful that some airlines will levy a small charge if you escalate your claim in this way.

If the regulator comes down on your side but the airline still says no to paying out, then you can take the matter to a small claims court. However, you will have to decide whether it’s worth it.


For non-EU flights

If your flight wasn’t regulated under EU rules, then, unfortunately, you will not be able to claim in the manner outlined above.

However, you should know that most airlines across the world ground their business terms and conditions on the guidance provided by the International Air Transport Association.

This typically means that most airlines will contain clauses within their contracts which provide their passengers with a different means of transport in the event of delay or cancellation. Either that, or there are usually provisions for a replacement flight or money back.

You might be able to claim compensation in certain cases. Have a look at the country in question where the airline is regulated, and check to see if they have similar compensation rules to the EU scheme.

If the airline has lost your luggage, then check to see if their country is signed up to the Montreal Convention. If so, you might be able to put in a successful reclamation of the loss. Always keep evidence to back up your case, such as receipts.

If this does not work, you can always try complaining directly to the airline. This isn’t always successful, but in today’s social media age many airlines are keen to uphold a positive brand image and customer experience.

Finally, you might want to take a look at the travel insurance you took out when you flew. Some will cover various costs for delays, although not all will do this.