Consumer Right with Flight Delays and Cancellations

Chester Taxi Services was recently caught up in the recent debacle with Monarch and Ryanair flight cancellations with some of our airport transfer customers. All of our customers left the airport feeling confused and unsure as to their consumer rights, so we decided to do some research to find out what consumer rights exists for flight delays and cancellations.

Consumer Rights Flight Delays and Cancellations - Online Ownership

Consumer Right Regarding Flight Delays and Cancellations

If you have booked a flight in one of the EU complaint European Airline companies out there, and it was delayed or cancelled. You might have consumer rights protection under EU law regarding flight compensations. However, this is only applicable if the country you departed from is under the EU jurisdiction.

Ensure you know your compensation rights if your flight gets delayed or cancelled to get you off that sticky situation.

Flight Delays Rules

Over Two Hours

If you booked a flight departing from EU zones and it gets delayed or cancelled, you are entitled to compensation depending on the time it will cost you. For instance, if your flight gets delayed for over two hours, your airline should give you:

Complimentary Meal and Refreshments

Free access to email, faxes and phone calls if it was an important business meeting.

If you are delayed overnight, they should offer you accommodation and carter for the journey between the airport and the hotel you are staying

The airline issues out these compensations through vouchers, you can ask airline staff for more information on them.

3 or More Hours

If the airline delays for more than three hours, you’re entitled to compensation if it’s the airline’s fault, i.e., not enough bookings or a technical failure with their systems. Note that you will not get compensated if bad weather or a workers strike is the reason.

Compensation for an over three-hour delay depends on various factors:

  • The flight distance
  • The actual delay length
  • Your destination – if it’s to an EU or non-EU destination

The table below indicates compensation rates for flights delayed over three hours.

DELAY TIME Flight distance Compensation
3 Hours Or More Less than 1,500km €250
1,500km to 3,500km €400
More than 1,500km but within the EU €400
3-4 Hours More than 3,500km (EU and non-EU airport) €300
More Than 4 More than 3,500km (EU and non-EU airport) €600

5 Hours or More

If it gets delayed for five hours or more, you have the right to refuse to take that flight regardless whose responsibility it is or the cause. If you decide to travel another day, the airline company must give you the following:

A full refund of the flight ticket bought. This also includes if you paid for an onward or return flight.

If you get delayed half-way through your journey, a flight back to the airport you departed from will be provided by the airline company

Complimentary Food and Drinks

Access to faxes, emails and phone calls

If you are delayed overnight, they should offer you accommodation and carter for the journey between the airport and the hotel you are staying

If you decide to stop taking the flight, you can inform airline relevant authority.

Cancelled Flights: Your Rights

If you have a flight cancelled and it was based in the EU, or it’s a non-EU airline flying from an EU airport, the Denied Boarding Regulation protects your consumer rights to claim compensation.

According to the regulation stipulated, the airline has to offer you any assistance you ask if your flight is cancelled or delayed beyond a certain point. Your compensation is, however, depending on factors as indicated above and outlined in the tables.

When your flight is cancelled, the airline legally has to give you a full refund, including other flights in the same booking or a replacement flight to your destination. You can ask for the refund and replacement at the moment, or you can do a later follow up.

Claim from the Airline

The first step you should take is contacting the airline customer service.

You can also put your claim into writing and say what went wrong and what you’re entitled to. The Civil Aviation Authority website has some good information on writing a good claim, and also they have a template letter you can just fill in your details.

Delayed due to Long Security Queues

The airline is unlikely to compensate you if you missed your flights due to longer queues. The time it takes to complete a security checkup is outside the airline’s control. However, special occasions do arise, if you miss your flight or is delayed by knock-off security delays, then you qualify for compensation from your airline.

Point of Note: Extraordinary Circumstances

It is prudent to note that compensations to your delayed flight’s claim are solely dependent on the delay reason. Nevertheless, when the airline proves the delay is as a result of ‘unusual circumstances’, then no reimbursement is applicable.

These extraordinary circumstances include strikes, security risks, bad weather, and political instability and any other circumstance that makes flying dangerous, are scenarios past the airline control, and thus, compensation is inapplicable. Albeit, in these circumstances, you are not entitled to financial compensation, you are, however, entitled to meals and refreshments, communication assistance, accommodation and hotel transfers (as explained above).

Challenge Extraordinary circumstances

You can also challenge the airline claims of extraordinary circumstances if you feel differently. For instance, say your flight gets delayed due to bad weather, while other flights are taking off, you can challenge them to explain what constitutes an extraordinary circumstance. Sometimes, airlines stretch the definition of extraordinary circumstances more than they should. Therefore, you are allowed to counter the airline and demand substantial proof to the matter.

A ‘technical problem’ is not an extraordinary circumstance

Moreover, it should be noted that a technical hitch cannot be classified as an extraordinary circumstance. Airport authorities need to ensure their systems are up and running efficiently. Thus, if a customer finds it hard to use the online airline services, and this leads to delays or cancellations, he/she is entitled to compensations.

Courtesy of the European Court of Justice ‘a technical problem’ was ruled out as an ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that most airlines use as a valid defence against offering flight compensations to their customers.

Airlines will no longer hide behind their miscalculations and maintenance errors.

Remember to keep a record of your claim expenses and any response you receive from the airline. This is useful if you decide to take your claim further.

Taking your Claim Further

If the Airline proves difficult to work with, you can report your issue further up to a higher authority, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). In the CAA, PACT (the CAA’s Passenger Advice and Complaints Team) will consider your claim only if the airline involved is not a member of the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body.

The following table list who to contact if the airline company doesn’t give in to your claim.

Flight Origin Flight destination Airline Who to contact
UK Anywhere Any airline The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website
Somewhere In The EU, Iceland, Norway Or Switzerland (Not The UK) Anywhere Any airline Email your complaint to
Outside The EU UK Airline must be based in the EU The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website
Outside The EU Somewhere In The EU, Iceland, Norway Or Switzerland (Not The UK) Airline must be based in the EU Email your complaint to

Further Help

If you still need more help, you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 and talk to a consultant over the phone or use an online form. Contact Consumer line, if you’re in Northern Ireland.

Appealing a Decision

Finally, if you have unresolved complaints about the airline, it is recommended that you get familiar with an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme you can use to your benefit. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has a list of approved ADR schemes providers inclusive of the airlines covered under them. The CAA can only compensate you if the airline in question is UK based and the reasons for delaying and cancellation of the flight was within the UK. If it’s outside the UK, you will have to seek the services of the airline regulators in that country the delay or cancellation occurred.

Whether you decide to use the CASA or a CAA approved ADR scheme, a third option exists, placing the matter in the judicial processes. You can take the airline to a small claims court if you feel you are not being compensated appropriately or if they refuse to compensate you altogether. However, it is wise to seek legal advice first before involving the judiciary.


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