There’s been some good news recently for flyers. Supreme Court rulings last month have improved the likelihood of getting compensation if your flight has been disrupted.
Under EU rules, when a flight is delayed or cancelled, airlines can avoid having to pay compensation if it’s due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’. All too often, they have cited technical problems with aircraft as being an example of extraordinary circumstances.
But thanks to one of the court rulings, it is clear that airlines are obliged to pay compensation for flights that have been disrupted by ordinary technical faults.
On which flights can you claim compensation?
Under a piece of European law called EC Regulation 261/2004, you are entitled to compensation if your flight is delayed by more than three hours on arrival – and it was the airline’s fault.
If the disruption was outside the airline’s control, and instead the result of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ such as bad weather, air traffic control problems or strikes by airport staff, it doesn’t have to pay out.
These rules apply to all flights made from airports in the EU irrespective of the airline, and flights made to EU airports on EU airlines. The rules also cover flights from/to Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, even though these countries aren’t in the EU.
How much compensation is possible?
On a short flight (for example London to Barcelona), the amount payable is €250 (about £200) per person; on a mid-length flight (say, UK to Istanbul), it’s €400pp (around £320); and on a long-haul flight (for example, UK to the United States), it’s between €300 and €600pp (about £240 to £480), depending on the length of the delay.
What you paid for the flight is not relevant to the amount of compensation, and that’s something the airlines say is unfair. As payment, the companies sometimes offer vouchers to go towards the cost of a future flight. Don’t feel obliged to accept: you are entitled to the money.
What about care and assistance?
Nothing has changed here with the recent court rulings. Under the European Union rules, if your flight is late by more than two hours on short flights, three hours on mid-haul flights, and four hours on long flights, then airlines have to provide some food and drink, means of communication (refunding the cost of essential telephone calls) and, when needed, accommodation.
If the airline doesn’t look after you, you can claim back your costs. Crucially, airlines are required to deliver care and assistance whatever the reason for the delay or whoever was at fault.
How to seek compensation or reimbursement:
First, put in a claim against the airline. The CAA (caa.co.uk) has useful information on how to go about doing this effectively, and a template claims letter you can download for a flight disrupted due to a technical fault.
If your claim is rejected and your flight was from the UK, the CAA can argue your case. If your flight was from another EU country, you’ll need to turn for help to the enforcement body for aviation of that country.
If all that sounds like too much hassle, you could sign up with a no-win, no-fee legal firm specialising in such compensation claims. But bear in mind, the firm will take a fee plus a percentage of the payout if the case is won.
How can I make a claim?
There are two main ways:
- Write a letter to your airline and request compensation.
- Fill in a short form at Flight Compensation 4 Me and let them check the possibility of your claim going through.
Writing a letter to your airline can work well; however, not all airlines are receptive so it’s worth checking with Flight Compensation 4 Me first.