There is nothing worse than the start to a holiday or a flight back home being ruined by severe delays to flights. There is compensation available to travellers, but in order to claim you need to know your rights, be aware of your obligations and be prepared to fight your case in writing.
The first critical thing to be aware of is the length of time you can be delayed without compensation being due, which is 2 hours. If your flight is delayed between 2 and 3 hours, the airline has to give you food and drink, or accommodation if you are delayed at night. Over 3 hours delay and compensation kicks in. If you are delayed over 5 hours, you could be entitled to a refund of your ticket price and compensation too. Keep all receipts for food, drink and accommodation if you think you are entitled to compensation.
For delays of less than 5 hours, compensation is only payable if the delay is the airline’s fault. Bad weather, natural disasters like erupting volcanoes or ash clouds, or problems with the safety of the plane are not the airline’s fault and no compensation will be due. If however your flight is delayed because the pilot didn’t turn up or the airline cancels a flight because it is almost empty, compensation will be due.
All of these rules about compensation only apply to airlines taking off from airports in the EU, or flights on EU airlines back into an EU airport. So your flight back home from New York on British Airways, Air France or Lufthansa would be covered, but with United Airlines or Delta would not be. Foreign airlines have their own policies about compensation and delay, so carefully check contracts and terms and conditions before travelling.
4) Package Holidays
If you have booked a flight as part of a package holiday, the same rules apply regarding delay to flights in and out of the UK. In addition, package tour customers have the right to a complete refund if the delay makes a significant difference to their holiday. In legal terms, this means 12 hours delay when travelling away for 2 weeks’ holiday. There may be additional benefits available through travel insurance, so this should be checked out first.
5) Get It In Writing
If you have been delayed to the level of compensation, it is important to get as much detail as you can about the delay in writing. Normally airlines will happily provide you with claim forms, but if this is not the case get the signature of a duty manager on your hotel reservation or food receipt as proof the airline has acknowledged the delay and that compensation or reimbursement is due. Once you are home, put everything regarding your flight delay compensation claim in writing or email rather than talking to the company on the phone, and keep copies of all receipts and other documents until the claim is settled to your satisfaction. If the company are deliberately obstructive, then try to find a solicitor to discuss further legal options.