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What to do if your flight is delayed or cancelled this summer

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Many of us are preparing to embark on a summer holiday, but what should you do if you arrive at the airport to find that your flight has been delayed, cancelled or overbooked?

Picture this. You’ve been working hard saving money over the year and have booked your dream holiday with your housemates. You deserve it after finishing your studies and you cannot wait to jet off overseas and lie on a beach for a couple of weeks. However, you arrive at the airport and find that your flight is delayed leaving you sat in the airport for over five hours. When you finally arrive at your destination, you miss your connection and arrive at 2 am, putting a complete dampener on the start of your holiday. 

Flight compensation body, AirHelp, has shared its top tips to help you understand how much money you could be entitled to and how to file for a claim if you find yourself in a flight cancellation chaos this summer.  There is a staggering €7 billion in unclaimed flight compensation. Think of it as a financial silver lining for your travel woes.

When am I entitled to compensation?

Passengers on EU flights that are eligible under EC 261 must be paid up to €600 in compensation for flight delays of more than three hours. Compensation ranges from €250 (approx. £220) and €600 (approx. £530) for a long-haul flight which is more than four hours. For those delayed or cancelled because of a natural disaster or adverse weather then this is considered as an “extraordinary circumstance” and compensation would not be given. Furthermore, if the airline got in touch 14 days prior to you departing to notify you of a cancellation then you would also not be entitled to claim. 

In some instances, you also might be denied boarding and therefore you may be entitled to compensation, as well as a full refund of your confirmed reservation.

1. Under what conditions am I compensated?

If you experience a flight delay of more than three hours or an outright cancellation, your airline is legally obliged to compensate you if the following conditions are met:

  • you were notified of the disruption less than 14 days prior to departure
  • Your flight is departing from Europe or the airline is European
  • The airline is responsible for the delay (you won’t be compensated if the delay is due to a storm, a health alert or a strike)

2. What allowance am I entitled to for a flight delay?

The compensation provided by the airlines is fixed:

  • €250 (approx. £220)
  • €400 (approx. £350)
  • €600 (approx. £530)

The amount is determined by the distance traveled by your aircraft, and not related to the ticket price.

So if you’re travelling on a delayed flight from Paris to Bangkok, it’s not relevant whether you bought it for £350 or £50. In both cases, you will be entitled to €600 (approx. £530) compensation.

In addition, the airline is obliged to provide you with the following services when you are delayed or cancelled:

  • Re-routing on a new flight to the same destination, as soon as possible
  • Meals and drinks during your waiting period
  • Accommodation if you have to spend one or more nights waiting for your new flight

3. Can I only claim compensation directly from the airline?

There’s a staggering EUR 7 billion in unclaimed compensation waiting for air passengers who’ve experienced travel trouble. You don’t have to contact the airline directly, you can check your eligibility for compensation and process a claim online, which means a third-party service to do the leg-work for you.

4. Can I claim compensation if my flight is overbooked?

If your flight has been overbooked and not enough passengers volunteer to take a later flight, you could end up being denied boarding. If this happens and your new flight gets you there more than one hour after the original flight time, you could be owed compensation.

In other words, if your domestic flight arrives 1-2 hours late, you’re entitled to 200% of your one-way fare, up to a certain cap. If international, you’re entitled to that if your flight arrives four hours late.

If your domestic flight arrives more than two hours late, you’re entitled to 400% of your one-way fare, up to a certain cap. If international, you’re entitled to that if your flight arrives more than four hours late.

Paloma Salmeron, passenger rights specialist at AirHelp, comments on the impact of the Ryanair strikes:

“Any rebooking on bus, train or other flights should under no circumstances be carried out without notifying the airline. For a delay of more than five hours the airline is obliged to refund passengers the full ticket price. 

In the event of delays of more than two hours and an affected distance of more than 1,500 kilometers, the operating airline must also provide passengers at the airport with meals and drinks and with the option of making two phone calls or sending two faxes or e-mails. If necessary, the airlines must also provide accommodation and facilitate transport there. We advise everybody to claim this service from the airline. AirHelp supports the passengers in getting their rightful compensation and, if necessary, also takes the airlines to court.“

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