Flight compensation: your rights

It’s really no fun when you’re stuck in the wrong place or left hanging
around in an airport because of flight delays and cancellations – and
what’s more it can leave you out of pocket. However, a new set of
regulations that came into force in 2005 to provide enhanced
compensation rights for passengers. Read on to find out more.

The regulations apply to all flights (chartered, scheduled and budget)
to and from European airports with European airlines (whether or not
you are an EU resident). If the problem is deemed to be the airline’s
fault, or within the airline’s control, it will be liable to pay
compensation to its affected travellers.

The amount of compensation you can claim depends on various factors,
including the extent of the inconvenience caused, the distance you are
travelling and the price of your ticket, but on the whole you are
entitled to cash compensation as well as refreshments, two phone calls
or other methods of communication, accommodation if required, a refund
on your ticket and free transport back to your point of departure –
and/or alternative transport to your intended destination.

Extreme weather conditions such as snow or fog are of course not within
the airline’s control, so there is no obligation in these cases to
compensate passengers. And some airlines deem problems such as
technical faults or strikes to be ‘exceptional circumstances’ beyond
their control so compensation claims aren’t always straightforward.
However, some airlines will provide refreshments and accommodation and
perhaps ticket refunds on a good will basis.

Flights under 1,500 kilometres (935 miles)

For short haul flights you’re entitled to compensation if you’re
delayed for two hours or more. You’ll get free food and drink and
access to two free phone calls, faxes or emails. If you’re left waiting
for five hours or more, you can leave the airport and demand a refund
as well as an alternative flight back to your starting point. You can
also claim €250 cash compensation if your flight is cancelled, you have
been overbooked or you have been delayed for two or more hours.

Flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres (935 to 2,210 miles)

Your cash compensation entitlement for delays of up to three hours is
€200 and for delays over three hours it is €400. Again, you’ll be
provided with food and drink, overnight accommodation and phone calls,
emails or faxes. A ticket refund and alternative flight back to your
starting point will be given in circumstances where you are delayed for
over five hours or your flight has been cancelled or overbooked.

Flights more than 3,500 kilometres (2,210 miles)

Long haul flights come with a compensation entitlement of €600 for
cancellations or overbookings or delays of four hours or more plus the
same entitlement to refreshments, accommodation, communication and
alternative transport.

You shouldn’t have to do anything to obtain your compensation – the
airline should offer it to you. However, if you don’t get anything,
your first step should be to contact the airline. If you don’t have any
success dealing with the airline direct, get in touch with the Air
Transport Users Council, the UK consumer body representing air
passengers and their rights. It will look after your case on your
behalf and may refer it to the Civil Aviation Authority if necessary,
which has the power to prosecute airlines for non-compliance.