Flight delays, cancellation and compensation – A Resolver Guide

8 min read
June 14, 2022

Anyone who has seen the news lately and has a holiday booked will have been looking nervously at the problems afflicting the airports and airlines and their customers. But flight cancellations and delays are not a new problem. 

Before the pandemic, one of the biggest drivers of complaints was flight delays, cancellations and compensation. A jaw-dropping 135,000 complained to Resolver about flights before Covid kicked in. In the last week alone, over 3,000 people have got in touch to seek help with a cancelled flight. 

Resolver has been flooded by enquiries since huge swathes of flights were cancelled by the airlines – half from people affected directly and half from people due to travel and nervously watching the skies. 

However, there is compensation enshrined in law for cancellations – though not for everything. 

Remember never to leave home without travel insurance. You can compare and save using Resolver too.

What’s changed after Brexit? 

While the Government initially suggested that some changes to the EU flight delay and cancellation rules (EC Regulation 261/2004), the only significant change after Brexit is the compensation is now in Sterling, rather than Euros. This might look like it has reduced on a casual glance but that’s just the difference in exchange rate. Here’s the UK law: The Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 

When can you claim?

So what happens if your flight is delayed or cancelled? Here’s how it works.

If your flight has been delayed, what you’re entitled to depends on how long the delay was and what distance you are flying 

  • The flight must be delayed by more than three hours and the delay is counted from the time the flight is meant to arrive – not when it takes off. ‘Arrival’ counts as the point at which the cabin crew open the doors… not when the plane touches down).
  • The flight must take off from the UK or European Union or be from an airline based in these areas. Connected flights count, even if you switch to a non-EU airline half way through your trip.
  • The issue must be ‘within the control of the airline’. So storms and bad weather or air-traffic control disputes are going to leave you without any compensation. However airlines strikes are generally considered to be ‘foreseeable’ as are the recent staffing issues and cancellations – so you should be able to claim. 

Can’t get hold of the airline? You can claim through Resolver for free: https://www.resolver.co.uk/tools/flight-compensation

Airlines can be a bit funny about the information they need to assess a claim, so to be on the safe side, Resolver recommends including everything including your booking reference and flight number, along with the details you used to book the flights, like your email. This shouldn’t all be necessary, but realistically, it will save time in the short term. 

How much can you claim for?

Before Brexit, you’d get compensation in Euros. However, now the rates are in Pounds, which is why they might seem lower than before.

  • If the flight is up to 1,500 km and is more than three hours late, then you can claim £210.
  • If the flight is between 1,500 and 3,500 km and is more than three hours late, then you can claim £340.
  • If the flight is more than 3,500 km and leaving the EU, or is an EU airline flying into the UK and is between three and four hours late, then you could get back £250. 
  • If the flight is more than 3,500 km and is more than four hours late, then you could expect up to £500.

Compensation for cancellation follows similar patterns but also depends on when the flight was cancelled. Check our Resolver’s flights guide for the full list:  https://www.resolver.co.uk/rights-guide/flight-delays-cancellations. You can also insist on a replacement flight (where possible) and this could shift to another airline if yours doesn’t have an alternative. 

What if I’m stuck waiting for a delayed or cancelled plane? 

Firstly, we fully appreciate that finding someone to help you at an airport is something of a mixed bag at the moment. However, if you do find a member of airline staff who can help, here’s what you can ask for;

Food and drink vouchers are most commonly given – but only after a certain amount of time has elapsed – two hours for short hall, three for medium hall and four hours for long hall. Even if the airline isn’t at fault, they should give you vouchers. Don’t get too excited though, they are rather limited and not for a huge amount. 

Communications – in other words, the cost of making calls (well, ones related to the situation). You should get the costs for the calls like this that you make.

Accommodation. This is the biggie. If you’re delayed overnight the airline should cover your hotel and getting there. They usually chose the hotel so don’t get too excited. If you are forced to book your own don’t go five star – think reasonably priced – and ask the airline if unsure. 

The key thing to remember is to keep all bills and receipts for the things you are forced to pay for while dealing with the situation. Why not photo them too, just to be sure? 

What is a direct loss and can I claim for money I’ve paid out? 

The rules around compensation for costs you incur as a result of flight cancellations and delays are less clear, but there are a few legal principles that might apply if you are seeking compensation for your losses. 

A direct loss is money that you’ve lost as a direct result of the situation. For example, having to book another plane ticket if the airline can’t find you an alternative. These losses are by no means compensation guaranteed. If the airline feels you’ve booked an upgraded seat for example, then it may pro-rata a refund depending on the prices at the time. This doesn’t mean it’s fair though – so push back if you are unhappy. 

We have heard lots of reports of people forced to take £100 cabs as a result of their flights being cancelled. We really do sympathise with people in this situation – however, though it’s a ‘direct’ loss in the sense that you’ve had to fork out the cash to get home, the airline is likely to argue that you could have got a train/bus/ferry or other method that was less expensive. Don’t pay out the big bucks without checking with the airline first. 

You might also ‘indirectly’ lose money as a result of the situation. For example, you might have lost a day of paid work. These loses are much harder to quantify but it doesn’t mean you can’t claim for them. You should make it very, very clear though that the loss is as directly connected to the situation as possible – and prove it. 

To give you an example, you might miss out on a house purchase because your solicitor doesn’t send the deposit on time. There’s clearly an error there and compensation may be applicable – but that doesn’t mean you get a free house. 

What about lost, delayed or damaged baggage?

You are entitled to compensation for delayed, lost or damaged baggage, but you may well get more through making a claim on your insurance policy. 

If you have a problem with checked in luggage then your airline can usually guide you through the process but the key thing is to report it as soon as possible. In fact, timescales for claiming can be as low as seven days, so don’t wait around – and you should report the matter straight away. 

What you get is variable, depending on what you’re claiming for. So you could for example, get:

  • Essential clothing items, toiletries and other key things you need to get by.
  • The cost of replacing the luggage itself in full or in part. 
  • Costs for collecting if you have to go and get the item. 

There’s usually a cap on the maximum that they’ll pay out, so don’t think that Louis Vuitton suitcase range will be matched. We always recommend keeping valuables on you too, as compensation for expensive items in your luggage isn’t always available in full or in part. 

Airlines can be real sticklers for paperwork with these claims, even if it’s their fault. So keep your boarding card, proof of reporting, forms and anything related to the claim. 

Still not happy? 

From compensation claims to refund requests, there’s been a bit of a backlog with airline complaints over the last few years. If the airline – or airport – doesn’t resolve your complaint to your satisfaction, then the complaint can be escalated to one of the many dispute resolution schemes that airlines and airports must be signed up to. 

You can find a list of the schemes here. They aren’t quite the same as an ombudsman and there’s a bit of a mixed response when it comes to feedback from people who have used them – but they are a way to take your complaint further that doesn’t involve legal action. 

Find a full list of the dispute resolution schemes here: https://www.caa.co.uk/passengers/resolving-travel-problems/how-the-caa-can-help/alternative-dispute-resolution/ 

If you make a complaint using Resolver, we will escalate the case to the appropriate dispute scheme if you tell us the matter is not resolved.

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