Travellers whose flights are cancelled due to volcanic eruptions may be refused refunds or compensation by their airlines.
Mount Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano, erupted yesterday and covered the city of Catania in ash. While no injuries have been reported, the eruption launched a dark plume of ash into the sky, causing flights at Catania airport to be suspended. Today, many flights are still being delayed or diverted to nearby Comiso.
Airlines affected include easyJet and Ryanair.
And on Saturday, Mexico City’s two main airports – Benito Juarez International and Felipe Angeles – briefly closed due to the presence of ash that had come from Pococatepetl, an active volcano roughly 45 miles (72km) from the Mexican capital. Again, there were no injuries reported but schools in 11 different villages were forced to close.
But what are your rights if volcanic activity disrupts your travel plans?
A spokesperson for the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told The Independent: “Flight disruptions caused by ash from Mount Etna are outside of the control of airlines so it is unlikely that passengers would be entitled to compensation for any delays and cancellations arising from these.”
Despite widespread monitoring of volcanic activity – Etna is closely monitored by the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, for example – any delays caused by volcanic activity are considered exceptional circumstances.
“However, airlines have an obligation to look after their passengers if their flights are delayed or cancelled,” the spokesperson added.
“In the case of cancellations, airlines are obliged to offer passengers the choice of a refund, re-routing at the earliest opportunity or re-routing at a later date. However, given the circumstances, passengers may be unable to get to their destinations as quickly as we or airlines would like.
“We expect airlines to do what they can to minimise the overall disruption to passengers, and this includes proactively providing passengers with updates and information about their rights.”
You’ll likely be unable to claim any compensation if this is the case, although airlines do still have a “duty of care” to passengers and need to provide care and assistance in the event that they are unable to fly due to such events. This obligation can take the form of…
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