Your flight is cancelled, overbooked or delayed: what, if anything, does the airline owe you?
The rules are tangled and depend on where your flight begins and the airline involved. Sometimes you may be entitled to a hotel room, all meals and hundreds of pounds in cash; in other circumstances you may just have to put a dismal aviation episode down to expensive experience, and see if your travel insurer can help.
To complicate matters further, some airlines do not have a great record about telling passengers about their rights or delivering the stipulated care and cash.
For flights from the UK and EU airports (as well as those in the wider EEA), European air passengers’ rights rules prevail. These were introduced in 2006 and are known as EC261. They were devised to require airlines to do the right thing for their passengers. They specify the care and compensation you can expect when you are denied boarding despite showing up on time, or when your plane is delayed or cancelled.
But from locations outside Europe, the obligations are more complex – with passengers on flights operated by EU airlines treated differently depending on their final destination.
This guide should make you aware of your entitlements, even if the airline fails to do so.
My flight from a UK or EU airport is cancelled. What am I due?
Whatever the cause of a cancellation, and regardless of the amount of notice that is given, you can insist upon replacement transport: the airline must get you to your destination as soon as possible if that is what you want. The UK Civil Aviation Authority says that means if a flight is available on the original day of travel, the passenger must be booked on it – even if it is on a rival carrier.
The passenger is entitled to “re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity”.
The term “re-routing” is unhelpful, since it implies finding a different route to the destination. On a link such as Manchester-Dublin or Barcelona-Gatwick, with around a dozen flights a day on multiple airlines, there may be no need to change the route.
If you are flown to a different arrival airport, the airline must also meet reasonable onward travel costs. If you are flown to Luton rather than Gatwick, you could claim the £38 train fare but not a £150 taxi (unless…