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Flight delays: What rights do you have to compensation or refund if your plane is late?

Simon Calder’s Travel

In 2023, the average flight from the UK departed almost 21 minutes late, according to an analysis of the latest Civil Aviation Authority figures by the PA news agency.

The typical Wizz Air flight from the UK left 32 minutes behind schedule. Turkish Airlines recorded a delay of 29 minutes, with Tui on 28 minutes.

Most UK and Irish airlines were mid-table in terms of the number of minutes each flight was delayed on average, including:

  • British Airways – 22
  • EasyJet – 21
  • Ryanair – 20
  • Jet2 – 18

The stand-out “success” among the major British carriers was Virgin Atlantic, but even its average departure was 14 minutes late.

Many flights, of course, depart on schedule. A few leave early (though this does count towards improving their delay average). But some delays extend for hours.

You may be entitled to care while you wait – and, if the airline is responsible for the late arrival, compensation. But your rights depend on:

  • Length of wait
  • Where your flight begins
  • Airline

For all 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. After Brexit, the UK copied and pasted the same regulations into British law as UK261.

The rules were devised to require airlines to do the right thing for their passengers. They specify the care and compensation you can expect when your plane is heavily delayed.

These rules also apply for flights on EU and British airlines departing from outside the European Union and the UK.

A delay of hours rather than minutes could trigger the obligation for an airline to provide a hotel room, meals as appropriate and hundreds of pounds in cash.

Conversely, when flying on a non-EU/UK carrier from outside Europe. you may just have to put a dismal aviation episode down to expensive experience, and see if your travel insurer can help.

These are the key questions and answers.

In the UK and Europe, what can I expect if my flight is delayed?

For delays of under two hours you have no rights (unless a short delay in the UK triggers a missed connection and much later arrival at your final ticketed destination – see below).

For longer delays, the airline should provide refreshments as appropriate after a specified length of time. This applies regardless of the cause of the delay.

The time at which the duty of care…

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