British holidaymakers are set for even more travel chaos in the coming months, as British Airways staff have voted in favour of strike action amid a growing dispute over various issues including pay.
Those who have flights booked with the airline or are hoping to fly with them throughout the summer could see their flights cancelled as a result. So what are your legal rights if your flights are cancelled or disrupted?
For travellers looking to fly abroad this summer, the team of legal experts at BPP University Law School have explained your legal rights under UK law and what you can do if the worst happens when flying this summer.
“Over the past few months, travellers have found themselves at the centre of chaos, due to staff shortages, hour-long waits to check-in luggage and flights being cancelled right at the last minute.
“When the worst happens, it can be stressful and hard to know what to do, so it’s important that before heading to the airport, travellers are aware of the legal rights that protect them when their flight is delayed or cancelled.
“If flights are cancelled, travellers have the legal right to either a full refund including any flights within the booking that won’t be used as a result (return flight) or a replacement flight that will get them to their destination. Additionally, if a different airline is flying to the same destination, at an earlier time, or there are more suitable modes of transport, then they have a right to be booked onto that transport instead.
“If people are waiting long enough for replacement flights, airlines legally have to help with things travellers may need including food and drink, access to phone calls or emails and accommodation and transport to and from if they are delayed overnight. Compensation in this way may be given in the form of vouchers to be used at the airport and other facilities.
“If a flight is travelling less than 1,500km, the delay must be at least two hours for the holiday goer to receive any additional support while waiting for a replacement flight, whereas if the flight is between 1500km and 3,500km they have to wait three hours. “
What if my flight is delayed?
“If flights are delayed by more than two hours, holiday goers are entitled to the same assistance from airlines as to when a flight is cancelled.
“Travellers may also be in the position to claim compensation from airlines if they arrive at their destination more than three hours late, but again, like replacement services what they are entitled to will depend on how far the flight is.
“If flights are delayed by more than five hours and people decide that they no longer want to travel they will be entitled to a full refund from the airline.
“Make sure to ask for this refund or compensation while at the airport if possible. If this is not feasible you can claim from the airline later.”
What can I do to reduce the worry of cancelled flights?
“To reduce the worry of cancelled flights travellers can check their airline’s website or app for the status of their journey.
“It is also important that they take out travel insurance before booking that all-important holiday, as it means that when a flight is cancelled or delayed they can contact their insurance company and discuss how to begin the claim process if necessary.”
The Consumer Council has a number of template letters to help you with common types of air travel complaints. Click on the links below to download the letters.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled you may be entitled to compensation. The amount will depend on the length of your flight, and the length of the delay or impact of the cancellation in you getting to your final destination.
Delay compensation rates
|Length of flight||Delay time||Compensation|
|Less than 1,500km||More than 3 hours||£220|
|1,500km – 3,500km||More than 3 hours||£350|
|More than 3,500km||More than 3 hours but less than 4 hours||£260|
|More than 3,500km||More than 4 hours||£520|
Cancellation compensation rates
|Distance of flight||Impact on arrival time to destination airport||Compensation|
|0 – 1,500km||Less than 2 hours||£110|
|More than 2 hours||£220|
|1,500 – 3,500km||Less than 3 hours||£175|
|More than 3 hours||£350|
|More than 3,500km||Less than 4 hours||£260|
|More than 4 hours||£520|
When you are not entitled to compensation
- If the airline told you of the cancellation at least two weeks before the departure date.
- If the cancellation is between seven days and two weeks before the departure date and offered alternative travel arrangements. The flight(s) must allow you to depart no more than two hours before your original departure time and get you to your final destination less than four hours after your original arrival time.
- If you are told of the cancellation less than seven days before the departure date and are offered alternative travel arrangements. The flight must allow you to depart no more than one hour before your original departure time and must also arrive at your final destination less than two hours after your original arrival time.
- When the delay or cancellation is due to “extraordinary circumstances”.