I've had a flight delay due to a strike, can I get compensation?

If a strike delays your flight, the airline has to offer you assistance and you could be entitled to compensation depending on the circumstances of the strike. We explain what to expect:

Assistance obligation

If your flight is delayed because of a strike, your airline has an obligation to offer you assistance if the delay is expected to go beyond a certain point.

Assistance can include food and drink and overnight accommodation, if required. 

Unlike delays for other reasons, airlines are not obligated to offer compensation following a strike because strikes are usually considered to be 'extraordinary circumstances'.

In Summary

  • It will depend on the circumstances of the strike whether you're entitled to compensation
  • You are still entitled to assistance from the airline under the Denied Boarding Regulation.
  • Assistance can include food and drink, phone calls and overnight accommodation if required. The type and amount of assistance available will depend on the length of flight and the length of the delay.

Your entitlement for flight delays

Under the Denied Boarding Regulation, what you're entitled to depends on the length of the flight delay and the distance of your flight. 

Provided that you qualify in one of the categories below, you're entitled to the following: 

  • two free phone calls, faxes or e-mails
  • free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay
  • free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.

You must qualify in one of these categories to be entitled to the above:

  • if a flight under 932 miles (for example, London to Venice) is delayed for at least two hours
  • if a flight within the EU that is more than 932 miles (for example, London to Athens) is delayed for at least three hours
  • if a flight that isn't within the EU but is between 932 and 2,174 miles is delayed for at least three hours
  • if any other flight is delayed for at least four hours.

Your entitlement for cancelled flights

If you're protected by the Denied Boarding Regulation you are entitled to claim one of the following:

1. An alternative flight (airlines call this rerouting) to your destination.

  • If your flight wasn't direct and was cancelled part-way through, you are entitled to a flight back to your original point of departure or to be refunded in full.
  • rerouting to your final destination at the earliest opportunity
  • rerouting to your final destination at a later date convenient to you.

You are also entitled to assistance:

  • two free phone calls, faxes or emails
  • free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay
  • free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.

Or

2. Cancel your flight and get a refund. You can also choose this option if the delay lasts for five hours or more but the flight isn't cancelled. 

You must receive a refund of the full cost of the flight within seven days. But, once you take a refund the airline no longer has a duty of care towards you and you can't claim back any further expenses you have. 

My airline won't book me on a suitable alternative flight

If other airlines are flying you can try to rebook with an alternative airline yourself and claim that back as an expense. 

But this is risky, and we’d recommend taking this step only once you’ve exhausted all over options.

This may only work if your reason for travel is exceptionally time sensitive, such as a child’s wedding or job interview.

Depending on the circumstances you may also be able to claim this successfully if you have to wait more than a couple of days for the rescheduled flight you're offered.

Importantly, do not cancel your existing booking, this will leave you in a much strong position to claim back the cost of your alternative flight.

Can I claim flight delay compensation?

Unlike delays for other reasons, airlines are usually not obligated to offer compensation following a strike because strikes are usually considered to be 'extraordinary circumstances'.

But, ?when the strike has been called by an airline's staff ?rather than a third party, such as air traffic control or baggage handlers you may be able to claim compensation if the strike could have been resolved by the airline beforehand - therefore preventing delays.

This is largely untested, but we recommend that you submit a claim if you’re flight is delayed by the airline's own staff going on strike.

Extraordinary circumstances

Extraordinary circumstances are situations beyond the control of the airline and can include adverse weather conditions as well as certain strike action.

Ultimately it will depend on the nature of the strike as to whether you're due compensation or not. For example you could expect a strike related to airport staff (such as an air traffic control or a baggage handler strike) to be considered an extraordinary circumstance.

A European Court of Justice ruling in October 2012 stated that airlines should compensate passengers if they're denied boarding because of a strike, after the strike takes place.

For example, if a strike happens on a Monday, and this is categorised as an extraordinary circumstance and compensation would be not payable.

But, if there are still delays or cancellations on the Tuesday and the strike is over, compensation would be payable, even if the delays and cancellations are because of the strike the day before.

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