The airline's obligation to assist and compensate you

If your flight is delayed or cancelled 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. It can also include booking you onto an alternative flight or refunding you. 

The type and amount of assistance available will depend on the length of flight and the length of the delay.

Depending on the circumstances of the strike, you might also be entitled to compensation.

This will depend on whether the strike is seen as being something within or outside of the airline's control to prevent.

Under EU law, you're only entitled to compensation if you hear from the airline less than 14 days' from the date you're due to fly that your flight is cancelled.

Flight delay assistance

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 assistance: 

  • 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.

Cancelled flight assistance

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. Importantly this can include alternative flights and booking seats with other airlines.
  • rerouting to your final destination at a later date convenient to you. Importantly this can include alternative flights and booking seats with other airlines.

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.

Flight strike? Your right for compensation

Under EU law, you're only entitled to compensation if you hear from the airline less than 14 days from the date you're due to fly that your flight is cancelled.

If the airline warned you of the cancellation at least two weeks prior to your scheduled time of departure, you won't get compensation but you'll get a refund.

Is a strike an extraordinary circumstance?

Airlines are not always obligated to offer compensation following a strike because strikes are usually considered to be 'extraordinary circumstances'. These are situations beyond the control of the airline, and can include adverse weather conditions as well as certain strike action.

But when a a flight is delayed or cancelled due to strike action taking place by the airline's own employees (eg pilots, airline staff), then the airline is required to pay compensation to passengers. 

Even sudden 'wildcat' strikes aren't classed as extraordinary circumstances when the industrial action has been called by an airline's staff rather than a third party, such as an air traffic control or a baggage handling strike.

This principle was confirmed by European judges in the German case of Helga Krüsemann and Others v TUIfly GmbH and will be legally binding throughout Europe and in the UK.

It remains the airline’s responsibility to ensure it has contingencies in place to guarantee you still arrive on time.

Flight delay & cancellation compensation calculator

If you travelled to or from a UK airport and your flight was delayed or cancelled, we can help you calculate what compensation you can claim for free.

Start your claim

Delayed by the after-effects of a strike

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, then 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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