If you booked a flight which:
But only if the reason for the delay or cancellation isn’t deemed an extraordinary circumstance. This is when something out of the ordinary and out of the airline’s control causes the delay or cancellation.
You are not entitled to compensation for a delay or cancellation caused by an extraordinary circumstance.
No matter the reason for the delay - whether it’s deemed an extraordinary circumstance or not - if you’re held up for two hours or more, you're always entitled to assistance if you’re flying from the UK or EU or with a UK or EU airline.
When this right to assistance kicks in depends on how far you fly.
When you're entitled to assistance
Type of flight
How long you have to wait
Up to 1,500km (932 miles)
Flight time is usually about 2 hours or less
2 hours or more
Between 1,500km - 3,500km (932-2,175 miles)
Flight time is usually between 2 about 4 hours
3 hours or more
More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)
Flight time is usually more than 4 hours
4 hours or more
This assistance is:
These rights apply whether you’ve boarded or are waiting at the airport - if you’re delayed by two hours or more, you have the right to assistance.
Some examples of situations which might be deemed an extraordinary circumstance are:
If your flight is grounded because of severe weather and can’t take off or land, this is deemed an extraordinary circumstance.
But bad weather must be extreme and out of the ordinary. For example, if a flight is grounded because of a freak snowstorm in the Canary Islands, this would be extraordinary.
Light snow at an airport near the Alps in the middle of winter, is not.
It also isn’t an extraordinary circumstance if your flight is delayed because a previous flight was disrupted due to bad weather. Your flight must be directly affected by the bad weather in order for it to be an extraordinary circumstance.
If fog is bad enough for Air Traffic Control to either ground all flights or limit the number taking off and landing, that would be considered an extraordinary circumstance because that’s out of the airline’s control.
It depends on who’s striking as to whether this is deemed an extraordinary circumstance.
If it’s airport staff, for example baggage handlers, airlines don’t have any control of this so while you’re still entitled to assistance, you can’t claim extra compensation for delays.
But if it’s airline staff striking, such as pilots, this is considered to be within the airline’s control because it is negotiating with its staff. So if you’re delayed because of this then you’re entitled to compensation.
Need to know: Ryanair is challenging this. In the summer of 2018 , the airline was hit with its worst-ever strikes as pilots and cabin crews walked out over pay and working conditions. Claims for compensation were rejected by the airline as it said it was an extraordinary circumstance.
The Civil Aviation Authority has begun enforcement action as it thinks disrupted passengers should have been compensated.
In scenarios of mass disruption - for example, all flights have been grounded indefinitely because of a drone - your airline might tell you to go home or re-route you because all the hotels nearby are full and there is nowhere for them to put you up.
But if the airline isn’t able to provide the transfers and you have to find your own transfer home or to another airport, the airline has to reimburse you.
But be aware that the cost of the transfer has to be reasonable - so we wouldn’t advise trying to get a limousine home and then charging it back.
For example, if you take a train to London Gatwick but there’s a drone threat and all flights are cancelled, your airline might to tell you to go home until flights resume.
In this scenario, the following applies:
If you don’t agree with your airline that the cause of your delay was an extraordinary circumstance, you should challenge it and make a claim for compensation. Do also ask the airline at the time what the cause of the delay is, in case a different reason is given after the event.
Airlines may stretch the definition of extraordinary circumstances further than they should.
The airline will have to provide clear evidence of the cause of the delay if your claim is rejected.
If you still don’t agree with its decision, do push back in the first instance as airlines sometimes hope that a meritorious claim will go away if rejected. If you still do not get a satisfactory outcome, you can pursue your claim further with an alternative dispute resolution scheme.
Please note the Civil Aviation Authority can only help you if the flight was cancelled or delayed departing from or arriving in the UK, or was on a UK based airline. If your flight was cancelled or delayed for a journey wholly outside the UK, you will need to complain to the airline regulator in the country the delay occurred in.
Regardless of whether you choose to use a CAA approved ADR scheme, you still have the right to take an airline to the Small Claims Court if you feel it is unfairly refusing your compensation, even if the company is based in Europe.
But it's a good idea to seek legal advice before taking this step given the associated costs.