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Dozens of flights shelved due to icy weather – but what are your rights?

Your airline has a duty of care towards you if your flight is delayed or cancelled

Snow and ice has forced dozens of Ryanair and easyJet flights to be cancelled or delayed at Stansted Airport.

Up to 300 passengers were waiting in the terminal on Wednesday evening, while images posted on social media showed people trying to sleep on seats in the arrivals hall in the early hours of Thursday.

According to reports one onlooker said there was ‘tension’ in the terminal as frustrated travellers found themselves facing hours of delays ‘because of a few centimetres of snow’.

There were reports of outgoing passengers having to wait for hours to reclaim their luggage after their flights had been axed, with some complaining of a ‘shocking’ lack of communication by officials.

Can I claim flight delay or cancellation compensation?

You could be entitled to claim as much as €600 in compensation, per person, if your flight is delayed or cancelled.

But airlines can refuse to pay compensation if the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances, such as severe weather.

It’s worth challenging your airline if you don’t agree that there were extraordinary circumstances. For example, if you’re told you can’t fly due to weather conditions, but other carriers continue to run a relatively on-time schedule.

Ask your airline what the specific reason was for the delay or cancellation of your flight. Passengers should not be fobbed off with a generic ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

If the reason for the delay or cancellation is something within the airline’s control, such as a lack of de-icing agents or planes out of position, you’re likely to be due compensation.

If your airline can’t provide an answer, you should submit a claim. Airlines may stretch the definition of extraordinary circumstances further than they should.

Which? can help you start your claim for flight delay or cancellation compensation.

My flight has been cancelled – what should I do?

If your flight is cancelled your airline has a duty of care towards you, and it’s legally required to give you:

  • 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

The Denied Boarding Regulation (EU261) – the EU law that governs air passenger’s rights – also requires that your airline lets you choose either to rebook on a different flight to your destination at no further cost to you, or cancel your booking a claim a full refund.

Article 8 of the Denied Boarding Regulation means your airline is legally required to book you on a comparable flight either with them or an alternative airline.

If other airlines are operating flights to the same destination as your cancelled flight, you should be rebooked on the next available flight to your destination – regardless of whether you booked with that airline or not.

Alternatively, you can cancel your booking and claim a refund – but your airline’s duty of care towards you will end at that point.

For more information see our guide to your rights if your flight is cancelled.

My flight has been delayed – what should I do?

If your flight’s delayed for more than two hours, your airline has to give you:

  • 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

The airline should give you vouchers to get these things at the airport. Ask someone who works for the airline if you’re not offered any help.

If they don’t give you help at the airport, keep receipts for expenses and try to claim from the airline later. Airlines only pay for ‘reasonable’ expenses – you won’t get money back for alcohol, expensive meals or luxury hotels.

For more information see our guide to your rights if your flight is delayed.

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