We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.


When you click on a retailer link on our site, we may earn affiliate commission to help fund our not-for-profit mission.Find out more.

26 Jul 2019

UK airlines abandon flyers during delays

Passengers denied help, meals and compensation when things go wrong

The UK's biggest airlines are failing to provide a basic level of care to flyers who face disruption, a Which? Travel investigation has found.

Although carriers have an obligation to help customers stranded by delays and cancellations, many are shirking their responsibilities.

A huge 44% of passengers told us they couldn't even find a member of staff to speak to when held up at the airport.

For award-winning investigations, unbiased reviews and access to legal advice, sign up to Which? Travel.

Disappearing act

Disrupted Ryanair customers were worst off, with 61% telling us they were unable to track down an employee.

Even the lucky ones who made contact with staff weren't necessarily better off: 42% were unhappy with the assistance they received.

On the other end of the scale, 92% of flyers with Norwegian Air and Jet2 reported that staff were helpful.

It's especially worrying that flyers aren't receiving necessary assistance given that flight punctuality is getting worse. Read our full report on the worst airlines and routes for delays.

Flight delays: No explanations

To make matter worse, one third of passengers were not even given a reason for the disruption.

Again Ryanair was worst for leaving customers in the dark. Even when staff were present, 42% said they received no explanation for the delay.

One of these passengers was Which? member David Fowler whose flight was diverted 200 miles mid-flight and landed in Brno (Czech Republic) rather than Budapest (Hungary). He told us that 'after landing, the crew vanished into thin air... no explanation was given by anyone.'

Which carriers scored highest for customer service? Read the full results of our best and worst airlines.

Denied food vouchers

Under EU law, passengers must be provided with food and drink if a delay is more than two hours - regardless of the reason.

Yet less than half of passengers (40%) told us they were given a voucher for refreshments during their delay.

If you're more than three hours late, you could also be owed up to u20ac600 per passenger - as long as the cause of the disruption isn't classed as an extraordinary circumstance.

Again, regardless of the reason, airlines are required to give you the rules for compensation and assistance in writing - by leaflet or email.

Despite this being a legal obligation, only 22% of passengers said their carrier had passed on this information.

Are you entitled to compensation? Find out your rights during a flight delay.

Complaints ignored

Many flyers complained to their airline following delays and cancellations only to end up even more frustrated.

One in 10 passengers waited more than 90 days to get a response. And when a reply did finally materialise, it often wasn't worth waiting for.

A whopping three quarters (75%) of British Airways customers were unhappy with the outcome of their complaint. That's higher than the number of dissatisfied customers with both easyJet (49%) and Ryanair (63%)

See what happened to stranded passenger Sharon Neyjahr after her BA flight was cancelled because of snow.