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Cars & travel.

Updated: 3 Aug 2021

Drones at the airport: what are your rights?

When it comes to travel, drones seem to make the news for all the wrong reasons. We reveal what you can do if your journey is disrupted.
Which?Editorial team
Airport drones 482366

Climate-action group Extinction Rebellion has threatened to shut Heathrow airport using drones.

And mystery still surrounds exactly who was behind the closure of Gatwick just before Christmas 2018, when drones were sighted at the airport, bringing travel misery to thousands of holidaymakers.

So it's useful to know what your rights are if your flight is delayed or cancelled as a result of a drone sighting.

If you still want to travel to your destination but your flight has been axed...

Airlines say drone attacks are “an extraordinary circumstance” and therefore won’t pay extra compensation but under EU261 regulations they still have a duty of care.

After two hours you are due meal vouchers, two free phone calls and hotel accommodation if necessary. Your airline should put you on a different carrier, route you via another city or get you to a different airport at your destination then transport you to your original one at their expense.

Read more here if you want to know more about your rights under the Denied Boarding regulation.

If you just want a refund...

The airline’s duty of care stops if you accept a refund. If you decide to book your own (more expensive) alternative, the original carrier isn’t liable for any difference in cost. 

If you are unsure whether you’re entitled to compensation, you can use our free flight delay claim calculator.

Video: Find out about your rights if a drone disrupts your flight

If your flight is “just” delayed...

After five hours the same rights apply as if your flight had been cancelled.

If you want to claim on travel insurance...

According to the Association of British Insurers 'Where illegal drone activity has grounded or diverted flights…you should speak to your airline or travel company first...For additional travel disruption costs, such as missed hotel bookings or already paid for activities that you can no longer make, you should speak to your travel insurer as these may be covered under the terms of your travel insurance depending on the type of cover you have bought.'

If you want to claim compensation...

If you booked a flight which is departing from the European Union, whether it’s currently set to leave it or not, or with a European airline, you’re protected by the EU Regulation 261/2004.

Read our guide on what you can claim for if your flight is cancelled and how to get compensation if you’re late getting to your destination.

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