• What you can claim if your flights delayed
  • Your options if a flight is cancelled
  • Claiming on cancelled flights

1. What am I entitled to from the airline if my flight gets cancelled or severely delayed?

Reimbursement

If your flight is cancelled and it's the airline's fault, you should be offered either reimbursement of the ticket cost or a reasonable alternative re-routing flight.

The cancelled flight must have been leaving from an EU airport, or arriving at one – including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – regardless of the airline.

You can also claim if you are denied boarding due to an overbooked flight, even if you volunteer to lose your seat.

In addition to the reimbursement of the ticket price, you can also ask for compensation from the airline.

Compensation

Under European Regulation (EC) 261/2004, passengers can claim compensation from the airline if their flight is cancelled or delayed for three hours or more, and it is the airline's fault.

The amount you can claim depends on the distance of the flight and the length of delay to your arrival time.

A table with a title saying 'What you can claim if your flight is cancelled or you are denied boarding'. If flight distance is 1,500km or less your compensation is EUR 250. If flight distance between EU and non-EU is 3,500km or more your compensation is EUR 600.

If your flight arrival is delayed by more than three hours, you may be able to claim between €250 and €400, depending on the distance of the flight, rising to €600 for flights longer than 3,500km between an EU and non-EU airport.

It's important to note that your compensation depends on the delay to your arrival time, not to your departure time. Flightstats.com will provide you with your flight's information.

Free meals and accommodation

If your delay is long enough to force you to stay the night, the airline should pay for your accommodation, as well as a transfer to and from the hotel.

Depending on how long you are waiting, you should be offered meals and refreshments, as well as two free telephone calls or emails.

If the airline doesn't offer you food or accommodation, keep your receipts so you can still claim.

2. How do I make my claim?

Make sure that you know that the delay or cancellation is the fault of the airline. Routine technical problems, cancellation due to underbooking and crew turning up late are all the fault of the airline – industrial action and bad weather are not.

Contact the airline and inform them of the flight number, the identity of the passengers making the claim and the cause of the delay or cancellation. The airline may reject your claim, in which case you can contact the CAA.

The airline might not admit fault, in which case contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or the European Consumer Centre.

You may even be able to claim on a cancelled flight from several years ago. The UK's statute of limitations law is six years, meaning that if a flight you booked in 2012 was cancelled, you may still be due compensation – just make sure you have all the relevant information to hand.

3. What about my other holiday plans that I miss out on?

If you are going on holiday and your flights are delayed, it's likely that you will pay for accommodation, car hire and transfers that you won't use. Your baggage may also be delayed, leaving you without important luggage items.

This 'consequential loss' isn't covered by airline compensation. However, if you have the correct travel insurance policy, your insurer may be able to help. You may also be able to claim on activities that you have missed out on. 

'For customers who have a Premier policy, we would cover loss of cost for things such as excursions, shows, and unused accommodation costs up to £10,000,' says LV= Travel and Pet Product Manager Julie Constable.

You may miss a connecting flight. If so, the airline is responsible for booking you an alternative. However, you may not be able to claim compensation.

'Your airline is only required to provide compensation if you are booked on a through ticket,' the CAA explains. 'This means you have a single ticket and one reservation reference for your entire journey.'

If you arrive at a stopover destination on time and your next flight is cancelled, you can decide not to fly on and ask the airline for reimbursement and a free flight to your original airport.

4. What if my flight is cancelled but I need to travel

After cancelling a flight, the airline may inform you that they are unable to offer you an alternative.

If you need to travel as quickly as possible, you may have to book a flight with another airline – of course, poor weather is likely to ground all flights, but technical issues, such as BA's, might affect just one company.

'In this scenario, the airline should offer compensation if they didn't pay for the total cost of the original cancelled flight and the new flight costs less,' says LV= Travel and Pet Product Manager Julie Constable, but you may be able to make up the difference thanks to your insurance.

'If the new flight is more expensive, LV= will pay customers with a Premier policy up to £1,000 per person towards the difference,' says Julie.

5. What other steps can I take to avoid travel disruption?

Before your flight, keep an eye on the airport's website and the airline's social media accounts for any news of potential delays that could affect you.

If your flight is cancelled well before it was due to depart, you may be able to avoid getting stranded in the airport.

Cancelled travel plans can be a real blow to holidaymakers, but getting the right compensation is a step towards getting back on track with your summer.