People stand in an airport with bags.

What happens when you're faced with travel delays or cancellations?

4 minute read

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You’re ready to jet off, but a flight cancellation or delay scuppers your plans. What can the airline and your insurer do to help?

  • If your flight is cancelled, you could be eligible to make a claim for the full ticket price from the airline.
  • If you're delayed overnight, the airline should pay for accommodation, meals and transfers.
  • If you need to book another flight urgently, your insurance may cover the difference in cost if it's more than the original ticket.

The UK travel industry has certainly had its challenges since the onset of the global pandemic in 2020. Not only did it cause huge disruption for travellers, but all those travel restrictions and flight cancellations led to large numbers of airline and airport staff losing their jobs.

Fast forward a few years and many airlines and airports face staff shortages just as people hoped to make up for lost time and get away on holiday again. And where did that leave us? You guessed it… with even more flight cancellation chaos. 

Discover our top tips on how to deal with cancelled or delayed flights, claiming compensation and what you’re covered for by your travel insurance.

What do airlines cover if your flight is delayed?

While a long delay can ruin your travel plans, you’ll usually be compensated by the airline for food, and in some cases, an overnight stay, depending on how long you’re left waiting around in the airport. Knowing your rights as a passenger is important if you ever need to claim.

It's important to note your compensation depends on the delay to your arrival time, not to your departure time. To work this out, always check an official flight delay checker to find out your flight’s information.


What do airlines cover if your flight is cancelled? 

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), if your flight's cancelled, you can get a full refund from your airline for all parts of the ticket you haven't used, or a replacement flight to your destination from the airline.

You may also be able to claim additional compensation for any inconvenience caused, you’ll need to check with the airline to see if you're eligible.

Compensation for a cancelled flight

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

If you received less than 14 days' notice of the cancellation, you may be able to claim compensation depending on what caused it and whether it was the airline's fault. Circumstances leading to cancelled flights that fall outside the airline's control, such as extreme weather, won't be eligible for compensation.

Check the Civil Aviation Authority for full details of what you're entitled to according to your circumstances.

If your flight's cancelled after you've checked in at the airport and the next flight isn’t until the next day, the airline should pay for:

  • Overnight accommodation if you're unable to return home
  • Transfers to and from the hotel
  • Meals and refreshments (usually in the form of vouchers)
  • A means of communicating (two telephone calls or emails)

If these arrangements don't materialise, and you end up out of pocket, keep all your receipts so you can make a claim directly with the airline. Remember they may only refund reasonable expenses, so only spend what's necessary.

What if my flight is cancelled but I need to travel?

After cancelling a flight, the airline must let you choose either a refund or an alternative flight. If you need to travel as quickly as possible, you can ask your airline to book you on the next available flight - from any airline flying to the same destination. In practice, it may be quicker to arrange your own alternative flight and apply for a refund from the original airline.

If a new flight costs more than the original ticket price, 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.”

See our different cover levels for cancelled flights and what other protection we can offer, and have a read of some of the things you can claim for with our travel insurance.

Can an airline reject my compensation claim?

Before you claim compensation for delayed or cancelled flights, make sure you know the delay or cancellation is the airline's fault. Common problems airlines accept responsibility for include:

  • Routine technical problems
  • Cancellation due to overbooking or under booking a flight
  • Staff shortages or sickness

There are some situations the airline won't take responsibility for, such as:

  • Strike or industrial action leading to cancellation
  • You missing your flight as a result of delays in airport processes, such as security or check-in

If you want to make a claim, you should contact the airline and inform them of the:

  • Flight number
  • Passengers
  • Cause of the delay or cancellation

The airline may reject your request for compensation, in which case you can contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). They may be able to investigate further, offer additional support or even take action against airlines that don't comply with relevant consumer laws.

You may even be able to claim on a cancelled flight from several years ago. The UK's statute of limitations law lasts for six years, so you may still be due compensation – just make sure you have all the relevant information to hand.


Does travel insurance cover cancelled and delayed flights?

Travel insurance from LV= can cover you for flight cancellations and delays. We won't cover anything you knew could result in a claim when booking a trip or taking out insurance - like buying travel cover when strikes were already planned at the airport around your departure date. Our Premier policy offers, per person on a policy, up to:

  • £10,000 if you choose to cancel your holiday due to being delayed for more than 24 hours
  • £1,000 for additional transport and accommodation costs
  • £25 expenses for each 12-hour period you are delayed at your departure point, up to £250

If you have an LV= Premier policy, and you’re delayed at your departure point, we’ll pay £25 for each 12-hour period up to a maximum of £250. This starts when the first 12 hours have passed. So, if you’re delayed by six hours for example, you wouldn’t be able to claim on your travel insurance with LV=.

Additional Transport
If you have an LV= Premier policy and your pre-booked transport is delayed for more than 24 hours (or it’s cancelled by the airline), we’ll pay up to £1,000 per person to help you with any extra costs you need to pay to get to the destination or back home.

If you have an LV= Premier policy, and your pre-booked transport is delayed for more than 24 hours, we’ll cover cancellation up to £10,000 for unused trip expenses that have already been paid and cannot be refunded.

So, for peace of mind that you’re covered for any bumps in the road, make sure you take out travel insurance before you set off on your well-deserved break.

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