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Dealing with travel delays

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Your flight has been cancelled or your passport has been stolen. But what can you do about it and what are you covered for?

  • Contact the airline responsible for flight delays and see if you’re eligible to make a claim
  • If the airline can't help, you can contact the Civil Aviation Authority 
  • If you have lost your passport, contact the British Embassy to apply for an emergency replacement

Discover our top tips on how to deal with flight delays, losing your passport or other travel problems while you’re abroad. 

Flight delays and cancellations 

Flight delays and cancellations can cause huge problems. While a long delay can ruin plans, you’ll usually be compensated by the airline for food and sometimes an overnight stay, depending on how long you’re left waiting around.

Cancelled flights

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

What are you covered for if your flight is cancelled?

Under EU law, flight cancellation rights mean you should be reimbursed for the full ticket price. You may also be able to claim additional compensation for the inconvenience. 

To qualify, your flight must have been leaving from or arriving at an EU or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) airport. Most countries within Europe fall into one of these two groups. 

If your flight isn’t to or from Europe, you’ll need to check with the individual airline. 

Can you claim if your flight is delayed?

If your flight is delayed for more than three hours, you can claim compensation. You can also claim compensation for a delayed flight if you're denied boarding due to the airline overbooking, even if you volunteered to join a later flight.

Compensation

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

If your flight arrival is delayed by more than three hours, you may be able to claim between €250 (£213) and €400 (£338). This can rise to €600 (£506) 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. To work this out, always check an official flight delay checker to find out your flight's information. 

 
Don’t let a lost passport or a cancelled flight ruin your holiday. Find out what to do in a range of travel delays with LV=.

Free meals and accommodation

If your delay is long enough to force you to stay the night, the airline should pay for your:

  • Accommodation
  • Transfers to and from the hotel
  • Meals and refreshments
  • Two telephone calls or emails

This all depends on how long your delay is. It’s always a good idea to keep your receipts so you can still claim, no matter how short your delay is. If you’ve only experienced a short delay, you may only be compensated for a meal and drinks while in the airport. 

How do I make a claim for a delay or cancellation?

Before claiming, make sure you know that the delay or cancellation is the fault of the airline. Common problems that the airline accepts responsibility for include:

  • Routine technical problems
  • Cancellation due to overbooking or under booking of a flight
  • Crew turning up late

There will be times where circumstances that aren’t the airline’s fault can cause delays and you unfortunately won’t receive compensation for. For instance, if there is industrial action or bad weather.

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

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

The airline may reject your claim, 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 do not 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.

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

After cancelling a flight, the airline may inform you that they're 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. Poor weather is likely to ground all flights, but technical issues 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 more,' says a spokesperson from the LV= Travel and Pet team.  

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.' 

 

Lost, stolen or expired passport

If your adult passport is lost, stolen, destroyed or expires while you're abroad, don't panic, you'll still be able to get home safely.

If your passport has expired or is severely damaged and you can't use it on your return journey, you can apply for an emergency travel document. This is sometimes called an emergency passport. 

Only apply for an emergency replacement of a lost passport if your date of travel is before you can get a replacement one.

My passport has been stolen, what do I do? 

If your passport is stolen, you must contact the local police and report it. Make sure you keep any crime report details and reference numbers given to you. You may need these to apply for an emergency passport, as well as for your claim.

Just as you'd cancel a credit card if it was lost or stolen, it's advisable to cancel your UK passport too. Do this before you apply for an emergency travel document, to save it from being compromised and possibly used for ID theft.

Where can I get an emergency travel document?

To get an emergency travel document while you're overseas, you need to find out where your nearest embassy, high commission or consulate is. The best way to do this is to visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website to find advice.

You'll need to apply in-person for your emergency travel document. Contact the nearest relevant body to see if you need to book an appointment first.

Remember to take the following:

  • A completed emergency travel document application form
  • A recent photograph of yourself
  • Proof of your travel plans - e.g. booking confirmations or an itinerary from your travel provider, if you can't book ahead
  • A police report if your passport has been stolen

By following this advice and taking out travel insurance to cover your back, you’ll be able to avoid any further disruption and enjoy the rest of your holiday.

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All content is approved by our in-house advisory board of experts.