Monday, August 13, 2012

AIrline Delays and Cancellations - Your Rights

Twice this year I have taken flights which have been delayed/cancelled by over 24 hours.  I therefore thought it would be worth writing about where passengers can find help in the event that they face long delays and/or cancelled flights.

EU regulation 261/2004 is the document which lays down the rights of passengers.  The regulation extends to scheduled flights AND non-scheduled flights including those part of package tours.  One of the aims of the regulation is stated in the preamble as being "to strengthen the rights of passengers" and "Passengers should be fully informed of their rights in the event of denied boarding, and of cancellation or long delay of flights, so that they can effectively exercise their rights"

Both Airlines I flew with Qatar Airways and Jet2 have industry led "awards", both have failed to comply with the law as it currently stands in Europe.  The first delay with Qatar meant that we missed the first night of our honeymoon, meaning we missed an overnight stay in Colombo and also meant that we had an 8 hour journey after we had finally arrived, they have offered compensation, but not in line with regulation 261/2004.  Jet2 are arguing that a 24 hour delay was not a cancellation and are refusing compensation.  Qatar didnt tell us that we had the right to be able to find an alternative flight to Colombo.  Jet2 delayed in telling their passengers about that right until it was virtually impossible to use it.

When is a delay to be treated as if it were a cancellation?  The Sturgeon case in the European Court held that where a flight was delayed by 3 hours or more ie if they land more than three hours after their scheduled landing time, passangers should be treated as if their flight had been cancelled and this meant that they are entitled to the compensation outlined in regulation 261/2004 ourlined in Article 7 of the regulations.  Compensation depends on the distance flown, and ranges between 250-600 euros per passenger.  Airlines are refusing to apply the Sturgeon case.  A further case to the European Court (TUI and Others v the Civil Aviation Authority) is expected to be decided in September, and I will update the result of that case on the blog.

What to do if your flight is delayed/cancelled. I would advise you to read the regulations, they are only a couple of pages long, are easy to understand, and you will then know what you are entitled to ask of the airline, and what options are available in terms of telling the airline that you will make an alternative booking if you are able to at the Airport.

If you face a delay of three hours of more, on a flight, make a written complaint to the Airline.  Persist, as the Airlines will tell you that Sturgeon doesnt apply (it does until the Court rules otherwise).   The Civil Aviation Authority enforces these regulations, and will need copies of correspondence if it gets that far.

The Civil Aviation Authority has a customer support line which can help passengers with their complaints.  For further information on how to complain go to website

The above link will tell you what your rights are, how to use them.  The important thing is to claim before the outcome of the September case is known.  The provisional decision is in passengers favour.  Lets hope the ECJ upholds it!