Flight cancelled – Compensation and refund rules in the UK and EU
We all consider a flight’s cancellation a big complication. Especially when this disrupts your business or holiday plans. There is nothing worse while travelling than finding out that you’re going to have to spend two days fewer in the tropical island you were travelling to. Or, all of the sudden, hearing that you will have to cram three important meeting into one working day. All because your flight was cancelled by the airline.
Was your flight cancelled because of the coronavirus? Then you are entitled to the refund of your ticket or booking!
The aviation sector has been severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak. This obviously has consequences for air traffic and airlines, but it is precisely now that the rights of air passengers are of importance. The European Commission has confirmed that in the event of a flight being cancelled, airlines must give passengers a choice between receiving travel vouchers or the reimbursement of the ticket costs.
Coronavirus: What are my rights when a flight is cancelled?
If your flight is cancelled because of the coronavirus, you are entitled to a complete refund of your ticket. European Regulation EC 261/2004 obliges the airline to refund the full price of the ticket within 7 days in case of a cancelled flight. Currently, many airlines and travel agencies only offer vouchers that can be used to book a new flight in the future. However, this voucher policy is not in compliance with European legislation. In addition, vouchers often do not provide any guarantee. If an airline goes into administration, passengers holding a travel voucher will lose their money.
What am I entitled to if my flight is cancelled due the ongoing COVID-19 crisis?
If your flight is cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak, you are not entitled to compensation. However, you are in fact entitled to the full refund of your ticket. The coronavirus crisis is considered an extraordinary circumstance, which exempts the airline from the obligation to compensate passengers for the cancellation of their flight.
Important: supplementary compensation is not the same as the right to the reimbursement of the ticket! Even when affected by the coronavirus outbreak, airlines are legally obliged to refund the full amount within 7 days after the flight cancellation.
I have already received a voucher, can I still opt for the refund of my flight?
Even if the airline has already offered you a voucher, you can make a claim for the full refund of your booking's price. If you have purchased your booking with other amenities (package travel) you are still entitled to the refund of the whole package.
Flight-Delayed.co.uk will be happy to help you claim the refund of your cancelled flight or booking
Unfortunately, we see too often that airlines still fail to comply with the legal obligations. Passengers are forced to accept vouchers when they are actually entitled to a refund of their fare.
Flight-Delayed.co.uk will be happy to help you claim the full refund. From submitting the claim to taking the airline to the courts in the event of non-payment. Since 2010, we have been committed to upholding the rights of affected air passengers throughout Europe. Fill in your flight details and find out immediately whether you are entitled to the refund of your ticket. In just 3 minutes you can submit your claim on a 'no win, no fee' basis. Should the airline obstruct the process, we will take them to court if necessary. All legal costs are covered by our 25% fee.
Your passenger rights are always protected when flying within, to and from the UK
Not all passengers are aware of the fact that you are able to claim compensation for flight delays and cancellations. When flying from and to the UK, your passenger rights will be protected by Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 and the Sturgeon Ruling. This is the legislation that grants you the right to claim compensation if you’ve arrived at your final destination with a delay of more than 3 hours in case of a delay or 2 hours in cases of flight cancellations.
EC No 261/2004, Europe’s answer to flight disruptions
This Regulation was approved by the European Parliament and is designed to protect passenger rights in case of problems with flights that affect passengers severely. Habitually, passengers will have the right to receive care, assistance and compensation. Everything is stipulated in the legislation; however, a considerable amount of court rulings by the European Court of Justice has clarified and further expanded the interpretation of the law. This can make everything a little bit more complex for passengers. This applies to all UK and Europe airlines, but also to non-European airlines that fly from Europe. Compensation may be due in cases of disruptions such as:
- Flight delays
- Flight cancellations
- Missed Connections
- Boarding denials or refusals of carriage
- Schedule changes
- Flight diversions
The Sturgeon Ruling, what is it?
The Sturgeon Ruling of 19 November 2009 was a joined case of passengers against the airlines Condor and Air France. It was ruled that despite there not being express provision in Regulation (EC) no 261/2004 to compensate passengers for delays, passengers would now be entitled to the compensation, as set out in Article 8, for any delay in excess of three hours, providing the air carrier cannot raise a defence of 'extraordinary circumstances'.
It was also ruled that under the definition of 'extraordinary circumstances', technical faults within an aircraft should not be included and therefore an air carrier cannot rely on a technical fault within an aircraft as a defence from a valid claim under the Regulation. Various passenger rights groups reported the case and encouraged passengers to bring claims against airlines in the event of a delay of over three hours. This ruling opened the gate for passengers, whose flight had been delayed for more than three hours, to claim compensation. Previously, airlines had been following the law verbatim, so they would only acknowledge that compensation was owed to passengers whose flights had been “officially cancelled”.
My flight was cancelled, can I claim compensation?
If your flight has been cancelled, you have the right to claim compensation under EC 261/2004. However, similarly to flight delays, certain conditions must be met for a passenger to be entitled to such monetary compensation. It is a bit trickier when it comes to cancellations, as the moment when you were informed of the cancellation also influences your eligibility. If the criteria are too confusing, you can always use our claim calculator and check your flight. These are the conditions that apply if your flight has been cancelled:
- If you were informed of the cancellation 14 days or more before your departure, you are not entitled to compensation
- If you were informed of the cancellation between 7 and 14 days before your departure and you were rebooked on an alternative flight that does not depart 2+ hours earlier and arrives no later than 4+ hours when compared to your original schedule, then you are not entitled to compensation.
- If you were informed of the cancellation with less than 7 days’ notice, you are entitled to compensation if you’ve arrived at least 2 hours later than planned. (This is the most common case)
All of the above-mentioned cases will only grant you the right to be compensated if your cancellation was not due to an extraordinary circumstance. We’ll say more about these circumstances later, it’s worth noting that they also apply to flight delays.
One more thing to take into account: if your flight is cancelled, the airline must fly you to your final destination or refund your ticket if you do not wish to travel anymore.
When can I receive a refund when my flight has been cancelled?
Compensation and a refund are two different things. Most passengers get them mixed up, but the regulation considers the possibility of passenger receiving both. If It concerns a flight cancellation, you’ll always be entitled to a replacement flight to your final destination. If the airline fails to provide such a flight or if you end up arranging your own travel to your intended destination, you’ll be entitled to a full refund of your ticket. Please note that If you are offered a replacement flight and you decide not to take it, there is a possibility that not only you won’t be entitled to compensation but the airline may not be obliged to refund your original ticket. This is dependent on the arrival and departure times of the replacement flight.
For a flight delay, you'll be entitled to the refund of your fare if the time of delay surpasses 5 hours and you’ve chosen not to fly anymore. It’s worth noting that it’s very improbable that passengers will be awarded compensation if they were not on board the delayed flight.
Can I ask for a fare refund and compensation at the same time?
Yes, if your flight has been cancelled and the airline has not provided you with the necessary replacement flight you are eligible for both compensation and the refund of your flight’s fare. If you wish to submit your claim with Flight-Delayed, your request for the refund will be attached to your dossier and claim.
How much can I receive in compensation from the airline if my flight cancelled?
When passengers find out that they have the right to claim compensation, the next question usually is how much can I claim? The answer will always be: it depends on the distance covered by your booking or flight. We say booking because missed connections are taken into account if your booking consisted of more than one flight. The total time you’ve been delayed may also come into play sometimes. Nonetheless, for most cases, these are the sums established in the regulation:
- For all flights covering a distance of up to 1,500 kilometres, you will receive up to £220
- For all flights covering a distance between 1,500 kilometres and 3,500 kilometres, you will receive up to £350
- For flights covering a distance greater than 3,500 kilometres, you are entitled to up to £530
Please note that if your flight travelled a distance greater than 3,500 kilometres and it was delayed more than 3 hours but fewer than 4, then the total amount of compensation is reduced by 50%. The regulation defines the total amounts in euros and they are €250, €400 and €600.
Compensation if my flight schedule has been changed
If an airline has changed your flight schedule then you may also be entitled to compensation. Schedule changes are treated as flight cancellations. This means that when you were notified of the schedule change is very important as well as your new time of departure and arrival. It is exactly the same as the rules for cancellations. So, you are eligible for compensation when:
- You have been informed of the schedule change between 7 to 14 days before the time of departure and, according to your new flight schedule, your flight departs more than 2 hours before the original time and/or you will arrive more than 4 hours later than originally scheduled.
- You have been informed of the schedule change between 7 days and the day of departure and now your flight departs more than 1 hour before the original time or you will arrive more than 2 hours later than originally scheduled.
Also, remember that connecting flights are covered. The total time of your delay is calculated taking into account your final destination if your booking consists of more than a single flight.
Compensation for a missed connecting flight due to a cancellation
The European Court of Justice recently stated that carriers are responsible for your whole booking. It’s well worth knowing that your rights are protected in such cases even if bookings with connecting flights are such a small percentage of the overall flights. So how does it work?
The distance between your point of departure and your final destination
Firstly, it is important to know that the distance between your point of departure and your final destination will determine the total amount that you’ll receive in compensation. For example, if you’ve booked a flight from Manchester to Mexico City with a stopover in Madrid, the distance between Manchester and Mexico City will determine how much you might receive. In this case, it would be 600 euros as the distance is greater than 3500 kilometres.
Extraordinary Circumstances, when is the airline not obliged to compensate the passengers
Put shortly, extraordinary circumstances are the events that might affect a flight, causing it to be delayed or cancelled, that won’t be considered to be under the sphere of responsibility of the airline. Think of them as valid excuses to delay or cancel a flight. For example, if there’s an air traffic control strike in France and your flight had to pass over the country, there’s nothing the airline can do to influence such an event and will probably have to delay/cancel the flight in order to figure out if they can decide on a new flight route or simply not operate the flight.
The following situations are considered extraordinary by the European regulation and will excuse the airline from paying compensation:
- Bad weather. For example, thunderstorms, heavy rain, thick fog, snow and high gusts of wind
- A general strike or one specifit to the aviation industry. Think along the lines of the country’s air traffic control personnel going on strike; another possibility is the airport’s baggage handlers walking out
- Political circumstances such as terror attacks, political unrest or security risks can all be seen as examples of such situations
- Natural disasters. For example, a volcanic eruption or a hurricane would qualify as an extraordinary circumstance
- Bird strike; when there’s a collision between the aircraft and a bird or other foreign object
- An unruly or ill passenger
- Other options: delays caused by the airport staff (long queues during security checks)
Please note that the onus of proving the occurrence of such an event is on the airline. Regarding extraordinary circumstances, they will need to provide evidence that not only did the event occur, but also proof that they’ve taken all appropriate action at their disposal to minimise the impact of such an occurrence.
Airlines very often quickly fob off passengers arguing that such an event has occurred and that it was out of their hands. More often than not, this has not been the case or they are unable to prove it. It’s common wisdom that airlines will make it as difficult as possible for passengers to claim compensation, meaning that a considerable amount of claims will need some level of legal action in order to be acknowledged and paid out. If your claim has already been rejected, there are additional measures you can take if you want to exercise your rights and hold the airline accountable.
Flight-Delayed can handle your claim when a flight is cancelled
We are specialised in the field of claiming compensation and know exactly how to proceed against airlines. We’ve assisted thousands of passengers before and will inform the company that we are willing to sue them from the very beginning. If they refuse to acknowledge your rights, they can expect a court summons. We have all the data, expertise and knowledge to assess your claim and exhaustively fact-check every single argument they may provide when rejecting your claim. You can sit back and relax and we’ll do all the work. Best of all, absolutely everything is covered by our 25% win-fee, which you only pay once we’ve successfully claimed your compensation, even if we have to go to court for it.
Escalate to the CAA with or without Martin Lewis’ Resolver tool
The option of escalating your claim to the Civil Aviation Authority on your own or using Martin Lewis’ recommended Resolver tool is an additional option. However, the CAA’s ruling on the case is not binding and the airline may still refuse to pay your compensation. In that case, court action will be necessary. Even if the airline acknowledges your right to be compensated, we have seen cases in which further court action was necessary for the passengers to finally receive their compensation.
Small Claims Court in the UK or European Small Claims Court
These are two viable options with which you can try to proceed legally without the help of solicitors. However, in both cases, you will need to pay certain fees upfront depending on the amount you’re claiming and the court itself. These fees may go up to £410 to submit the claim with the court, a £40 court allocation fee once if the claim gets assigned to a court and up to £325 for the hearing fee. Some fees may be awarded back if the case is won, but please note that if you lose the court case, you will have to pay for the other side’s expenses and the above-mentioned fees won't’ be refunded.
In the UK, you have up to 6 years to initiate any court action via the Small Claims Courts (5 in Scotland). For European Small Claims Court cases, your flight will have to concern two different European countries and, even though the total cost of the process may vary, most fees are more or less the same. This option may not be able for UK citizens after Brexit.
What is the simplest way to claim compensation for a flight cancellation?
Whichever option you choose, in order to make it easier, you will need certain documents and information to proceed without complication against the airline and to force them to provide you with an answer regarding your claim. These are the documents you will need:
- Booking confirmation
- Passport or ID
- Power of Attorney form (when claiming with Flight-Delayed)
All of these documents will be needed in order to prove your identity and that you, in fact, held a booking to travel on the disrupted flight. These documents are also necessary to proceed with court action, so having a complete dossier with all the relevant documents and information is critical to smooth out the process of claiming your compensation.
Additional relevant information to claim compensation for a cancelled flight
If your flight has been delayed, cancelled or overbooked you should always register or write down the following information:
- Flight numbers
- Flight dates
- Airports of departure and arrival of all flights
- Scheduled departures and arrivals
- Length of the delay (actual departure times and arrivals)
Something else that may be very useful when claiming compensation is to know the reason for the delay. Therefore, you should always ask the crew and staff for the reason of your disruption. Especially if you were denied boarding.
Furthermore, please keep a copy of all relevant communication with the airline. This includes all the notifications you may have received regarding your delay or cancellation or any schedule change.
When am I entitled to claim compensation for a cancelled flight?
You will be entitled to compensation if the airline is unable to prove that the root cause of your flight cancellation was an extraordinary circumstance. This may take longer than expected as often airlines will argue against paying compensation. Furthermore, the information they provide will have to be examined and cross-checked and, as it often is the case, claims are only paid out once the airline has been summoned to court or has been notified of impending legal action. With years of experience and the right tools and technology, we will make sure that you receive the compensation that you are entitled to and that the airline does not get away with ignoring your rights.
Can I claim extra costs with my flight compensation?
Yes. Normally, you are able to claim all reasonable extra costs that you incurred because of your flight’s delay, cancellation or overbooking. However, it is important to remember to keep all the itemised receipts of any expenses, as they will support your argument when claiming the extra costs. These receipts may cover:
- Travel expenses to or from the airport
- Expenses for any hotel accommodation if necessary
- Expenses for meals and refreshments
- Expenses for alternative flights or transportation if the airline failed to provide you with a viable option
How long will it take to claim my compensation from the airline?
Even when assisted by professionals, passengers may have to wait more than expected for their compensation. In some cases, airlines will agree to settle the claim as soon as they are notified that court action will be initiated against them otherwise. As most claims are not paid out immediately, finding a path, creating a plan and seeing the whole process through may take months. If an airline is determined to defend its case in court, completing the proceedings may take up to a year.
First, check your flight with our free claim calculator and find out if your flight is covered and how much compensation you can claim!
How does it work when Flight-Delayed take care of everything?
If you choose to submit your claim with Flight-Delayed, we’ll ensure that you go through the process as swiftly and smoothly as possible, all while ensuring that you won’t be fobbed off by the airline. If court action is needed, we’ll determine which is the easiest path for you to be awarded compensation and one of our solicitors, we cover more than 8 different European countries; will proceed to sue the airline. We provide our service under a no win, no fee agreement, that means that we’ll take on all the risk and you’ll only have to pay our 25% win-fee if our actions lead to a successful outcome. In other words, once the airline has paid you.
Best of all is that our win-fee covers all possible costs associated with claiming your compensation. Including legal and court fees as well as all administrative costs and VAT. Don't wait any longer, exercise your rights!