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Storm Ciara causes flight delays and cancellations at UK airports

Monday, February 10, 2020

Last weekend the UK was battered by storm Ciara, which presented itself to be the worst storm that has hit the UK in seven years. Many flights were delayed and cancelled. Gusts of as strong as 90mph hit the UK’s coastline and caused flooding, damage and disruptions, not only in the aviation industry.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet cancel flights

Most short-haul flights in and out of all London airports were cancelled, with a number of long-haul flights being affected as well. British Airways cancelled short-haul flights out of London-City, Heathrow and Gatwick. EasyJet saw its flights to European destinations also affected, with many departing from Gatwick being cancelled, including flights to Amsterdam, Glasgow, Lisbon and Lyon. Virgin Atlantic cancelled 17 flights due to the adverse weather conditions.

It is common for airlines to cancel flights in order to avoid disruptions to operations.

More than half of flights at Gatwick Airport cancelled

Gatwick Airport experienced more than 190 flight cancellations on Sunday, which meant that almost half of the day’s traffic was annulled. Most passengers were advised not to travel on Sunday, the day in which the winds and rain were most severe. Rail and ferry services, for example, were also severely affected at the Dover crossing.

Trains and ferries cancelled

Storm Ciara

Trains, such as the Gatwick Express service, warned that in case of a ‘major incident’, there would not be any rail replacement services in the form of buses. Other rail networks announced redundancies to their operations and advising passengers to check online if their service was running.

In Scotland, a number of bridges were closed for lorries and local authorities set up a speed limit in order to control accident rates. In Wales, authorities warned to “avoid visiting the seafront due to the risk of being swept away by large waves or hit by a wave and wind-blown debris”, according to Natural Resources Wales. Yellow rain warnings were authorized for the whole of Sunday.

Hyde Park and Regent’s Park closed

London’s Royal parks were closed on Sunday in fear of debris and torn branches falling on visitors.

The AA gives driving safety advice

The AA warned all citizens that made plans to travel by car and issued a series of warnings and guidelines for precautions. The first and most important warning was stated first: “Do not even start your journey if weather conditions are extreme.”

Can I claim compensation for my delayed or cancelled flight because of a storm?

Unfortunately, if your flight was delayed or cancelled due to Storm Ciara you are not eligible for compensation. Due to the storm being classed as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ by EU Regulation EC 261/2004, such an incident exempts the airline from paying compensation.

The following situations are considered extraordinary by the European regulation and will excuse the airline from having to compensate its passengers:

  • Bad weather, for example, thunderstorms, heavy rain, thick fog, snow and high gusts of wind
  • An air sector strike: 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: terror attacks, political unrest or security risks can all be seen as examples of such situations
  • Natural disasters: 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)

If you wish to know more about extraordinary circumstances, please click here.

Check a flight for compensation

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