What to do when a flight is delayed, including rebooking and compensation

EXPLAINER: What to do if your flight is delayed?

You could be entitled to hundreds of pounds from your airline for long delays (Image: LNP/Getty)

As the half-term break begins, if you’re trying to salvage your holiday plans from the chaos that’s ravaging UK airports, you’re far from alone.

Tens of thousands of holidaymakers have faced delays of up to eight hours, with some saying their flight was canceled at the last minute.

Tui customers have so far borne the brunt of the disruption and another 400 flights the holiday giant is due to operate over the next month are set to be cancelled.

Several other major operators have also announced cancellations, including BA and Easyjet, which have grounded more than 240 flights since Sunday while hundreds of departures have been hit by huge airport security queues.

While customers have a variety of strongly enforced rights to assistance and compensation in the event of cancellations, their entitlements in the event of delays are less well known.

In fact, travel experts say passengers are far more likely to fall into this category, given that the vast majority of disrupted flights will still take off, despite long waits, if the operator can staff them.

The first step in protecting your vacation from delays starts before you even pack your bags: travel insurance.

According to Rory Boland, editor of which? Travel.

?? Licensed to London News Pictures. 05/31/2022. Manchester, UK. Passengers queue for check-in at Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport. TUI has canceled 5 flights from Manchester Airport today. Credit: Ioannis Alexopoulos/LNP

The holiday plans of tens of thousands of families have been disrupted (Image: LNP)

He said: “Proof that you showed up at the time stated by the airport or the airline could be crucial. So keep your bus ticket or parking ticket and any receipts from shops or restaurants in the terminal.

Travelers who experience delays at check-in or through security should also “make a fuss” if their flight is due to depart soon, for example by asking staff to bring them to the front.

Mr Boland added: “Buried in the terms and conditions of many airlines is a promise to help and some will let you rebook for free in such cases.”

When staff is hard to come by, airlines usually have to provide updates online – but if that fails, you can also enter your flight number on FlightRadar24 to track the plane you’re supposed to catch in real time.

Under UK law, airlines must provide passengers with “significant delays” with food and drink (usually in the form of vouchers), means of communication and, if their flight is postponed by a day, temporary accommodation and transport to accommodation.

“Significant delays” means waiting times of more than two hours on short-haul flights, three hours on medium-haul flights and four hours on long-haul flights.

FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 787 of travel company TUI taxis near the north runway at Gatwick Airport in Crawley, Britain August 25, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

Airlines must compensate passengers unless they can show the disruption was beyond their control (Image: Reuters)

Passengers traveling on flights regulated by the UK or EU also have a statutory right to compensation for delays of more than three hours before arrival time – starting at £210 for short-haul flights – unless caused by “extraordinary Circumstances” that are beyond their control.

These rules apply to all flights departing from a UK or EU airport and don’t change if the airline is based in another country, according to MoneySavingExpert.

This means they still apply if you’re flying between two EU countries or going elsewhere on an EU-regulated non-UK flight.

They also normally apply if the delay prevents you from boarding a connecting flight from a non-UK or EU airport if both routes were part of a single booking, or if that connecting flight was similarly delayed.

If your flight is delayed more than five hours and you don’t want to catch it, Citizens’ Advice says you’re entitled to a full refund, regardless of the cause.

Be careful if you still plan to reach your destination by other means: the round-trip flight purchased from your original operator may be part of the same refunded booking.

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Justin Scacco

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