FLIGHT OR FEE, How to Make Airlines Pay for their Mistakes

Last week, this column looked at how to deal with package tour companies that had failed to provide the holiday you paid for. This week we will turn our attention to airlines – including Ryanair.

Your legal rights in relation to expenses in the event of delays and cancellations are as follows.

  1. Your flight has been cancelled.

You have a legal right to a full refund unless you were told about the cancellation at least two weeks before you were due to fly. The refund should include the cost of any onward or return flights you can no longer take. Alternatively, you can ask the airline to put you on a replacement flight. However, it may not be possible to book you onto a new flight on the day you planned to travel.

  1. Your flight home has been cancelled.

The airline has a legal duty to put you on the first available flight they can. Again, the next flight home might not be until the following day.

  1. Your flight’s delayed by two hours or more (these rights also apply when your flight has been cancelled).

The airline has to pay for:

  • food and drink
  • access to phone calls and emails
  • accommodation if you’re delayed overnight (including journeys between the airport and the hotel).

If you don’t get any help from the airline at the airport keep receipts for expenses and re-claim them later. Bear in mind that airlines will only pay for ‘reasonable’ expenses – you won’t get your money back for things like alcohol, expensive meals or luxury hotels.

Your rights in relation to claiming compensation are different.

If your flight is delayed by three or more hours and the delay is the airline’s responsibility you may be entitled to compensation.  Depending on where your journey originated and the length of your flight, under EU law this could be as much as 600 euros. You won’t be entitled to compensation if the delay is caused by something outside the airline’s control, like the weather or industrial action taken by air traffic controllers for example.

If you feel that you have a valid claim for compensation, contact the airline operating the flight, even if you booked it through another airline. Be ready to give all your flight details and booking reference number. In your claim, set out what went wrong what you want the airline to give you and why. If you have access to the Internet and are happy using it, the Civil Aviation Authority website has information about how to write a good claim and you can download a template letter from the Which? website. Include copies (not originals) of your tickets and any receipts. Keep copies of your claim and any response from the airline. Take notes if you speak to anyone from the airline.

If you have problems claiming compensation, contact the airline’s Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR) scheme, which will appoint an independent arbitrator. If the airline doesn’t have an ADR scheme then contact the Civil Aviation Authority.

Finally if you paid for some or all of the cost of the flight using your credit card and the total cost is between £100 and £30,000 the credit card company has the same liability to pay you compensation as the airline.

If you want help and support at any stage, you can call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454040505 or Citizens Advice Waverley

Worried about something?

Don’t put it off – Citizens Advice Waverley can almost certainly help.

For free, independent, confidential advice call:

0344 848 7969

or visit:


or https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk

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