After last weekend’s chaos due to the IT problems at British Airways which resulted in delays and cancelled flights, many people may be looking for compensation.
However Brexit could undermine the right of British airline passengers to claim future compensation for delayed and cancelled flights under EU consumer protection legislation known as EU261.
At present, the Government will only confirm that the existing compensation arrangements will remain in force until Britain leaves the EU and would not be drawn on any commitment about the future of EU261 afterwards.
Currently in order to claim compensation for a delayed flight, then you can only claim for EU-regulated flights. An EU flight is where the flight departs from an EU airport, regardless of the airline OR where an EU airline lands at an EU airport. Under this law, EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. So a delayed Manchester to Miami flight qualifies, regardless of the airline. Yet for Miami to Manchester, you would be entitled to compensation flying Virgin or KLM, but not on Air India.
How far back can I claim?
In theory you can apply for compensation for any past delays stretching back as far as February 2005 – but in practice it’s extremely unlikely you’ll be able to go back further than 2010.
However in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, due to the statute of limitations, if you need to take the airline to court to get the compensation, then you can only go back six years. In Scotland, it’s five years. So older claims can be tricky.
How do I check how long my flight has been delayed for?
Don’t remember how long your flight was delayed for? You can check this using sites such as FlightStats. You may need to register to use them, but many are free although they may not show older flights and they will not tell you what caused a delay.
When am I entitled to compensation?
You are only entitled to the compensation if the delay was something within the airline’s control such as staffing problems and underbooking – political unrest in a country or strikes cannot be claimed for.
The rule about claiming for compensation for delays is about when you arrive at your destination, not when you leave. So if you’re on a flight that takes off four hours late but lands 2 hours 55 minutes late, you’re not over the three-hour delay needed to be eligible for compensation. Your arrival time however is actually deemed to be when the plane opens at least one of its doors, not when it touches down.
What can I claim?
Compensation claims are also per person but if a passenger travels free of charge – a child, for example – you cannot claim. Compensation payments are also based in euros, meaning the amount you’ll get in sterling will fluctuate, depending on the exchange rate at the time the payment is made.
Compensation is calculated for a delay, not a refund of the flight ticket cost, so the amount you are due is fixed dependent on the delay length and distance travelled:
1. if you are delayed for 2 hours or more, reclaim the cost of food and drink ( reasonable costs and not the gastro pub!). If you need to phone a friend or keep them up to date by email from your smart phone -reclaim this cost. If you are forced into an overnight stay at the airport then reclaim the cost of a room. Airlines normally give you the vouchers at the airport, but failing that, keep your receipts to reclaim expenses later.
2. if you are delayed for 3 hours or more in addition to the above ( provided it is the airline’s fault) you are entitled to set amounts of compensation which depend on the distance of the flight of anywhere between €250 (for flight less than and up to 1,500km ) to €600(for flights over 3500km).
3. if the delay is more than 5 hours then, regardless of whose fault it is, you can get a full refund or, if you are part way through the journey, a flight back to where you started in addition to the above rights.
4. likewise, if your flight is cancelled you can get a full refund.
What if the airline rejects my claim?
If the airline has rejected or put your case on hold, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are correct. If you feel you’ve a legitimate claim but have been fobbed off, you can take your case to the relevant regulator or ombudsman to look into.
We hope you get to where you are going on time but, if you need help or clarification regarding your rights if you do not, then please contact us on (01267) 237441.