What are my rights if my flight is cancelled or delayed?

Air passengers are facing lengthy delays and cancellations after a 'technical fault' with UK air traffic control.

Flights that have been cancelled or delayed due to a “technical failure” with air traffic control have left passengers stuck in airports here and abroad – some with no idea when or how they will get to their destination.

On Monday, 790 flights departing UK airports were cancelled and 785 arriving flights, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium.

The technical fault, which was later “identified and remedied” by National Air Traffic Services (Nats), meant flight plans had to be input manually by controllers.

Major UK airlines, such as Tui and British Airways, have warned passengers to expect significant delays as schedules had to be changed.

What are my rights if my flight is cancelled or delayed?

Under UK law, those affected by the technical fault on Monday have legal rights which oblige the airlines to provide support to customers flying from a UK airport, arriving in the country on an EU or UK airline, or arriving at an EU airport on a UK airline.

If your flight is covered under UK law, your airline must give you the option of choosing another flight or providing a full refund. You can get money back on any part of the ticket not used.

And if you still want to travel, your airline must find you an alternative flight. If another airline is flying to your destination significantly sooner, or there are other suitable modes of transport available, then you have a right to be booked onto that alternative transport instead.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), an airline must provide a reasonable amount of food and drink in the case of a “significant delay”.

Passengers left stranded at Belfast International Airport. / Credit: PA

What is classed as a significant delay?

  • More than two hours for a short-haul flight of under 1,500km
  • More than three hours for a medium-haul flight of up to 3,500km
  • More than four hours for long-haul flights

This support usually comes in the form of vouchers, but if an airline can’t provide it for whatever reason, customers can make their own “reasonable” arrangements and keep their receipts to claim the money back.

This can include food and drink, the cost of calls, accommodation and transport to a hotel or home. The CAA adds that “luxury hotels and alcohol” are unlikely to be covered.

More than 1,000 inbound and outbound UK flights were cancelled on Monday. / Credit: PA

Can I claim compensation?

Airlines are required to pay compensation if flights arrive more than three hours late, but only when it is their fault.

The problems with air traffic control on Monday could fall under the definition of “exceptional circumstances”, meaning the carriers could be exempt from paying out.

The CAA said airlines should inform customers when they will be able to fly and advises passengers to remain in contact with airport staff and their airline’s website.

“If you have been delayed for more than five hours and no longer wish to travel then you are entitled to a refund,” the CAA added.

“If you are a transfer passenger and missed your connection flight because your first flight was delayed, you are also entitled to a flight back to your original departure point.”

The authority continued that once a passenger accepts a refund or to travel later than the first available flight, then the airline is not obliged to provide food, drink or accommodation.

“If you are on a package holiday and you decide not to travel on your outbound flight, you may lose your holiday too, we recommend you contact your package organiser or the airline for further information,” the CAA said.

“If you still want to travel then your airline must get you to your destination. You might have to be patient while they rearrange transport and rebook passengers, but the law says they must get you there.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code
Posted in