Delayed Flight Compensation – 2020 Guide (UK)

Like many of us reading this, you may have suffered at the hands of airlines with flight delays or cancellations. You may even have had some of your luggage lost or damaged through poor handling and management.

Most frequent flyers have been affected negatively at some point in their lives with issues to do with flight travel. But don’t despair! There are things you can do to mitigate some of the impacts by claiming flight compensation.

Unfortunately, most people will give up on trying to claim compensation from their airline at the first hurdle. Many will be put off at the thought of potentially fighting a lengthy battle, especially when dealing with airline call centres that are very skilled at denying or deflecting blame.

While it may seem like the flight compensation claims process is quite long and arduous, you have to remember that you are the victim here and you deserve to receive compensation for the issues you have suffered.

Why it is worth claiming flight compensation

No matter whether your flight was cancelled, delayed or oversold – you will be entitled to claim compensation. All these issues were out of your control and caused by the airline managing your booking.

Did you know that a staggering amount of flight compensation goes unclaimed every year? It is true, and the amount unclaimed is currently in excess of £1.2billion each year and rising.

A lot of people don’t bother to make a claim simply because they don’t want the hassle or cannot afford the time to pursue a lengthy claim. However, if more people actually made the effort to claim, even for a small amount of compensation owed, the airlines will have no other choice but to improve their services.

European Law and flight compensation

Current European law states that an airline passenger is entitled to make a claim for compensation for any booked flight that is delayed for longer than three hours.

So if the airline is at fault and the delay was caused by either technical problems with the plane, staffing issues, or delays caused by the airport flight control system, then you are perfectly entitled to put in a claim for compensation.

The actual amount of compensation that you will be entitled to claim will vary according to the type of flight you have booked, for example, if it is a short-haul or a long-haul flight, and the length of delay you have suffered.

Sadly though, you may not usually find the airline offering compensation freely. In most cases, the onus on making a claim will be on your own shoulders. Whether you choose to claim or not will be entirely up to you.

This is where the airline concerned will hope that the majority of their affected passengers will not bother to make a claim – which saves them a lot of money!

So what can I do against these big airlines companies?

The honest truth here is that if you don’t ask – you don’t get!

Even if you put in a claim for compensation and it gets turned down, you should stand your ground and appeal the decision. If the airline rejects your claim and states that the delay was caused by bad weather, for example, ask them for proof.

If you believe you have been treated unfairly by the airline, you can contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The CAA has a team of legal experts dedicated to handling consumer’s complaints. Should your claim be turned down then it would be worth approaching them for help.

The CAA actually states that over 40% of airline customers have been successful and won their claim against an airline after the CAA got involved on their behalf.

Responsibilities of the Civil Aviation Authority

It is handy to know that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is there to act as the official watchdog to ensure the ongoing safety of UK airspace as well as to manage economic regulations at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports.

The CAA is also there to protect the rights of airline passengers and deal with issues such as flight cancellations. This includes managing the ATOL scheme that handles compensation claims and flight refunds.

In essence, the CAA is on your side. Their services are free to use, so if you find yourself struggling to make a claim for compensation, it is well worth seeking out their help.

How Much Can You Claim?

This is the big question that I am sure is on the tip of your tongue – how much can you claim? The total amount does vary according to the circumstances in question, and that’s what I am about to go through below.

  • For flights that are delayed more than three hours, you can expect to receive up to £530 (600 euros) back from the airline. This applies if you arrive at your destination three hours later than planned.
  • If you end up getting bumped to a different flight, you can also claim up to £530 (600 euros), depending on the arrival time and the distance travelled.
  • If you are delayed for more than five hours, you can get a refund. It doesn’t matter what causes the delay; you are entitled to all of your money back for any parts of your booking that have not been used.
  • Flights that have been cancelled completely can choose to have a refund or new flight, and may even be able to apply for compensation. This is where the compensation companies really shine through.
  • For those who have ended up getting downgraded, you can claim up to 75% off your ticket depending on how long your flight was.

What You’re Entitled to and Things to Remember

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, there are certain things that you are entitled to as a result. These should be provided by your airline, in accordance with their policy, so that you are comfortable while you wait:

  • Food and drink. All airlines should provide this, regardless of the reason for the delay. Usually, it will come in the form of vouchers, or you can claim back later. It will happen if you are delayed for more than two hours on a short-haul flight, three hours on medium-haul, and four hours on long-haul.
  • Accommodation. If your flight ends up being delayed overnight, you are entitled to accommodation. Normally, the airline will book this for you, but you may end up needing to do it yourself and then claim back the cost later.
  • Information. You should always know what is happening, and it is the duty of your airline to keep you informed at all times. This could be via email, text, or a flight tracker.

The Flight Compensation Process

The process is actually a pretty short one; which is good news for everyone. There are only a few steps that you need to follow, and many will only need to pay attention to the first and second.  

#1 Check Your Eligibility. The first thing you need to do is ensure that you are actually eligible for compensation from the flight company. You can easily determine this using the above sections as a reference to see if you match the criteria. Once you have done this, you can move onto steps two and three.

#2 Make Your Complaint. Gather all of your evidence and write your complaint to the airline in question. Make sure it is detailed, and let them know everything that went wrong. Let them know what you expect, and attach all of the evidence to back your claim. If there are food and accommodation costs that need to be compensated, attach these as well.

#3 Taking Things Further. If the airline refuses your claim and you find this to be unfair, you will need to take things to the next level. For this stage, you need to take your complaint to the CAA and ask them to take further action. They will then investigate the case and do their best to ensure you are fully compensated.

#4 If the CAA is unable to help, you can take it to court. This can be expensive, so you will really need to decide whether or not it is worth the time, effort, stress, and money to claim your compensation. If it is, the process is a little more complex and requires a bit more research. The best thing you can do is seek the advice of your solicitor in order to build your case and make the first steps towards your court case. There are flight compensation companies that will do this for you.

What if my claim fails due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’?

Unfortunately, many flights are delayed or even cancelled completely for perfectly valid reasons.

Quite often an airline will delay a flight because bad weather conditions would hamper the flight or pose a real threat to the safety of the flight.

Where there is a genuine concern for the safety of flight passengers where there might be an increased risk of injury or a threat to life, then the airline will be taking the right actions by delaying or cancelling the affected flight.

You as a frustrated passenger may not like having your flight delayed or cancelled, but if the airlines’ motives were proven to be right and good, then, unfortunately, there is little that you can do about it.

What exactly is an extraordinary circumstance?

Ultimately, your compensation claim will depend on the underlying reason for your flight delay or cancellation. Where an airline can prove that your flight delay was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’, then, unfortunately, there will be no compensation payable.

Extraordinary circumstances are defined by events or certain situations that are beyond the control of the airline. Here are some examples of extraordinary circumstances that may apply to your flight delay or cancellation:

  • A high-security risk such as a sudden severe weather event that would make conditions dangerous for flying, including low visibility from fog, heavy winds, snowstorms, sub-zero temperatures, and any other extreme weather conditions.
  • A suspected security breach, bomb threat, an act of terrorism, political or civil unrest.
  • Bird strikes.
  • Runway closures and other air traffic control restrictions.
  • Some medical emergencies.
  • Strike action being taken by staff including Union actions and airport personnel strikes.

Should your flight delay or cancellation be caused by one of these issues, you will not be entitled to claim any compensation. However, you will be entitled to be supplied with an adequate level of food, drink and temporary accommodation (when necessary) depending on the length of your flight delay.

If there is a flight delay or cancellation then you should get help directly from the airline. They might give you vouchers to buy food and drink at the airport. Check with someone who works for the airline should you not be offered anything.

However, if you don’t get any help and need to buy your own food and drink, keep your receipts for your expenses. You can try to make a claim back for your expenses from the airline later on.

Most airlines will only pay out for reasonable expenses. This will depend on what rules the company has in place, but in most cases, the airline will not cover excessively expensive meals, luxury hotel rooms and alcohol.

Can you successfully challenge an extraordinary circumstance?

If you really don’t agree with the airlines’ decision that your flight delay was caused by an extraordinary circumstance, then it can be worth challenging the airline.

Let’s say for example your flight has been delayed due to bad weather conditions, but you can see that other flights are still departing and landing, it would be worth investigating.

Some airlines have been known to use poor weather conditions as a blanket excuse to prevent compensation claims being made. It will be up to them to provide proof that this was the case.

Delays and cancellations due to ‘technical issues’

Another significant and relatively recent change made to the rules over what constitutes an extraordinary circumstance is that involving ‘technical problems’.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that ‘a technical problem’ can no longer be used as an extraordinary circumstance to deny paying out flight delay compensation to passengers and is binding in all European courts.

Regulation EU 261 now actively prevents airline companies from claiming ‘extraordinary circumstances’ when a flight delay is caused by technical problems. Airlines are now liable to pay compensation claims as long as the customer has reasonable grounds to do so.

Should you challenge and win your claim that your delay wasn’t due to exceptional circumstances, you could be entitled to up to €600 in compensation. This will depend on the length of the flight and delay you suffered, so it could be worth your while making a challenge!

Can I Claim for Being Downgraded?

This is a pretty common question, and one that I will happily cover in this section. What happens if your flight gets bumped or downgraded? The good news? You are entitled to compensation for both of these situations.

Most airlines book more seats than there are on the plane, because they don’t expect everyone to show up. If they do, some passengers will be asked to wait for a later flight because they can’t fit everyone on the plane. They will ask for volunteers first, and in this case, the amount of compensation is between you and the airline. A lot of the time it is in the form of vouchers or cash, a seat on the next available flight, and accommodation if it is required.

If there are no volunteers, the airline will refuse boarding to some passengers; usually those with the cheapest seats or last to board. If this happens to you, it is possible to claim money back from the airline. This is dependent on the length of the flight, and the distance travelled, with the exact figures being found in the next section.

If you have been removed from a higher class and put in a lower one, you may also be eligible for compensation based on this. The additional compensation tends to be determined when you are making a claim, and many people choose to hire the services of a flight compensation company to ensure they have the best chance at success. If you get to board the plane, you will not be eligible for a full refund, but you can claim a good chunk of your ticket back; the details of which are in the next section.

What about compensation claims for lost, delayed or damaged luggage?

According to figures released by Citizens Advice, their website information on making a claim for delayed or lost luggage had over 110,000 views last year.

That is one heck of a lot of people looking for help with luggage issues in the UK!

It is unfortunate when your luggage goes missing or arrives damaged at your destination. Should your luggage be lost, gets damaged beyond repair or you find that your suitcase has been opened and has missing items, you are entitled to make a claim for compensation.

Even if your luggage gets delayed, it is the fault of the airline and you have a legal right to compensation. However, very few people actually make a claim. This is because they may not know they can claim for delayed luggage, or they don’t want the hassle of claiming.

Top tips for making a luggage compensation claim

Should you decide to make a claim for your lost, delayed or damaged luggage then you should make your claim as soon as possible.

Urgency is important here because in most cases the airlines will only give you a week to make your claim from the date of your flight. It is worth checking the small print though just in case your airline has a shorter claim deadline.

When calculating how much you need to claim remember that the money claim will need to cover some of your basic essentials while you are away from home. These may include the cost of:

  • Buying replacement toiletries
  • New toothbrush and razors
  • Hairbrush or comb
  • New clothes and shoes
  • Replacing any lost medications

Don’t forget to add on any costs for either repairing or completely replacing your lost or damaged luggage.

Check to see whether it is worth making a claim on your travel insurance or any home insurance that you carry that may also cover your luggage.

It may turn out that you could be better off and receive more money claiming through your own insurance rather than making a baggage compensation claim from the airline.

There may be restrictions in place with the airline about what you are allowed to claim for and how much money you will receive.  You may also find the claims process is easier through your own insurer.

What is a flight compensation company?

There are a lot of flight compensation companies to choose from and these companies act on your behalf to manage your compensation claim.

Most flight compensation companies operate a ‘no win, no fee’ model. So this means that you will not have to pay any up-front fees to hire a company to claim on your behalf.

What it does mean is that the success of your claim will be in their best interest because they will only get paid if they win your case.

If you are not sure how strong a claim you have for compensation it can be worth talking to a flight compensation company. They will only take on your case if they are pretty confident of securing a win!

With over 70% of people that attempt to handle their own claims being rejected or ignored, it is worth considering using a reputable flight compensation company.

If your claim is successful, then you can expect to pay around 25% on average out of the amount of compensation you win from the airline. You may consider that a worthwhile fee to pay considering the amount of admin work that needs to be done when making a claim.

How to choose a good flight claim compensation company

If you have never dealt with a flight compensation company before it can be difficult to decide which one to go with. It is not a simple as choosing the one that takes less of a per cent of your claim winnings.

Instead, you should go with a company that you can trust. Look at their history and track record. Check their customer feedback and client recommendations. Look to see if they have good Trustpilot evaluations – you get to see both positive and negative feedback here!

At a minimum check out these points before deciding to hire them:

  • How big is the company
  • Where is it based
  • How long has it been operating
  • Does it have good customer feedback

Some of the bigger and more well-known companies include:

The Pros and Cons of Using a Flight Compensation Company

Many people decide to use a compensation company when claiming back for their flights, and these have advantages and disadvantages; as with anything in life. It is here that I will list them all for you so that you can decide if it is the right course of action for you.

The Pros:

  • Saves you a lot of time and effort
  • Experts take over the case for you
  • There is often a higher success rate with them
  • Most of them are no win no fee
  • The process is often faster overall

The Cons:

  • Some companies charge exceptionally high fees
  • They are unregulated, making it hard to know who is official

Conclusion

If you feel like making a flight compensation claim then be aware it may not be as straightforward as you may think.

Use the tips and advice mentioned here to help you make an informed decision about making a claim and making sure you are properly prepared to dig in and fight for the compensation that is rightfully yours. Using a compensation company can really take a lot of hassle out of the claims process. While there are some cons to using them, there are also plenty of advantages. As long as you do your research and ensure you are using a reputable company to make your claim, it really can be a lifesaver when you are looking to get your money back.