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Flight delay compensation: can I get a refund if my flight is delayed or cancelled - UK legal rights explained

Hundreds of flights were grounded as UK families attempted to jet off for the Easter break

Travellers across the UK are facing delays of cancellation as the Easter school holidays kick off.

Many would have been hoping to jet away on a break in the first extended school holiday in which Covid-19 restrictions were lifted for travel.

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However, arriving at airports across the country yesterday, families were left disappointed as flights were delayed or canceled.

EasyJet were among the airlines to confirm that employee sickness due to Covid-19 was to blame for at least 222 flights being cancelled over the weekend, and a further 62 flight cancelled on monday (4 April).

But what are your rights when it comes to compensation for a cancelled or delayed flight?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What are my rights for a delayed flight?

According to consumer website which.co.uk, if a flight departing the UK is cancelled or delayed, the airline must provide assistance to travellers affected as a result of the Denied Boarding Regulation.

The extent of the assistance depends on how long your delay is. Airlines may offer you:

  • a refund or alternative flight
  • food
  • accomodation of the delay is overnight
  • compensation

A delayed flight will be eligible for support if your wait for a short-haul journey is more than two hours, more than 3 hours for a medium-haul journey or more than four hours for a long-haul journey.

Compensation is also available at these levels, increasing in value as the length of flight increases.

The waiting time includes your time in the airport as well as your time on board the place waiting on the tarmac.

If your flight is delayed for longer than five hours and hasn’t been cancelled, you can choose to ask for a refund on your ticket.

The airline must provide a refund within the next seven days.

However, if you do choose a refund, the airline will no longer be required to provide you with the assistance as described above.

What are my rights for a cancelled flight?

If your flight is cancelled, your airline must offer to book you on another alternative route as close to your original arrival time as possible.

You will be entitled to a full refund for flights but you can only accept either a refund or a rebooking, not both.

This will depend on your personal arrangement and what suits you best at that time.

However, regardless of what option you choose, you should be entitled to compensation on top of this if the cancelation or delay is not due to “extraordinary circumstances”.

“Extraordinary circumstances” includes those which are not within the airline’s control - for example extreme weather, drone disruption or security issues.

If the airline can prove that the cancelation is due to “extraordinary circumstances”, they will no longer be required to pay out compensation.

The compensation offered in appropriate cases depends on the length of your original flight and the length of the delay between the original flight, as detailed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

What have airlines said about delayed or cancelled flights?

After disruption at the start of the Easter holidays, EasyJet released a statement which read: “As a result of the current high rates of Covid infections across Europe, like all businesses, easyJet is experiencing higher than usual levels of employee sickness and so we have taken the action to cancel some flights in advance, in order to give customers notice.

“We have focused on consolidating flights where we have multiple frequencies so customers have more options to rebook their travel, often on the same day, and we expect to make similar levels of pre-emptive cancellations over the coming days, due to the ongoing high level of sickness.

“We are very sorry for any inconvenience this may cause to customers on affected flights. We are contacting customers directly and providing them with their options which include rebooking onto an alternative flight, or receiving a voucher or full refund.”