What if your flight gets cancelled or delayed? Know your rights

You’ve been counting down the days to your getaway. You’ve had it planned and booked for absolutely ages, but when you turn up the airport raring to go, you find out your flight has been delayed. Or even worse, cancelled altogether. Sure, it’s obviously going to be devastating news at first. But it’s important not to go straight into full on wallowing-in-your-misery mode. What you do next could mean the difference between salvaging something from the situation and having your vacay completely ruined.

It’s fair to say that airlines sometimes seem to operate in their own murky world of highly questionable moral standards. But if your flight is to (on an EU airline), from, or within the EU, as a customer you have some pretty substantial rights. (And don’t worry, there have been assurances that regardless of what happens with Brexit, the EU laws surrounding these matters will be written into British law.)

However, more often than not, airlines won’t proactively inform you of everything you’re entitled to so it’s important to be clued up. Here’s what to do if your flight gets cancelled or delayed.

Dig out the details

The first step to take is to figure out what exactly is happening with your flight. Has it been cancelled altogether or simply delayed? What’s caused the cancellation or delay? And most importantly, when is the airline expecting to get you up in the air? It’s vital that you get the answers to these questions because they will determine exactly what action the airline is required to take. It’s notoriously difficult to get straight answers in many instances so if you’re not getting the goods from the check-in desk, try checking their website or even phoning the contact line. Always note down the name and, if possible, employment number of any official from an airline who gives you advice.

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Ask for your entitlements

Once you have an idea of what’s happening with your flight you can begin to make sure the airline looks after you properly. Most delays are relatively minor meaning you’re entitled to exactly chuff all. However, if it’s a severe delay (roughly 3 hours plus) then you shouldn’t be left out of pocket as a result.

While some airlines will hand out vouchers, others might ask you just to keep a tally of what you spend. If this is the case, don’t take it as a licence to go wild at the airport bar. They’re only required to provide you with “reasonable” care and assistance. And while there’s no specific monetary definition, the assumption is that they’re obliged to keep you fed and watered, not sipping champagne like a baller in the gold lounge.

If your flight is delayed overnight you should also be entitled to accommodation, usually in the form of a hotel room. Alternatively, if it’s reasonable for you to return home to wait, then compensation should be provided for your travel expenses.

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Keep all receipts, tickets, and details

Hang on to every bit of documentation that you have including tickets, boarding passes etc. You may just need those at a later date if it gets to the stage of claiming money back or even compensation. Put them in a safe place and take photos of them as well.

The same goes for documenting any expenses that you incur while you’re waiting. Get full itemised receipts for any food and drink that you purchase otherwise you won’t be able to prove that you purchased anything.

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