Flight affected by Hurricane Irma? What are your consumer rights?
12th September 2017 – With many Irish holidaymakers affected by Hurricane Irma, ECC Ireland would like to remind consumers of their rights when their flights are cancelled or delayed.
If your flight is cancelled because of a hurricane, or other severe weather conditions, and it can be proven by the airline that cancellation could not be avoided even if all reasonable measures were taken, this is considered to be extraordinary circumstances. In cases where extraordinary circumstances is proven then there is no compensation payable to the affected passenger.
However, under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 if your flight is cancelled the airline is still obliged to provide you with the option of either rerouting to your final destination or a refund of the part, or parts of the journey cancelled or not completed due to the cancellation.
Hurricane Irma – right to care and assistance while waiting for rerouting
If you choose rerouting instead of a refund, the airline should offer you an alternative flight to your final destination at the earliest opportunity. While you’re waiting for this rerouting, the airline should also provide you with care and assistance which can include meals and refreshments, communication facilities, and hotel accommodation (depending on the distance of the flight and in reasonable relation to the waiting time).
If it is the case that the airline does not provide this care and assistance, passengers may have to make their own arrangements. In these cases, it is very important to keep any and all receipts in order to make a claim for reimbursement of expenses incurred. Put your claim/complaint in writing to the airline, following their complaint procedure, as soon as possible.
You can read more about flight cancellation and care and assistance here.
What are your rights when flight is delayed because of Hurricane Irma?
If your flight is delayed for two or more hours (depending on the distance of the flight) passengers must be offered care and assistance as described above. If your flight is delayed for more than five hours, passengers may opt for reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket. Please be aware that once this refund has been accepted, the airline is not obligated to provide any further care and assistance.
However, if passengers have already initiated their journey and the purpose of their original travel plan is not longer attainable (for example, connecting flight missed) then they have a right to a return flight to the original point of departure at no extra cost. In such as case, the airline may not decline the passenger’s right to care.
Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 does not set out rules for compensation in the case of flight delay. However, a Court of Justice of the European Union ruling found that passengers whose flights reach their final destination three hours or more after the arrival time originally scheduled can rely on the right to compensation as set out by the Regulation in the case of flight cancellation. However, as mentioned above, this right to compensation does not apply if the air carrier can prove that the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances, for example, a hurricane.
You can read more about flight delay here.
Who to contact for further information
If you encounter further difficulties and the airline is based in Ireland then you can contact the Commission for Aviation Regulation for more information. If you’re based in Ireland and the airline is based in another EU/EEA country then you can also contact ECC Ireland to get further guidance.
You can find more information about air travel and your rights here.