Q&A: Flight delays and cancellations

ECC Ireland has put together some advice for when there is flight disruption and you’re wondering what to do to get to your destination – or indeed home – or get assistance, and how to ensure that you have a greater chance of securing the appropriate redress later on (if applicable).

flight delays and cancellations

Question: I’ve just found out there could be a problem with my flight. How do I find out about my rights?

Answer: Under Regulation (EC) 261/2014, you have the right to be informed of the circumstances of your journey in a timely manner before, during and after travel and about your entitlements in case of disruption. You may receive this information by email or phone message so it’s extremely important to check you got this (remember to check the spam folder). If you didn’t get a message, or you can’t find it, then you could contact the airline customer service. Alternatively, if you’re already at the airport then you should be able to find information at the check-in desk as all airlines are required to provide a clearly legible notice with the following text: “If you are denied boarding or if your flight is cancelled or delayed for at least two hours, ask at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the text stating your rights, particularly with regard to compensation and assistance.” You should also be given a written notice setting out rules for compensation and assistance if your flight is cancelled or is delayed for more than two hours.

You should liaise with the airline in relation to availing of your rights and making suitable arrangements. When a lot of passengers are affected it may result in rather chaotic scenes at the airline help desk so it might be better to use a live chat facility or email (if available and if appropriate to the circumstances). Make sure to keep a copy of this correspondence (this may include taking screenshots) and this will be of great assistance if you have problems with a complaint sent to the airline later on.

Question: My flight has been delayed for hours. I’m starving and may have to stay somewhere overnight. Can I get assistance from the airline or help myself?

Answer: At this stage, the airline should have informed you of your rights in relation to the flight delay. However, sometimes there can be communication issues particularly when extensive disruption occurs. If your flight has been delayed for two hours or more, the airline should provide care and assistance – this can be in the form of vouchers for meals or refreshments and/or arranging accommodation in nearby hotels if a stay of one or more nights is necessary until the flight is cleared again for take off. If you have not received an offer of care and assistance then either go to the airline desk or liaise via online chat to confirm if this will be provided, when and how. If you don’t get a response (again, it may be extremely busy) then you can buy your own meals and refreshments, however, it’s extremely important to obtain and keep receipts so that you can claim for these extra expenses from the airline at a later stage, but don’t go overboard – you are only entitled to necessary expenses and so this does not include alcoholic beverages and luxury items. If you can’t get assistance with organising accommodation then you can try to make your own arrangements, however, airlines may have a restriction on the type of accommodation that will be reimbursed (e.g. up to 3 star only) so it’s important to get confirmation in writing that you can book and claim it back. Don’t forget, in these circumstances you are entitled to two free phone calls, emails or faxes, which may be of assistance if making your own arrangements. Also, make sure to keep receipts for any travel to and from your accommodation.

Check out ECC Ireland’s flight delay page for more information.

Question: I’m looking at the departures board and it’s saying the flight is now cancelled. What do I do? Can I get another flight?

Answer: When a flight is cancelled, you should receive information from the airline telling you that you have a choice between rerouting to your final destination or a refund for the part, or parts, of the journey cancelled or not completed due to the cancellation. If you have received this email/message (remember to check the spam folder), or notice of the cancellation at the airport, then the decision is really up to you which one you want to choose. If you choose rerouting instead of a refund, the airline should offer you an alternative flight to your final destination at the earliest opportunity, or at a later date of your choice subject to the availability of seats. While waiting for that rerouting, you should also be provided with appropriate care and assistance (same as above).

However, sometimes there are problems with providing alternative flights, e.g. the airline cannot provide another flight for day or maybe more. If the alternative flight offered is not suitable and you decide to make your own arrangements by booking with another carrier, then you need to tread very carefully here. Make sure to liaise with the airline on the original booking to confirm (in writing) that if it cannot provide a more suitable alternative you can go ahead with your own arrangements (provide details if you can) and that the cost of the flight with the other carrier will be reimbursed once a receipt has been submitted with your claim. Failure to get this confirmation (in written format) could result in problems getting refunded for the cost of that flight, which let’s face it, is going to cost a bit when booked last minute.

Check out ECC Ireland’s flight cancellation page for more information.

Question: Am I entitled to compensation? Is there anything I need to do now or soon after the flight disruption for my claim later on?

Answer: It’s certainly difficult to think of these things at the time, especially when you’re trying to organise alternative flights, accommodation, or even food, however, there are certain steps that should be taken. Firstly, it would be beneficial to find out (as soon as you can) about the cause of the disruption. If you haven’t already been told the reason then you should contact the airline (again, in written format) and ask them why the flight was cancelled or delayed (if delayed for more than three hours). The answer could mean the difference between being entitled to claim extra monetary compensation or not.

When a flight is cancelled, or a delay results in you reaching your final destination three hours or more after the arrival time originally scheduled, you could be entitled to compensation. The amount ranges from €250 to €600 depending on the distance. An airline does not have to pay compensation if you were informed of the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled time of departure or when it can prove that the disruption was due to extraordinary circumstances. For the airline to rely on extraordinary circumstances it would have to prove that the disruption was unavoidable and that all reasonable measures were taken. Examples of extraordinary circumstances can be severe weather, political unrest, security threat, unexpected flight safety shortcomings, air traffic control restrictions, or strikes that affect the operation of the flight.

Another important step is to make sure you keep all correspondence (e.g. emails, texts, live chat) safe so that you can supply a copy if there are problems with your claim.

You can also check out the Flights Rights Calculator tool on our website.