If my flight is cancelled, do I have rights under the EU Denied Boarding Regulations?

If your flight is cancelled, your airline must let you choose between either receiving a refund or accepting an alternative flight.

If you choose a refund, you can get your money back for all parts of the ticket you haven’t used. For instance, if you’ve booked a return flight and the outbound leg is cancelled, you can get the full cost of the return ticket back from your airline. 

However, if you still want to travel, your airline must find you an alternative flight. It’s up to you whether to fly as soon as possible after the cancelled flight, or at a later date that suits you. Airlines often refer to this as being ‘rerouted’.

Although most airlines will book you on to another of their flights to the same destination, if an alternative airline is flying there significantly sooner then you may have the right to be booked on to that flight instead. 

You need to discuss this with your airline. Sometimes airlines may advise you to make alternative travel arrangements, and then claim back the cost later. If you do this, try to keep costs down as much as you can, keep receipts and record the name of the person giving this advice. 

Care and assistance
If you choose an alternative flight, you’re also entitled to care and assistance. This usually means food, drink, access to communications (this could be by refunding the reasonable cost of phone calls) and accommodation (if necessary).

Compensation
This depends on what caused the cancellation – if it wasn’t the airline’s fault, you won’t be entitled to receive any compensation. Delays caused by things like extreme weather, airport or air traffic control strikes or other ‘extraordinary circumstances’ are not eligible for compensation.

If the airline gave you more than 14 days’ notice of the cancellation they are not obliged to pay you compensation.

If you received less than 14 days’ notice of the cancellation, you may be able to claim compensation based on the timings of the alternative flight. See the CAA website for details.

Package holidays
In terms of package holidays, normally the operator will contact you in advance and re-arrange your flights, however, if you’re at the airport when the flight is cancelled you should contact your tour operator to see what they intend to do.

If the new arrangements result in a significant change to your holiday then the tour operator must offer an alternative if they can, or a refund.

Where the flight is cancelled and it isn’t clear whether a significant change will result, the tour operator doesn’t have to offer an alternative or a refund – until they’re constrained or forced to make a significant change.

This would happen when there’s no prospect that the new arrangements will only lead to a minor change. A significant change is generally taken to be 12 hours on a 14-night holiday.

For more information visit the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website.

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