My flight’s been cancelled, what are my rights?
If your flight is cancelled and you’re departing from the UK, your airline must offer you the choice of a replacement flight at the earliest opportunity or a refund. This also applies if you are denied boarding, e.g., if your flight has been overbooked and there are not enough seats for the number of passengers.
If your return flight to the UK is cancelled and you’re travelling from within the UK or the EU, then you’re also entitled to the choice of a replacement flight at the earliest opportunity or a refund. If you’re flying from outside the UK or the EU – and with a non-UK and non-EU airline e.g. from New York to Glasgow with American Airlines – then you’ll need to check the terms and conditions of your booking to see what you’re entitled to.
If you choose the replacement flight, often referred to as being ‘rerouted’, most airlines will book you on another of their flights to the same destination. However, if an alternative airline is flying there significantly sooner then you may have the right to be booked on to that flight instead.
If you were at the airport when your flight was cancelled, and you’ve chosen rerouting, you’re also entitled to care and assistance while you wait to be rerouted. This usually means food, drink, access to communications (e.g. two free phone calls) plus accommodation and the necessary transfers if the replacement flight departs the next day or later.
Your airline may advise you to make alternative travel arrangements, and then claim back the cost later. If you do this, keep receipts noting that costs should be reasonable and alcohol will not be included.
If your airline offers a flight to an alternative arrival airport, they must bear the cost of transferring you to the original airport or to another close-by destination agreed with you.
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.
If you’re unable to travel and you’ve booked other services separately to your flight, such as accommodation, you may not be able to recover that cost. You would need to check the terms and conditions of your accommodation booking or your other pre-arranged services to see if you’re able to get a refund. If not, you should contact your travel insurance provider to find out what cover is available under your policy with them.
If your flight is cancelled and you’ve booked a package holiday, you have the same rights as any other passenger to rerouting, refunds and potentially compensation from the airline but you also have additional rights regarding the rest of your holiday.
Normally your travel company will contact you in advance to re-arrange your flights, however, if you’re at the airport when the flight is cancelled you should contact your travel company to talk through your options.
If your flight can’t be rearranged and your holiday has to be cancelled, or new arrangements are made that result in a significant change to your holiday, then the travel company must offer an alternative holiday if they can, or a refund of the full package price, not just the flight part. Generally, a change of more than 12 hours on a 14-night holiday is considered a significant change.
This depends on what caused the cancellation – if it wasn’t the airline’s fault, you won’t be entitled to receive any compensation. Cancellations 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 are generally due compensation, awarded in pounds or euros depending on where your flight was due to depart from, according to the following scale:
- £220 / €250 for all flights of 1,500km or less (e.g. Glasgow to Amsterdam);
- £350 / €400 for all flights between 1,500km and 3,500km (e.g. East Midlands to Marrakech);
- £520 / €600 for all other flights (e.g. London to New York).
Compensation will be reduced by 50% if the arrival time of the replacement flight doesn’t exceed the arrival time of the original flight by:
- two hours for flights of 1,500km or less;
- three hours for flights between 1,500km and 3,500km;
- four hours for all other flights.
For more information visit the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website.