My return flight was delayed and I’ve incurred additional expenses – what can I do?

If you’re flying from a European country, or on a European airline, you’re entitled to receive meals and refreshments from the airline appropriate to the length of the delay, and overnight accommodation if the expected departure time is at least the next day.

However, any additional expenses beyond this are your responsibility.

In addition, you should check your travel insurance to find out what’s covered in your policy.

European airlines and flights departing from Europe will be subject to the European Denied Boarding Regulations in the event of a delay. These entitle you to:

  • two free phone calls, faxes or emails;
  • free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay; and 
  • free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.

The above applies:

  • when a flight under 1,500km is delayed for at least two hours; 
  • when a flight within the EU that is more than 1,500km is delayed for at least three hours;
  • when a flight that isn't within the EU but is between 1,500 and 3,500km is delayed for at least three hours; or
  • when any other flight is delayed for at least four hours.

Delays of five hours or more:

  • The airline should offer you a refund of the flight cost. The refund is of the flight cost only, not the holiday price if the flight is part of a package holiday.

If the delay is due to exceptional circumstances (force majeure) which couldn't have been avoided (e.g. bad weather, act of God, or, where flight safety is at risk, some technical failures) you will not be entitled to compensation.

If the delay is due to other reasons and your flight arrives more than three hours late you will be entitled to compensation of €250–€600, depending on the distance of the flight. If the European Union’s Denied Boarding Regulations don’t apply (for example you’re flying with a non-European airline and departing from outside Europe), you’re entitled to the assistance and compensation set out in the airline’s conditions of carriage or the tour operator’s booking conditions.

In terms of package holidays, if the delay results 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 delayed 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 the situation is clearer. This would happen when there’s no prospect that the delay will only lead to a minor change. A significant change is generally taken to be 12 hours on a 14-night holiday.

You should also contact your travel insurance provider to find out what cover is available under their policy.
For more information visit the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website.

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