Airlines ordered to pay delay compensation

Companies had been trying to wriggle out of paying when delay was exacerbated by missing a connecting flight

(Image credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Have you ever tried to claim compensation when your flight was delayed? Did you even know you could?

Last week the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued a statement ordering five airlines to stop messing their customers around and pay them the compensation they were entitled to, or face legal action.

"Airlines' first responsibility should be looking after their passengers, not finding ways in which they can prevent passengers upholding their rights," said Richard Moriarty, director of consumers and markets at the CAA.

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"So it is disappointing to see a small number of airlines continuing to let a number of their passengers down by refusing to pay them the compensation they are entitled to.

"Where we see evidence of passengers systemically being denied their rights, we will not hesitate to take the necessary action to ensure airlines change their policies and their customers get the assistance they are entitled to."

Research by Which? found that over 10,000 flights were at least three hours late between March 2015 and April 2016.

Here’s everything you need to know about the rules on compensation for delayed flights.

When am I allowed to claim compensation?

You are entitled to compensation if you are more than three hours late arriving at your final destination due to delays on a flight operated by an EU airline, or just arriving at or departing from an EU airport.

However, in order to claim the delay has to have been within the airline's control. So, delays due to bad weather aren’t the airline's problem, but delays due to a faulty aeroplane or late crew are.

If your flight is delayed by more than five hours, and you choose not to travel as a result, you are entitled to a full refund for your ticket regardless of the reason for the delay.

You can claim for delayed flights you travelled on dating back to 2011.

How much can I claim?

That depends on how long your journey was and how much you were delayed.

  • Short-haul flights (less than 1,500km) – you can claim €250 if your flight is over three hours late
  • Medium-haul flights (1,500km-3,500km) – you can claim €400 if your flight is over three hours late
  • Long-haul flights (over 3,500km) – you can claim €300 if they are three to four hours late and €600 if you are over four hours late to your final destination

How do they try to wriggle out of it?

The CAA has just issued a warning to five airlines who had been trying to wriggle out of paying compensation where a connecting flight made up part of the journey.

American Airlines, Ethiad, Emirates, Singapore and Turkish Airlines had all refused to pay compensation when delays resulted in passengers missing connecting flights. The stance meant 200,000 customers hadn’t received the compensation they were entitled to.

"Any disruption to a flight is frustrating for passengers, but delays that cause people to miss connecting flights have a particularly damaging effect on people’s travel plans,” says Moriarty.

"That’s why there are clear laws in place to make sure passengers that experience this type of disruption are looked after by their airline and compensated when the disruption was in the airline's control."

How do I claim?

To make a claim you need to write to the airline giving details of the flight you were on and how long it was delayed by. You can find template letters online. Make sure you state that you want to claim compensation under EC regulation 261/2004.

If the airline refuses your claim you can take your complaint to the CAA.

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