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Travel Q&A: What are my rights if my flight is cancelled or delayed?

Conor Pope: Strikes have led to thousands of flight disruptions across Europe in recent months. Here’s what to do if yours is cancelled or delayed

Do I really need to be worried about industrial action ruining my holiday?

It’s a concern, no two ways about it. Unions in France have been striking over pension age changes, with air traffic control downing tools and thousands of flights cancelled in recent months as a result. There has also been disruption at airports in the UK, and considerable unrest in Italy and in Spain.

What happens if my flight is cancelled?

Under EU Regulation 261, airlines must offer you a refund or a rerouting on the next available flight or at a later time of your choosing. If you go for the refund, the airline’s responsibility to you ends immediately. If you ask to be put on the next available flight, then the airline must provide care and assistance until you can be accommodated.

What does ‘care and assistance’ mean?

If you are overseas and trying to get home, it has to ensure you have meals and refreshments and cover the cost of hotel accommodation and transport to and from where you are staying. If you are alone in the airport, or an airline does not provide the care and assistance it is supposed to provide, make your own reasonable arrangements and keep all receipts because you will need them to claim back reasonable expenses.

Reasonable expenses? What does that mean?

It is not boundless, but if you stay in a modestly priced hotel and eat in modestly priced restaurants while waiting for the strike to end, you will be able to claim that money back.


How do I make a claim?

First you send copies (and not originals) of all receipts to your airline and include booking references, passenger names, original and new flight details. Remember you are not looking for compensation. Even mentioning that word might see your claim wrongly rejected.

When should I get my money back?

If you haven’t got the money back within a month, you can complain to the Irish Aviation Authority – But hopefully it won’t come to that.

What if a delay impacts my care hire or accommodation?

First off, you must keep the channels of communication open so as soon as you know there is a problem, make contact with the providers. You will want to ensure a car is kept for you if you have hired it. Depending on the policies of an accommodation provider, they may give some money back, but it could ultimately come down to your travel insurance.

WiIl I be covered by my travel insurance?

Not automatically, and many policies don’t cover industrial action. Check your policy to see if you have disruption cover, and if it is included, make sure it covers industrial action. If you don’t have it, you might need to pay a bit extra to purchase it as an ad-on; it is unlikely to cost all that much, and if it saves you some financial heartache or anxiety in the weeks ahead, it will be money well spent.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor