Flight cancelled? Here’s what you can do - and what your airline must do

Don’t expect compensation for storm-enforced disruptions, but you are entitled to a refund or rerouting, and perhaps ‘care and assistance’

Dublin Airport on Sunday evening amid cancellations from Storm Isha. Photograph: Joe Dunne

How has Storm Isha disrupted flights to and from Ireland?

By 9.30pm on Sunday 148 flights to and from Dublin Airport were cancelled as a result of the storm, with more cancellations and further disruption “very likely” according to Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), the body that manages both Dublin and Cork airports. It is much the same story at airports across a swathe of northern Europe, with Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport cancelling dozens of flights scheduled for Monday as a preventive measure because of strong winds expected when Storm Isha reaches the Netherlands.

Is the problem likely to be resolved by Monday morning?

The best advise it to keep in touch with your airline and to be guided by them. Bear in mind that given the nature of the disruption, cancellations can happen pretty late on. It is also worth keeping a close eye on the live arrivals and departures boards of your airport.


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, the airline 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 bad weather to clear 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 – aviationreg.ie. 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, contact 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.

Will I be covered by my travel insurance?

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

What about compensation? Will I be entitled to any?

The short answer is no. Airlines are freed from compensating passengers for cancellations or disruption in circumstances beyond their control and a storm such as Isha is most definitely beyond their control.

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Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast