Rights of stranded airline passengers


What to do if your flight is cancelled

You have rights if you are stranded airline passengers in Europe or if you have purchased a package holiday.

Passengers stranded by the volcanic ash flight delays were often refused accommodation and compensation by the airlines in breach of EU law.

 Know your rights: If your flight is cancelled here is how to claim

Under EU law airlines have a duty of care to look after stranded passengers, even if cancellations are due to circumstances out of their control.

If your airline has left you stranded and out of pocket, then you will need to keep a record of what you have spent, including receipts and try to reclaim them from your airline.

 Regulation (EC) 261/2004 requires airlines to offer you meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation as appropriate whilst you wait for a rearranged flight. They should also cover any transport costs between the hotel and the airport. There is no time or monetary limits on the provision of this assistance.

If your airline has failed to provide help, and you have had to arrange alternatives yourself, keep your expenditure to a minimum, make sure you get receipts and claim reimbursement from your airline when you get home.

Airlines must pay passengers up to a maximum figure of €600 in compensation if flights are cancelled or badly delayed, unless the situation has been caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.’

This right applies to all flights wholly within the EU/EEA or Swiss region, or departing an EU/EEA or Swiss airport, or arriving in the region and run by an EU/EEA or Swiss airline.

With the volcanic ash delays, the airlines claimed ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and were able to avoid paying compensation.

However, they are still under a duty of care to stranded passengers. Remember they must still provide passengers with accommodation, meals and refreshments and transport between the airport and accommodation.

How do I reclaim?

In order to reclaim flight and accommodation costs off your airline you will need to write to them, referencing the regulations and their responsibilities and including as many receipts as possible.

Advise them in your letter that under Regulation (EC) 261/2004 Article 5 you are entitled to be reimbursed or re-routed under Article 8 and also offered assistance, including accommodation, meals and transport under Article 9; and that whilst under Article 5, airlines are not liable for compensation in accordance with article 7 in the case of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ this does not apply to the entitlement to assistance under Article 9.

A sample letter of claim

Dear Sir,

Due to                                  I had my flight from —- to —- cancelled on —- and was left in —-.

Unfortunately, your failed to meet your duties under EU rules as you did not provide me with the assistance you should have in the form of rerouting home / accommodation / meals / transport to the airport. [Delete as applicable.]

 I am therefore asking you to please compensate me for £—-. I enclose receipts.

 The EU rules that state that impose these duties on you are Regulation (EC) 261/2004.

 Article 5 states that in the case of cancellation or delay of more than 1 day I am entitled to be reimbursed, or re-routed under Article 8, and also offered assistance, including accommodation, meals and transport under Article 9.

 Article 9 states:

“1. Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall be offered free of charge:

(a) meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time;
(b) hotel accommodation in cases
— where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary,
or — where a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary;
(c) transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other).

2. In addition, passengers shall be offered free of charge two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails.

3. In applying this Article, the operating air carrier shall pay particular attention to the needs of persons with reduced mobility and any persons accompanying them, as well as to the needs of unaccompanied children”.

 Under Article 5 part 3, airlines are only able to avoid paying compensation in accordance with Article 7 in the case of ‘extraordinary circumstances’, but you will appreciate this extraordinary circumstance clause does not apply to the entitlement to assistance under Article 9.

 If I do not receive a satisfactory offer of compensation I shall have no alternative but to take legal action against you and shall seek costs.

 I trust this will not be necessary and await your response.

 Yours faithfully

Travel insurance

Taking out travel insurance can help you get financial and practical help if something goes wrong on your trip.