Airlines do everything possible to avoid interruptions and delays in your trip. however, sometimes problems do occur. As a consumer, you have important legal rights when your booked flight is delayed, canceled or denied boarding.
This page explains your rights and what to do when your flight is interrupted.
Does UK law apply to your flight?
Under UK law, you have important legal rights on many flights to, from or within the UK. The information on this page is only relevant to flights covered by UK law. to be covered, your flight must be:
- departing from a UK airport on any airline, or
- arriving at an airport in the uk on an eu or uk airline; or
- arriving at an eu airport on a uk airline.
- a reasonable amount of food and drink (often provided in the form of vouchers)
- a means for you to communicate (often by reimbursing the cost of your calls)
- accommodation, if the route is changed the next day (usually in a nearby hotel)
- transportation to and from the accommodation (or your home, if you can get back there)
You can check if UK law applies to your flight by viewing this document which explains how your entitlement changes based on specific criteria.
while waiting for your flight
Under UK law, airlines must provide you with care and assistance if your flight is significantly delayed. The law divides the established deadlines into three categories:
this means they must provide:
The airline must provide you with these items until it can get you to your destination, no matter how long the delay is or what caused it.
how it works in practice
If your flight is delayed, many airlines will provide you with coupons to purchase food and beverages. if you need accommodation, they can book a hotel and arrange transportation for you.
Sometimes airlines cannot arrange care and assistance for all passengers. this can happen when staff are overloaded during major outages.
If this happens, in our opinion, you have the right to arrange for reasonable care and support yourself and then claim the cost. if you end up paying for things yourself, keep all receipts and don’t spend more than is reasonable. airlines are unlikely to reimburse you for things like luxury hotels or alcohol. some will provide guidance on reasonable costs.
We expect the airline in question to respond to a refund claim within a reasonable time and, at a minimum, provide you with an indication of how long you should wait for a response. If you are not satisfied with the time it takes or you do not agree with the airline’s decision regarding your claim, please see our section on how to file a claim.
Under UK law, airlines may have to provide compensation if your flight arrives at its destination more than three hours late.
this depends on the cause of the delay; If it wasn’t the airline’s fault, don’t expect to receive any compensation.
Outages caused by extreme weather conditions, strikes by airport or air traffic control employees, or other “extraordinary circumstances” are not eligible for compensation.
The length of your flight determines how much you may be entitled to, so it’s a good idea to check which category your flight falls under:
view a list of flights that the caa has investigated to qualify for compensation.
rearrange your flight
If your flight has been delayed or cancelled, the airline must tell you when you will be able to fly to your destination. You can also ask airport staff, check the airline’s website (often the quickest way), or call them.
decide if you still want to fly
If you are delayed by more than five hours and you no longer wish to travel, you are entitled to a refund.
If you are a transfer passenger and you missed your connecting flight because your first flight was delayed, you are also entitled to a return flight to your original point of departure.
Once you decide to accept a refund or travel later than the earliest available flight, your airline is under no obligation to provide you with food, drink or lodging. If you are on a package vacation and decide not to travel on your outbound flight, you may also miss your vacation, we recommend that you contact your package organizer or the airline for more information.
get to your destination
If you still want to travel, your airline must get you to your destination. you may have to be patient while they rearrange transportation and rebook passengers, but the law says they have to get you there. Your airline must take care of you by providing you with food, drink, access to communications, and accommodation (if delayed overnight) while you wait for your re-arranged transportation.
Sometimes airlines may recommend that you make alternative travel arrangements and then claim the cost. If you do this, try to keep costs as low as possible, save your receipts, and record the name of the person giving you this advice. book with the same airline if possible.