Claiming Compensation for bad weather
Can I claim flight compensation for bad weather
If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to bad weather, and your travel is affected, in many cases you are entitled to compensation.
Under the EU Reg 261/2004 (the Flight Compensation Regulation), you may be eligible to claim anywhere from €250 to €600 for delays or cancellations – as far back as six years ago.
This ultimate guide to flight compensation claims for bad weather will explain when it’s possible to make a claim, how much you’re entitled to, and what your rights are when delayed at the airport.
“Wholly exceptional” weather
There are some exceptions to EU Reg 261. If an airline deems inclement weather “freak” or “wholly exceptional”, it may use this as a defence against compensation claims.
A good example of this was the volcanic ash cloud affecting flights around Iceland in 2010. Many airlines made headlines for their refusal to pay out. They cited “extraordinary” circumstances beyond their control.
If the airline argues the bad weather was “extraordinary” and refuses to pay – let us know and we’ll take an independent view on the situation based on our knowledge of the regulation and expertise in winning difficult flight delay claims.
Can Air Traffic Control influence my compensation claim?
Many weather patterns are not “extraordinary circumstances”, so you should be careful when applying for compensation.
If the weather conditions are so bad that Air Traffic Control reduce flow rates or delays flights, airlines could use this as a further defence for not paying compensation.
In the next section, we’ll discuss how you can claim for flight cancellations and delays due to weather.
What happens if my flight is cancelled due to weather?
You can claim for compensation up to six years after the cancelled flight. However, this depends entirely on circumstances, for example how much cancellation notice you received, and when you finally arrived at your intended destination.
Under EU Reg 261, you can claim between €250 and €600 for delays, cancellations or overbookings. You should ask the airline to provide written confirmation of the cancellation before making a claim. You should also collect receipts for additional bookings or purchases.
What are my rights if my flight is cancelled due to bad weather?
Your entitlement will vary depending on the flight distance. Under EU Reg 261, your airline must legally inform you of your rights and provide assistance/access to basic services while you are waiting at the airport.
The regulation also offers passengers the right to request a seat on another flight, even if it’s on a different airline, or withdraw from flying if it is cancelled/delayed by more than five hours.
You are also entitled to care and assistance under the regulation. This kicks in from two hours for short flights, three hours for medium length flights, and four hours for long-haul flights.
What help can I get at the airport?
Generally, for delays of more than two hours, your airline should provide care and assistance. Depending on the timescales, you could be entitled to:
- Sufficient food and drink for your waiting time
- Transport between the hotel and the airport if needed
- Two calls/emails/fax messages
- Overnight accommodation if needed
Monetary compensation is only available after three hours’ delay. For care and assistance, your delay must be two hours or more for distances up to 1,500km, three hours or more for 1,500 to 3,500km, or four hours for distances of over 3,500km.
Circumstances to which EU Reg 261 does not apply
You cannot claim cancellation compensation under EU Reg 261 if:
- Your airline informs you of the cancellation 14 days or more in advance
- Your flight did not depart from the EU or arrive in the EU on an EU airline
- You make your claim more than six years after the flight
- You did not check in on time
- The airline was not responsible e.g. unavoidable freak weather
What are my rights if my flight is cancelled less than one week before travel?
Your airline must offer you an alternative flight if yours is cancelled, even if it’s with another airline. Your compensation will vary depending on flight length and the length of the delay:
- Up to 1,500km: if your replacement flight leaves early by an hour or more, you could claim €125. If the flight arrives more than two hours late, you could claim €250.
- Between 1,500 and 3,500km or over 1,500km and between two EU states: if your replacement flight leaves more than an hour early or arrives two to three hours late, you could claim €200. If it’s more than three hours late, you could claim €400.
- Over 3,500km: if your replacement flight leaves an hour early or more, you could claim €300. If it arrives two to four hours late, you could claim €300, or if it’s more than four hours late, you could claim €600.
You could also claim for alternative transport, a return flight to your departure destination, and a full refund.
What are my rights if my flight is cancelled 7-14 days before travel?
Your rights are similar to flights cancelled with less than a week’s notice. However, the delay times vary slightly with regards to compensation.
- Up to 1,500km: if your replacement flight leaves more than two hours early, you could claim €125. If the flight arrives more than four hours late, you could claim €250.
- Between 1,500 and 3,500km or over 1,500km and between two EU states: if your replacement flight leaves more than two hours early, you could claim €200. If it arrives more than four hours late, you could claim €400.
- Over 3,500km: if your replacement flight leaves more than two hours early, you could claim €300. If it arrives more than four hours late, you could claim €600.
What are my rights if my flight is cancelled more than 14 days before travel?
Under these circumstances, your airline has fulfilled its obligation to inform you. Therefore, all claims are ineligible. However, you can still claim for:
- A full refund
- A replacement flight
How much compensation can I claim for a cancelled flight?
Compensation for cancelled flights is based on the flight distance and delay time. If no replacement flight is offered you’ll be able to claim the following amounts:
- Short distances up to 1,500km e.g. London to Edinburgh: €250
- Medium distances between 1,500km and 3,500km or between two EU countries e.g. London to Athens: €400
- Long distances of more than 3,500km e.g. London to Tokyo: €600
Can I get a refund if my flight is cancelled?
Assuming your flight meets the criteria, you can apply for a full refund regardless of when the cancellation was announced. This is separate from the monetary compensation offered.
My flight was cancelled due to weather – what are my rights?
Providing the weather circumstances are not “wholly exceptional”, for example, heavy snow in July in Spain, you may be entitled to compensation. You could claim:
- Up to €600 in compensation or a ticket reimbursement/alternative flight
- Refreshments and snacks for more than two hours’ waiting
This does not affect flights cancelled more than 14 days in advance.
What are my rights for flights delayed due to bad weather?
If your flight is delayed and arrives more than three hours late , you may be entitled to up to €600 in compensation. However, this is dependent on distance:
|Short distance <1,500km||More than 3 hours||Free food/drink and two phone calls, emails or faxes (after 2 hours’ delay). Up to €250.|
|Medium distance 1500-3,500km||More than 3 hours||Free food/drink and two phone calls, emails or faxes. Up to €400.|
|Long-haul >3,500km||More than 4 hours||Free food/drink and two phone calls, emails or faxes. Up to €600.|
Remember, this applies to flights departing the EU or arriving into the EU on an EU airline, but not to flights cancelled more than six years ago, missed check-ins or extraordinary circumstances.
What types of bad weather can I claim for?
Before you make a claim for cancelled or delayed flights, it’s important to understand what is meant by “extraordinary circumstances”.
This is referred to in Article 5 III of Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004. In the EU regulation it states: “The airline has no control over such circumstances, nor can they stop them from arising, even if all reasonable measures had been taken by the air carrier concerned to avoid the delays or cancellations.”
So, for example, if an airline de-iced their planes in wintry conditions and still couldn’t fly, your claim could be ineligible.
What kinds of weather circumstances are deemed “extraordinary”?
Wind and rain
While this usually isn’t enough to ground planes, extreme wind and rain may lead to Air Traffic Control restricting flights. This would be extraordinary and therefore not claimable.
Generally speaking, these are not considered common enough weather conditions to warrant compensation. However, if Air Traffic Control deems it safe to fly, then you could make a claim.
In cases in which Air Traffic Control does not allow planes to fly due to low visibility, it may be difficult to claim. However, if fog affects a flight taking off which has a knock-on effect on your flight, you could make a claim.
These would generally be considered an extraordinary circumstance, but their airline should take care of passengers e.g. with food and drink.
In countries with continual bouts of heavy snow, this would be expected and you may be able to claim. However, if the case were “wholly exceptional”, such as heavy snowfall in Egypt, your claim would be ineligible.
Other extraordinary circumstances may include political unrest, terrorism or industrial action.
You may be able to claim if a cancelled flight had a knock-on effect on yours. Airlines can only use extraordinary weather as a defence if it affects the “flight in question”.
In some circumstances, airlines may be forced to award compensation if they did not take precautions. For example, if they did not use antifreeze during wintry conditions, you may be able to claim. However, this is hard to prove. A good way to check is to see if other airlines’ flights have been delayed or cancelled.
Ultimately, Air Traffic Control will decide whether or not it was safe to travel during the inclement weather.
How will airlines take care of me if my flight is delayed?
If your flight is delayed for a significant amount of time, you need to make a decision. Firstly, you should find out when your airline will be able to fly you to your destination. It is their legal obligation to get you there, but this may be very time-consuming.
For delays of more than five hours, you can opt out of your flight. You’ll be entitled to a full refund, and if you’re transferring, you will be entitled to a flight back to the departure airport.
These laws are applicable to all EU airports as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland airports.
If yours is a short flight, your airline must offer support after two hours. This may be longer for long-haul flights. Generally, they must provide:
- Vouchers for a reasonable amount of food and drink
- Two free calls, emails or fax messages
- Accommodation for overnight delays
- Transport to and from your accommodation/airport
How can I plan ahead for bad weather?
It’s difficult to predict the weather 14 days in advance, so you’ll rarely see cancellations on these grounds. If bad weather is on the way, there are ways to amend your travel plans to avoid delays. Consider:
Monitoring the weather close to the airport
Keep a daily check on the weather in the lead-up to your trip. Sites such as the Met Office offer forecasts up to three weeks in advance.
Book a morning flight
This will give you better chances of booking a flight later in the day if yours is delayed.
Contact the airline
It is your airline’s responsibility to keep you informed about your flight. Call their helpline in the week, days or even day of your travel for updates.
Have a plan B
Make alternative arrangements for travel if your flights are grounded, for example train or coach. Likewise, if your flight is connecting, allow plenty of time between flights.
Call your hotel
To avoid being booked out, call your accommodation provider and let them know about any delays.
Has your flight been delayed or cancelled? Make a claim with Flight Patrol.