With flight cancellations much in the news recently, this briefing outlines the remedies available for cancellations within the airline's responsibility, and for delays

Have you been affected by Ryanair's flight cancellations? It is estimated that around 18 million passengers have been hit by the cancellations published last month.

Much to the chagrin of many passengers, Ryanair recently announced plans to cancel between 40-50 flights per day for six weeks. Ryanair cited reasons such as staff holidays and 140 of its pilots defecting to rival Norwegian Air for the cancellations.

If you are one of the potentially thousands of passengers whose flight has been cancelled, in addition to receiving a refund of your flight cost, you may also be entitled to compensation. Separately, if your flight is delayed by three hours or more, you may also be eligible to claim compensation.

Compensation for a cancelled flight

If your flight is cancelled due to something within the airline’s responsibility, you are entitled to:

  • a full refund paid within seven days; or
  • a replacement flight to get you to your destination.

Ryanair cancelling flights due to staff holidays is within the airline’s responsibility, therefore they have to offer you one of the above.

In addition to a refund or a replacement flight, European law also states that you may be entitled to compensation. Depending on your circumstances, you could be entitled to up to €600 in compensation. However, the rules for claiming compensation for a cancelled flight are complicated and therefore legal advice should be obtained to ascertain whether you are eligible. Each claim for compensation from the airline is assessed on a case by case basis.

Compensation for a delayed flight

If your flight was delayed, you may be entitled to claim compensation if:

  • the flight departed from Europe or was with a European airline; and
  • the flight was delayed for three hours or more.

The compensation payable varies depending on whether the flight was short, medium or long haul.

Before you are eligible to make a claim for compensation, the reason for the delay must be the airline’s responsibility, such a technical fault or overbooking. For the avoidance of doubt, force majeure (such as Hurricane Irma) is not a ground for compensation. The sum of compensation is based on when your flight landed compared to when it was supposed to land. For example, if your flight from Ibiza to Glasgow was supposed to land at 3pm BST but got delayed and did not land until 9pm BST, your delayed time is six hours.

European law sets out the following table for compensation claims:

Delay to your arrival  Distance of flight  Compensation you can legally claim  
3 hours or more                              1,500km or less            €250
                      Between 1,500km and 3,500km            €400
                More than 1,500km and within the EU            €400
4 hours or more      More than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport             €600

It also must not be forgotten that the airline has a responsibility to secure alternative accommodation or an alternative means of transport in the event of a significant delay/last minute cancellation.


The Author
Lee Corr is a solicitor in the Dispute Resolution & Claims team with Thorntons, Dundee  
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