James Walker: Know your rights if your flight is delayed

Passengers queue in front of Spanish low-cost airline Vueling check-in counters at the El Prat Airport in Barcelona on July 5, 2016. 
Hundreds of passengers were left stranded today following the sixth straight day of cancellations and major delays involving flights by Spanish budget airline Vueling.

 / AFP / JOSEP LAGO        (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers queue in front of Spanish low-cost airline Vueling check-in counters at the El Prat Airport in Barcelona on July 5, 2016. Hundreds of passengers were left stranded today following the sixth straight day of cancellations and major delays involving flights by Spanish budget airline Vueling. / AFP / JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
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We’ve all been there: you get to the airport all packed and ready to go, and lo and behold, your flight is delayed.

Since I set up Resolver over two years ago, more than 200,000 people have been in touch about flight delays.

None of us wants to be stuck in an airport staring out of a window looking for a flight that isn’t coming. But at least there are rules covering your rights if the delays are significant.

If you’re unhappy with any aspect of your flight, you’re entitled to make a complaint – though compensation isn’t guaranteed. If your flight has been delayed, what you’re entitled to depends on how long the delay was and what distance you are flying. Check out the Resolver website, www.resolver.co.uk, to find out how it works and use our free complaint service.

As a general rule, compensation for flight delays only applies after a three-hour delay. You may also be entitled to free meals and drinks, free telephone calls and, in the case of overnight delays, accommodation. Our tip though: the free stuff isn’t going to be extensive. So, it makes sense to have enough cash for food and drinks for the whole family and things like mobile phone battery chargers. Always keep your receipts too.

If your flight has been delayed long enough to entitle you to compensation, the airline should give you a form explaining your rights. Again, don’t worry if you aren’t given one, you can still complain.

You’ve got up to five years to make a claim (six in the rest of the UK) but don’t delay. And if there’s a further impact on your holiday (cancelled bookings, missed transfers, etc) make sure you keep full records.

When can you claim?

It’s not always straightforward as to whether the various laws, regulations and other agreements apply to you. That’s why I suggest speaking to the airline staff if your flight is delayed for a long period and getting confirmation from them in writing about how to claim. Here’s a short version of the rules.

◆ The flight must be delayed by more than three hours, and the delay has to be compared with the time the flight is meant to arrive and not the time that it takes off – and “arrival” counts as the point at which the cabin crew open the doors, not when the plane touches down.

◆ The flight must take off from the UK or European Union. If it’s a long-haul flight into the UK/EU, it must be via a UK or European airline and the flight must be longer than 3,500km.

◆ The issue must be “within the control of the airline” (so bad weather or air-traffic control disputes are going to leave you without any compensation).

How much can you claim for?

◆ If the flight is less than 1,500km and is more than three hours late then you can claim €250.

◆ If the flight is between 1,500km and 3,000km and the flight is more than three hours late then you can claim €400.

◆ If the flight is more than 3,000km and leaving the EU, or is an EU airline flying into the UK and is between three and four hours late, then you could receive €300. (If it is more than four hours late, then you could expect up to €600).

Airlines won’t cover everything though, so make sure you get an up to date travel insurance policy too.

Have a great holiday.