Make airlines pay that keep you waiting

Which? found 4.1 million passenger journeys were delayed for more than 15 minutes. Picture: Getty
Which? found 4.1 million passenger journeys were delayed for more than 15 minutes. Picture: Getty
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Despite almost 1,000 Scottish flights being delayed for more than three hours last year, few seek recompense, writes Richard Lloyd

Everyone looks forward to getting away, but unfortunately flight delays will be a disappointing and stressful reality for many Scots travelling abroad this summer. The last thing people want is an unexpected long wait at the airport, but sadly this could well be the case for large numbers of holidaymakers.

We crunched the data and found that a total of 4.1 million passenger journeys leaving or arriving in Scotland were delayed by 15 minutes, that’s a whopping 41,000 flights a year. While compensation is only due for longer delays of three hours or more, this actually applied to more than 960 flights in Scotland.

Put another way this means around 93,000 Scots could have been eligible for compensation. However, only a fraction of these people are likely to have claimed that money back.

Our investigation found that just four in ten of us claimed compensation following a delay, meaning Scottish consumers could collectively be missing out to the tune of millions of pounds. Part of the problem is that people just don’t know their rights when flights are delayed.

The rules state that passengers travelling within the European Union who are delayed for more than three hours could be entitled to up 
to €400 (£283) in compensation, which rises up to €600 if the journey is over 3,500 kilometres.

But if the airline can prove the delay was caused by “extraordinary circumstances”, then no compensation is due.

Extraordinary circumstances are situations beyond the control of the airline, for example, security risks, political instability or severe weather that makes flying dangerous. Strikes are also usually included in this category, but not technical faults.

Across the UK, we analysed over 1.7 million flights and worked out the proportion of flights that were delayed by three hours or longer. Our research showed Gatwick was the worst UK airport for delays of this length, with 2,100 flights or around 207,000 passenger journeys.

Based on the 204,000 short-haul flights reported from Scottish airports over a year, Logan Air was proportionally the worst performer with 215 flights delayed by over three hours. Virgin Atlantic was top of the pile with 50 delayed flights out of the 5,800 it operated in the year’s worth of data we looked at.

The worst Scottish airport for delays was Glasgow with 412 flights held up for three hours or longer, very closely followed by Edinburgh with 433 flights. The best was Aberdeen with 118 flights delayed for long enough for passengers to claim compensation.

We want Scottish travellers hold their airline to account and make sure they don’t miss out on what they’re entitled to from late-running planes. We’re encouraging delayed passengers not to suffer in silence, but to take full advantage of our expert advice this summer.

Passengers are advised not to leave it up to the airlines to tell you what you need to do to claim a refund, as half of those delayed told us they received no support or information about the delay from the airline. Disgruntled passengers have also reported to us the trouble they have actually getting their compensation after a flight delay.

That’s why Which? has produced expert tips, advice and a brand new complaints tool on our website, to help guide you through the airline compensation claim process and make sure you are clear on what your rights are. Because our advice is free, travellers who claim compensation using our tools won’t have to share their refund with an expensive claims management company.

Hopefully your flight will be trouble-free and you’ll jet off to your destination without a hitch. But if you are significantly held up, we urge you to hold the airline to account and claim the compensation that is rightly yours.

For our free advice, tips and complaint tools, visit us at: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/action/letter-to-request-compensation-for-a-delayed-flight

Richard Lloyd is executive director of Which?