James Walker: Inbox could hold key to flight woe compensation

One situation that makes us all despair is being stuck in an airport due to a flight delay.

You can go back to claim for delays up to six years ago. Picture: Getty Images
You can go back to claim for delays up to six years ago. Picture: Getty Images

The only silver lining around that particular cloud is the fact that you may be able to claim compensation if your flight is delayed over three hours. You can go back to claim for delays up to six years ago – so check your email inboxes for those old confirmation details.

The European Courts of Justice has ruled on a court case that means you can now claim if you’re delayed by over three hours as a result of a connection delay outside of the EU too.

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Typically, there are myriad terms, exemptions and rules when it comes to flight delays. We’ve got a full guide on the Resolver website at www.resolver.co.uk/flights but here’s my super-simple version.

◆ If you book a flight either to or from an EU country (and some others) or use an EU airline you can get compensation for delays over three hours.

◆ That includes airport expenses (don’t get too excited, it won’t cover a trip to the champers and caviar shop).

◆ The compensation is in euros and increases depending on the delay from €250 to €300, €400 or €600.

◆ You are only able to claim compensation if the delay was the airline’s fault –basically, something within their control.

◆ The new ruling means that as long as you’re flying to or from an EU territory with a stopover in a non-EU territory, you can get compensation for any delays that might occur – even if they happen on part of the journey that’s outside the EU.

Of course, getting a payout isn’t always so straightforward. It’s come to my attention lately that some airlines aren’t paying out the money promised in the rules. You shouldn’t have to double - heck what you get offered, but make sure you do regardless – the Resolver guide will tell you what you’re owed. If the firm disputes this, just send them a link to our guide and ask them to explain themselves!

Cancellations suck. But you are still entitled to refunds and more. Once again, it’s complicated. As a general rule, if your flight is cancelled, you’re entitled to a refund or an alternative flight to your destination. The compensation rules above still apply, with the time limits now relating to when the alternative flight arrives.

If you go for another flight, it will usually be provided by the airline you booked with, but if they aren’t taking a “reasonable” amount of time to sort out an alternative, they should book you with a rival.

Regular readers will know that I hate the word “reasonable” in rules because it means nothing. As a rule of thumb, once you go over the first 24 hours, we’re into unreasonable territory.

Of course, free cash is all well and good, but if you’re stuck in an airport waiting endlessly for information, chances are you’d trade it all just to get on that plane. If it happens to you, keep your receipts safe (or photo them for future claims) and make a few notes on the impact on you. All of this helps when it comes to getting compensation that reflects the delays or problems you’ve had.

But what about strikes, volcanos, cancellations, cock-ups and other problems, I hear you ask? Well, that’s too complicated to summarise here, so check out the Resolver site.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk