Air passenger compensation guidelines published

Date: 23 July 2013

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is today updating passengers about when airlines are liable to pay them compensation following cancellations and long delays. Today’s update follows new guidelines published by European Commission (EC) on behalf of national enforcement bodies.

The guidelines have been developed by national enforcement bodies across the EU and clarify when a delay or cancellation should generally be considered to not be an airline’s fault (so called ‘extraordinary circumstances’). Airlines have to compensate passengers when flights are cancelled within two weeks of departure or arrive more than three hours late, but only if the issue was within the airline’s control. Regardless of fault, airlines are obliged to provide assistance to passengers, including refreshments and accommodation where necessary, even where there is no requirement to pay compensation.

Until now, there has not been agreement on which circumstances are considered extraordinary and which are considered to be within an airline’s control. Following close cooperation between European regulators, engagement with technical experts and discussion with the airline industry, yesterday’s publication of the list should allow passengers to have a better idea if disruption they face could lead to compensation, and should also speed up the process of assessing and paying claims.

Iain Osborne, CAA Group Director of Regulatory Policy said: “The vast majority of passengers take flights without any hiccups, but the small proportion who do experience cancellations and delays can find it confusing to work out if they are owed compensation. The guidelines should help to inform passengers more about their rights.

“We also hope they will assist airlines to assess passenger claims correctly when they are received, reducing the time it takes for passengers to get their money, and the time spent by the CAA checking airlines’ assessments.”

Since the European Court of Justice ruled in October 2012 that passengers who experience delays of over three hours on arrival should be due compensation as well as those who experience cancellations, the CAA has seen significant increases in the numbers of passengers seeking help when airlines reject their claims. This has led to delays in responding to consumers.

Along with publication of today’s guidelines, the CAA is asking airlines to use it to reassess claims they have previously rejected. This should speed things up for passengers and allow the CAA to focus resources on other support for consumers. The CAA is also considering other measures to reduce the amount of time passengers are left waiting for a decision on their claims and improve airline compliance with the regulations, including ensuring airlines correctly assess more new cases without them needing to be referred to the CAA.

For further media information contact the CAA Press Office on: 0207 453 6030 or email

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Notes to editors
1. The guidelines can be found here: Extraordinary Circumstances Guidelines.
2. A full suite of information for air passengers, from pre-booking, to the airport and on board the aircraft, to complaining about issues on their return is available on the CAA website at
3. In assessing cases to date, the CAA has found it has agreed with airlines’ judgements on whether the cancellation or delay’s cause was an extraordinary circumstance in around 50% of cases.
4. More information about passenger rights during long delays and after cancellations can be found here:
5. More information about the October ruling on long delay compensation is available here:
6. The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its regulatory activities range from making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards to preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency.