Are you entitled to compensation?

If a flight you’re booked on is delayed or cancelled, you may be entitled to compensation – but only where the airline is at fault

Under EU law, airlines are required to pay compensation to passengers when their flights are delayed or cancelled. However, you only have the right to compensation in some circumstances.

There are two key factors:

  • How severely you have been inconvenienced.
    For instance, if you have only been delayed slightly, you may not be entitled to compensation. 

    Learn about delay times and compensation levels
  • The cause of the delay.
    If the delay was caused by an extraordinary circumstance you will not be entitled to compensation.

Extraordinary circumstances

The EU law on flight compensation uses the term ‘extraordinary circumstances’ to refer to situations where delays or cancellations have been caused by things  that are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the airline and outside of the airline’s control.

If extraordinary circumstances apply, you are not entitled to compensation.

What are extraordinary circumstances?

On 11 June 2014 the Court of Appeal issued a judgment in the Jet2 v Huzar case which has provided clarity on what the definition of extraordinary circumstances means in relation to technical problems.  The judgment clarified that the key issue is what caused the technical problem.  If the cause was not something out of the ordinary, for example the failure of a component or wear and tear, then it would not be an extraordinary circumstance.  

Does the judgment apply across Europe?

This judgment only applies in the UK, it is not binding on flights departing from other EU countries.

Examples of extraordinary circumstances

National Enforcement Bodies across the EU developed a non-exhaustive and non-binding list of extraordinary circumstances which is published on the European Commission website.

The Court of Appeal judgment means that in the UK there are a number of categories that are non longer applicable and these are highlighted in the attached CAA List.

If you are not sure whether extraordinary circumstances apply to your flight, but have read about your other rights and think you might have a case, you can make a claim to your airline for compensation. The airline should explain to you the reason for the disruption. If they consider it was due to extraordinary circumstances they will need to clearly set out why.  If they reject your claim then you can consider whether to pursue it further at that point.

Jet2 is planning to ask the Supreme Court if it can appeal the decision.  This is likely to create further uncertainty for several months and airlines may put your case on hold until this decision is made.  If they do this you should ensure that you receive confirmation from the airline that they have recorded your complaint and will deal with it when a decision has been made

More about claiming

If you think you have a strong case for compensation, see how to lodge a claim with your airline.

Heathrow Airport - 10 August 2014

Heathrow Airport Limited required some airlines to reduce the number of flights they were due to operate as a result of forecast storms on 10 August 2014.  This reduction was made to ensure flights could continue to operate safely.  The flights on the following link were cancelled due to the forecast bad weather and the CAA considers that airlines could claim the cancellation was due to an extraordinary circumstance and that financial compensation would not apply for these flights. List of cancelled flights here.