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.

Jet2 asked the Supreme Court if it could appeal the decision. On 31 October 2014 the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal and Court of Appeal judgment therefore applies. Many airlines put claims on hold while they waited to hear the Supreme Court’s decision and they should now review those claims and pay compensation for any eligible claims.

Does the judgment apply across Europe?

This judgment is only binding on the courts in England and Wales, although it may be persuasive in Scotland, Northern Ireland or other parts of the EU.  The CAA will apply the judgment in its work, but other National Enforcement Bodies across the EU are not required to follow it.  European case law allows passengers who are considering taking court action to choose where in the EU to issue their claim.  This is subject to there being a sufficiently close link in proximity to the material element of their dispute, for example, where the flight departed, where it arrived or where the airline has its head office. It will be up to the relevant court to decide on the case proceeding as it sees fit.  You can find more information about taking court action here.

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 no 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.

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.