How to deal with flight disruption

See what to do if your flight is delayed, cancelled or disrupted – whether you’re at the airport or at home.

Airlines do their best to avoid disruption and delays. However, sometimes problems do occur.

If a flight you are booked on is delayed or cancelled, there are things you can do to make the disruption more bearable. You should also take the time to understand your rights, to make sure your airline treats you fairly.

This page explains what to do when your flight has been disrupted.

Does EU law apply to your flight?

Under EU law, you have significant rights on many flights to, from or within the European Union. The information on this page is only relevant to flights covered by this law. To be covered, your flight must be either:

  • departing from an EU airport and operated by any airline, or
  • arriving at an EU airport and operated by an EU airline

Under this law, EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Find out when you will be able to fly

If your flight has been delayed or cancelled, try to find out when your airline will be able to fly you to your destination. You can ask at the airport, check the airline’s website (often the quickest way) or call them.

Decide whether you still want to fly

If you have been delayed for more than five hours and no longer wish to travel then you are entitled to a refund. If you are a transfer passenger you are also entitled to a flight back to your original departure point.

Once you decide to take a refund or to travel later than the first available flight, your airline has no obligation to provide you with food, drink or accommodation. If you are on a package holiday and you decide not to travel on your outbound flight, you may lose your holiday too.

Your airline must get you there

If you still want to fly then your airline must get you to your destination. You might have to be patient while they rearrange flights and rebook passengers, but the law says they must get you there.

Sometimes airlines may advise you to make alternative travel arrangements, then claim back the cost later. If you do this, try to keep costs down as much as you can, keep receipts and record the name of the person giving this advice. Book with the same airline if at all possible.

Make sure you get looked after

Once your flight has been delayed for a certain amount of time, your airline must take care of you by providing food, drink, access to communications and accommodation (if you are delayed overnight).

If you can, it’s usually best to head home when your flight is severely delayed. Your airline should pay reasonable travel costs.

Keep as much evidence as you can

You may be entitled to compensation if your flight is severely delayed, so keep as much evidence of the delay as you can. Keep boarding cards and other documents too.

If you think you will need to claim expenses from your airline, get a full receipt (not just a credit card slip) for everything. If a member of airline staff told you to make your own arrangements, note who said this, when and where. Also ask them to put a note on your booking to this effect.

Your rights

If you’re currently waiting for a delayed flight, learn more about your rights.