• Airlines do their best to avoid disruption and delays to your journey. However, sometimes problems do occur. As a consumer you have important legal rights when the flight you are booked on is delayed, cancelled or when you are denied boarding.

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

    Does UK law apply to your flight?

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

    • departing from an airport in the UK on any airline, or
    • arriving at an airport in the UK on an EU or UK airline; or
    • arriving at an airport in the EU on a UK airline.

    You can check if UK law applies to your flight by viewing this document explaining how your entitlement changes dependent on specific criteria.

  • While you wait for your flight

    Under UK law, airlines must provide you with care and assistance if your flight is cancelled.

    This means they must provide:

    • A reasonable amount of food and drink (often provided in the form of vouchers)
    • A means for you to communicate (often by refunding the cost of your calls)
    • Accommodation, if you are re-routed the next day (usually in a nearby hotel)
    • Transport to and from the accommodation (or your home, if you are able to return there)

    The airline must provide you with these items until it is able to fly you to your destination, no matter how long the delay lasts or what has caused it.

    How it works in practice

    If your flight is cancelled, many airlines will provide vouchers for you to buy food and drink. If you require accommodation, they may book a hotel and arrange transportation for you.

    Sometimes airlines are unable to arrange care and assistance for all passengers. This can happen when staff are stretched during major disruptions.

    If this happens, in our view you have the right to organise reasonable care and assistance yourself, then claim the cost back later. If you end up paying for things yourself, keep every receipt and do not spend more than is reasonable. Airlines are unlikely to refund you for things like luxury hotels or alcohol. Some will provide guidance on reasonable costs.

    We would expect the airline concerned to respond to a claim for reimbursement in a reasonable time and a the very least provide you with an indication of how long you should expect to wait for a response. If you are unhappy with the length of time it is taking or disagree with the airline’s decision regarding your claim, please see our section on how to make a complaint.

    Compensation

    If you received less than 14 days’ notice of the cancellation, you may be able to claim compensation too.

    This depends on what caused the cancellation – if it wasn’t the airline’s fault, don’t expect to receive any compensation.

    Disruptions caused by things like extreme weather, airport or air traffic control employee strikes or other ‘extraordinary circumstances’ are not eligible for compensation.

    Seven to 14 days’ notice

    If you received seven to 14 days’ notice of the cancellation, you may be able to claim compensation based on the timings of the alternative flight. 

    If your new flight departs no more than two hours before the scheduled time of your original flight AND your new flight arrives less than four hours after the scheduled time of your original flight, you are not entitled to financial compensation

    Length of flight Length of disruptions Compensation
    short-haul flight of under 1,500km (e.g. Glasgow to Amsterdam) Arrive 2 hours or more later at final destination £220
    short-haul flight of under 1,500km (e.g. Glasgow to Amsterdam) Arrive less than 2 hours later at final destination £110
    medium-haul flight of 1,500km – 3,500km (e.g. East Midlands to Marrakesh) Takes off more than 2 hours before your original flight, and arrives 3 or more hours later at final destination £350
    medium-haul flight of 1,500km – 3,500km (e.g. East Midlands to Marrakesh) Takes off 2 hours before your original flight, and arrives less than 3 hours later at final destination £175
    long-haul flight of over 3,500km (e.g. London to New York) Arrive 4 hours or later at final destination £520
    long-haul flight of over 3,500km (e.g. London to New York) Takes off less than 1 hours before your original flight, and arrives less than 4 hours later at final destination £260

    All compensation figures are per person.

    Less than seven days’ notice

    If you received less than seven days’ notice of the cancellation, you can claim compensation based on the timings of the alternative flight:

    If your new flight departs no more than one hour before the scheduled time of your original flight AND your new flight arrives less than two hours after the scheduled time of your original flight, you are not entitled to financial compensation

    Length of flight Length of disruptions Compensation
    short-haul flight of under 1,500km (e.g. Glasgow to Amsterdam) 2 hours or more at final destination £220
    medium-haul flight of 1,500km – 3,500km (e.g. East Midlands to Marrakesh) 3 hours or more at final destination £350
    long-haul flight of over 3,500km (e.g. London to New York) 4 hours or more at final destination £520
    long-haul flight of over 3,500km (e.g. London to New York) Less than 4 hours at final destination £260

    All compensation figures are per person.

    View this list of flights that the CAA has investigated for entitlement to compensation.

    Rearranging your flight

    If your cancelled is covered by UK law, your airline must let you choose between two options:

    1. Receive a refund

    You can get your money back for all parts of the ticket you haven’t used. For instance, if you have booked a return flight and the outbound leg is cancelled, you can get the full cost of the return ticket back from your airline.
    If you are a transfer passenger and you have already completed part of your journey, you are also entitled to a flight back to your original departure point when your connecting flight is cancelled and you decide not to continue your journey.

    2. Choose an alternative flight

    If you still want to travel, your airline must find you an alternative flight. It’s up to you whether to fly as soon as possible after the cancelled flight, or at a later date that suits you.
    Although most airlines will book you onto another of their flights to the same destination, if an alternative airline is flying there significantly sooner or other suitable modes of transport are available then you may have the right to be booked onto that alternative transport instead. You can discuss this with your airline.