Flight delay: Your rights & how travel insurance helps

If your flight is delayed your airline has a duty to look after you whilst you wait at the airport, you may also be able to claim further help from your travel insurance.

Travel insurance and flight delays

In addition to your airline being obligated to look after you, most travel insurance policies provide cover for travel delay, which becomes applicable if you are delayed by more than 12 hours due to strikes or industrial action, adverse weather or mechanical breakdown.

Travel delay cover usually takes the form of a fixed benefit to help you cover additional expenses such as food and drink whilst you wait at the airport.

After a long delay you may also have cover to 'abandon' your holiday and make a claim to recoup the cost or unused flights and accommodation. Insurewithease.com provides cover, up to the limit stated in your schedule, for you to cancel your holiday if your outbound journey is delayed by more than 24 hours.

Flight delays: Your rights with your airline

Departing from an EU airport, or entering the EU on an European airline

Please note: Although the UK has now left the EU, the rules regarding flight delays will remain the same at least until the end of the transition period.

You have a right to care and assistance

If your flight has been delayed by more than a specified amount of time (two hours for flight less than 1500km, three hours for flights 1500km-3500km and four hours for flights of more than 3500km) your airline has a duty to look after you. This means providing food, drinks, communications and accommodation if you are delayed overnight.You are entitled to this assistance regardless of the cause of delay. Your airline must look after you until you are able to depart on your flight.

Self-paid expenses

In cases of large scale disruption to flights airlines may not be able to look after all passengers. In this event the CAA state that passengers should be able to organise their own food, drinks and accommodation and then claim these expenses back from the airline. In this situation you should try to get approval from the airline first and spend only what you need, you may find it difficult to reclaim the cost of alcoholic drinks and 5-star accommodation, and most importantly keep your receipts.

Delays of more than five hours

If your flight is delayed for more than five hours and you no longer wish to travel as your trip no longer has a purpose, you are entitled to have the cost of your flight refunded. This covers any part of your flight you've already completed and any unused parts, but it doesn't include accommodation or other holiday expenses. If you have completed part of your journey, you are also entitled to a flight back to your original departure airport. Remember, that if you want to buy a replacement ticket using the refund from your delayed flight, it may cost you more at short notice.

Flight delays outside the EU on non-EU airlines

Your rights will vary and depend on the terms and conditions of the airline. Some airlines will provide refreshments for you others won't. If they don't you should be able to buy your own refreshments and make a claim for reimbursement under the Montreal Convention. Remember to keep receipts and only buy what is necessary.

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