Cancelled flights

Flights can be grounded for a number of reasons including bad weather, air traffic control strikes, mechanical failures and even volcanic eruptions.

Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in passengers becoming stranded abroad. In the event you do find yourself stuck, we’ve collated some useful information and guidance to help get you home, including details of your rights and some practical tips.

Sources of information

You can check for any disruption before you fly with your airline. Any issues are usually detailed on the airline’s own website or on its social media feeds.

Any significant disruption may also be reported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and you’ll be able to find more information on their website.

Legal rights

If you're travelling from an EU airport or to an EU airport from one outside the EU, when operated by an EU airline, you have the legal right to a choice of either a refund of your ticket (with a free flight back to your initial point of departure, when relevant) or alternative transport to your final destination, should your flight be cancelled. This is a requirement under the European Union’s Denied Boarding Regulations.

If you’re unsure about which countries the regulations apply to, the Civil Aviation Authority provide a full list on their website.

Replacement flight

If you still want to travel, your airline should find you alternative transport at the earliest opportunity.

Depending on where you are, you may want to make arrangements at the airport, visit the airline's website or phone their customer service team.

You might have to be patient, especially if the disruption is widespread and has led to the cancellation of a lot of flights, but the airline is obligated to get you home.

If you choose this option you’ll also be entitled to food and drinks while you wait for your replacement flight. If it doesn’t depart on the same day you should also be given accommodation and transfers.

If the airline ask you to pay for your own food, drinks and/or accommodation make sure you claim back the cost at a later date. Save the receipts and keep your spend to a reasonable minimum.

Refund

Alternatively, you could choose to have the airline refund the cost of your flight. You might prefer this option if, for example, you are able to get home faster via another mode of transport.

However, be aware that if you choose this option your airline has no obligation to cover the cost of any additional food, drink or accommodation.

Package holidays

If you booked a package holiday you may be able to claim damages from your tour operator if it fails to provide the services you have booked within the EU, whatever your destination. These rights apply to failure to provide any flight included in your package.

Moreover, if the tour operator does not provide a significant part of the package booked, it is obliged to assist you and make alternative arrangements, including travel, without extra cost to you.

Non-EU airlines

If you’re not travelling with an EU airline and your flight departs from an airport outside of the EU the protection provided by the European Union’s Denied Boarding Regulations won’t apply.

However, you can still ask the airline for any help which might be available under their customer service policy.

Travel insurance

Some travel insurance policies may also offer some protection if your flight is cancelled so read the policy details carefully.

Sainsbury’s standard travel insurance entitles you to receive £100 compensation for every 24 hour period that you are stranded abroad due to airspace, the airport or port or the Channel Tunnel being closed and you are unable to return home, up to a maximum of £1,500.

This might help to meet the cost of unexpected food, accommodation and telephone bills but it will be paid to you even if you don’t actually incur any additional costs.

Furthermore, if after 24 hours you find you need to book your own replacement transport and are unable to claim this expense from the airline, Sainsbury’s standard travel insurance will cover the cost of necessary and reasonable travel expenses, up to a maximum of £1,000. Keep your receipts and send these with your claim.

For more details and full terms and conditions see the policy document.

Compensation

If your flight is delayed or cancelled and the airline is at fault you may also be entitled to compensation. However, the airline doesn’t need to provide compensation if the delay or cancellation is due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ such as weather conditions.

For more information on compensation and details of what might be considered an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ see the Civil Aviation Authority website.

Making a claim

In some cases, you might need to pay for expenses initially and then claim them back later. For this reason it can be a good idea, before you leave the UK, to make sure you have access to enough emergency cash or credit to allow you to do this.

Once you’re home, if think you might be entitled to claim back some of your costs the first thing you can do is contact your airline or insurance provider directly.

Most airlines and insurance providers will have a claims form which you can complete and submit. You should usually be able to find this on their website or by contacting the customer service team. The Civil Aviation Authority also has some useful information to help you make a claim.

Travel insurance overview

Terms & conditions

In respect of the airport or port being closed, the refunded amount of any unused return travel costs recoverable from your originally booked travel provider or any other source will not be covered.

Travel Insurance is administered by Cigna Insurance Services (Europe) Limited and underwritten by Cigna Europe Insurance Company S.A-N.V. Cigna Insurance Services (Europe) Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Cigna Europe Insurance Company S.A.-N.V. is supervised in Belgium by the National Bank of Belgium and the Financial Services and Markets Authority, and subject to limited regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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