What are extraordinary circumstances when a flight is delayed or cancelled?
Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 protects airline passenger rights and states that travellers are entitled to compensation in the following scenarios:
- A flight delayed by three or more hours
- A cancelled flight
- An overbooked flight to which a passenger is denied boarding
However, there are certain exceptions under which compensation is not due. The defined extraordinary circumstances imply that airlines cannot always be held accountable, for instance when a situation is beyond their control. These are particular situations, for example, adverse weather conditions or strikes, that the airline could not have anticipated. Because of that, carriers can’t be held liable for having to delay or cancel their flight as a consequence of such an event, since these are out of their direct control and influence.
If your flight was delayed or cancelled, you are always warranted adequate assistance from the airline. However, if your flight was affected by an extraordinary circumstance, unfortunately, you’re not entitled to compensation. This does not mean that you should not be offered a solution to minimise the problematic ramifications of these incidents. So always contact the airline if you have been left stranded at an airport.
Extraordinary circumstances according to EU Regulation EC 261/2004
The following situations are considered extraordinary by the European regulation and will excuse the airline from paying compensation:
- Bad weather, for example, thunderstorms, heavy rain, thick fog, snow and high gusts of wind
- An air sector strike: think along the lines of the country’s air traffic control personnel going on strike; another possibility is the airport’s baggage handlers walking out
- Political circumstances: terror attacks, political unrest or security risks can all be seen as examples of such situations
- Natural disasters: a volcanic eruption or a hurricane would qualify as an extraordinary circumstance
- Bird strike; when there’s a collision between the aircraft and a bird or other foreign object
- An unruly or ill passenger
- Other options: delays caused by the airport staff (long queues during security checks)
Can I claim compensation even if my flight delay or cancellation was caused by an extraordinary circumstance?
In theory, any extraordinary circumstance should exonerate the airline from paying compensation to its passengers. However, airlines overuse this argument very often just to avoid paying out. The burden of proof lies with the airline, therefore you should not give easily if the carrier has already cited an extraordinary circumstance as the reason for your disruption.
Arguments that airlines misuse as an extraordinary circumstance
Unfortunately, airlines often refer to extraordinary circumstances in order to scare off passengers. However, every situation is different and the decision as to whether or not one is entitled to compensation is not always black and white. Our team of experts is trained to analyse each situation and offer tailor-made advice. Flight-Delayed.co.uk is also able to corroborate the conditions in which a flight was operated, even if the airline has argued that the occurrence of an extraordinary circumstance happened on a previous leg of the aircraft’s itinerary.
Some of the most common overuse of the “extraordinary circumstance” argument is technical and operational issues, bad weather conditions on a previous flight, air traffic control restrictions on previous flights, overbookings and system failures. As mentioned previously, every case is different and sometimes the airlines might be right. However, it is their obligation to prove the occurrence of an extraordinary circumstance.
Was your claim already rejected? You can still submit your claim with Flight-Delayed.co.uk. We will review the airline's answer and determine if we can proceed legally or if, in fact, an extraordinary circumstance occurred. We will take over the correspondence with the airline and, if needed, we will initiate legal proceedings. All of this is covered by our win fee that you will only have to pay if we succeed with claiming your compensation — for more details, visit our Price List page. Don’t wait any longer, exercise your rights!
Why was my flight delayed or cancelled?
These are the most common reasons why airlines have to delay or cancel flights. As you will certainly discover, not all of them should be considered as extraordinary.
The incoming flight is delayed: This is very common and, especially if your flying short-haul flights, it happens all the time. Something might have gone wrong in the previous leg of your aeroplane’s schedule. Perhaps the cleaning took too long or a crew or staff member called in sick.
Operational Issue: Perhaps the crew have reached their maximum working hours and new crew members need to be brought in to operate your flight.
Technical problems: There might be an issue with the plane. This is often the case as, due to the industry’s spectacularly high standards of safety, every single little thing that might not be working properly has to be checked and its functionality confirmed.
Air traffic control restrictions: As you can imagine, managing air traffic can be very stressful. Sometimes, ATC officers need to impose restrictions to ensure safety. This might happen during the flight (re-routing) or whilst waiting to take-off or land. If a plane misses its landing or departure slot, air traffic control will have to find a new slot for the aircraft to arrive or depart.
Adverse weather conditions: This one is tricky. Sometimes it is pretty obvious, as there might be a snowstorm outside. However, on some other occasions, you may find yourself waiting at the airport when outside there’s nothing but sunshine and mild temperatures. This happens because of the weather conditions at the airports involved in the previous leg of the aircraft's schedule as well as the meteorological circumstances at your destination.
Unruly passengers: Sometimes, it is just someone else's fault. Perhaps two other passengers got into a heated discussion with each other or with the crew. Every now and then, a passenger might simply refuse to be downgraded or check his or her cabin bag. You never know, but there are some crazy stories out there.
Airport problems: There is the possibility that some issues at the airport might affect your flight. For example, maybe there are very long queues at the security checkpoints or there was a foreign object on the tarmac. Other examples include an airport staff strike or airport equipment malfunctioning.
How much can I claim for a flight delay or cancellation?
You will have the right to claim compensation if your flight has been delayed for 3 or more hours or if your flight was cancelled altogether. The total length of the delay will be calculated based on your original arrival time (at your final destination so connecting flights are covered) and your actual arrival time. For cancellations, you can claim if you've arrived more than 2 hours late. Claiming compensation can be done quickly and easily if you know your rights!
As established by Regulation EC 261/2004, the distance covered by your flight's route will determine the amount that you’ll receive in compensation for your cancelled or delayed flight. The following totals are stipulated in the regulation:
- For all flights of 1,500 kilometres or less, you’ll receive up to £220
- For all intra-Community flights of more than 1,500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres, you can receive up to £350
- For all other flights (routes covering a distance greater than 3,500 kilometres) you'll be entitled to receive £530*
*In this case, if you’ve arrived at your final destination with a total delay greater than 3 hours but less than 4 hours, the airline will be able to apply a 50% reduction to the total amount established in the regulation.
The total sums that you can receive in compensation are set by the regulation in Euros. These are €250, €400 and €600. Depending on the conversion rate, you might receive the above-mentioned amounts in British Pounds.
How does it work when Flight-Delayed takes care of everything?
If you choose to submit your claim with Flight-Delayed, we’ll ensure that you go through the process as swiftly and smoothly as possible, all while ensuring that you won’t be fobbed off by the airline. If court action is needed, we’ll determine which is the easiest path for you to be awarded compensation and one of our solicitors, we cover more than 8 different European countries, will proceed to sue the airline. We provide our service under a no win, no fee agreement, that means that we’ll take on all the risk and you’ll only have to pay our fee if our actions lead to a successful outcome. In other words, once you’ve gotten paid by the airline.
Best of all is that our win-fee covers all possible costs associated with claiming your compensation. Including legal and court fees as well as all administrative costs and VAT. Don't wait any longer, exercise your rights!
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