Claiming Compensation for Flight Delays -Don’t let Airlines Fool You About Your legal Rights

Claiming Compensation for Flight Delays -Don’t let Airlines Fool You About Your legal Rights

It's fast approaching that time of year when holidaymakers in the UK can look forward to a well-deserved break. Unfortunately - for some - it will be a case of sun, sand and ... flight delays.


There's nothing more disheartening than spending the first day of your holiday in a crowded airport, waiting for "circumstances out-with your airline's control" to be sorted out.

Under certain circumstances it is your legal right to claim compensation for a flight delay. To find out under which circumstances you can claim, read our complete guide to flight delay compensation here.

However, even though you are legally entitled to compensation, some airlines will do anything to ensure they don't have to pay out. Today at Unlock the Law, we look at some of the tricks used by airlines to evade paying compensation - and how you can avoid them under the law.

How can I ensure the airline takes my complaint seriously?

Firstly, send a written complaint to your airline. Each airline has its own procedure for claims; use only that procedure to ensure the claim is administered smoothly.

In your letter, explain what happened and what you want in compensation. Remember to quote the law. Say you want compensation under EC Regulation 261/2004. This lets the airline know you know your rights and that you mean business.

Remember to include:

  • Passenger details (name, address, email and contact number etc.)
  • Reference number (if you have already been in contact about your complaint)
  • Booking reference (and ticket, if you have it)
  • Flight number
  • Boarding passes (to prove you checked-in on time)
  • Details about where you were travelling to/from (and dates)
  • Flight distance
  • Proof of flight delay
  • Any food and drink receipts.

There is no fixed time within which your airline must respond. However, it is not be unreasonable to send a follow-up letter if there is no reply within 28 days.

The airline has not acknowledged or replied to my letter, what can I do?

Your airline might ignore your letter. In that event, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) allows you to refer your complaint to it after a period of 8 weeks. This only applies to flights that departed from within the UK.

If your flight left from elsewhere in the EU and the airline is EU based, then the complaint should be sent to the European Consumer Centre (or the regulator in the country of departure).

Remember these bodies do not themselves decide cases or award compensation, but can advise if you have a good basis for a claim.

Your airline might still play hardball even if the CAA (or other regulator) says you have a claim. In these cases it is time to think about going to Court.

What Court should you use?

  1. UK bookings – you can take your case to Court in the country you are based in (regardless of where the airline is based).
  2. Airline has a UK address – the European Consumer Centre says you can take your airline to Court in the UK, even if the head office is based elsewhere.
  3. Your flight departed or arrived in the UK – the European Court of Justice has ruled that you can take your airline to Court in either the country the plane was due to arrive in or depart from, regardless of where it is based.

The airline has offered me vouchers, should I accept?

If you win your claim, you airline might try one last throw of the dice and offer you vouchers. Of course, you are free to accept vouchers, but remember you do have a right to monetary compensation.

The airline has put my claim "on hold" until the outcome of a legal case

This was the issue in a case heard in Liverpool County Court. Four passengers argued that their claims about a technical fault should not have been put "on hold" pending the outcome of a legal case (Van der Lans v KLM). In February 2015, the County Court agreed. That decision is not technically binding (as the County Court is a low ranking Court), but it should be persuasive in other Courts (especially in England and Wales, but also in Scotland to a lesser extent)

The airline has told me my claim is time-limited to two years

Bluntly, this is nonsense. In a recent case, Thomson tried to argue that claims should be limited to two years (citing the Montreal Convention). Some airlines then started to automatically reject cases more than two years old.

However, in October 2014, Thomson lost. The UK's Supreme Court also refused its application to appeal, meaning the six-year rule England and Wales (and by implication the five year rule in Scotland) still applies.

The airline has told me it is time-limited in its terms and conditions

Nice try! Your airline cannot circumvent your claim by relying on its own small print. Any Court is likely to take a very dim view of this sort of argument.

Cancelled Flights & Flight Delay Compensation

No one wants their holiday to get off to a bad start, but if it does, Unlock The Law can help you on the road to getting the compensation you deserve.

We have a complete guide to flight delay compensation including whether your flight and delay are eligible and a complete guide to making a claim.

Read > Compensation for Cancelled Flights & Flight Delays - Complete Legal Guide

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