What to do if you experience flight delays

Planning a journey by plane doesn’t stop with just booking a flight – It’s the time booked off work, travel to and from airports including holiday transfers and consideration of any dependents at home. You will be excited, off on a luxury holiday, to the place of your dreams and that’s when your plane arrives late or is delayed. Though there is nothing to do but wait it can be a very stressful and upsetting time. With statistics suggesting that one in four planes being delayed or arriving late it is a common worry for anyone about to set off on a journey by plane.  If you do find yourself in this unfortunate situation, an extended wait at the airport might be seen as manageable however the worst case scenario could see you having to sleep overnight or find alternative accommodation which then leads spending excess money than accounted for. Here, we look at what to do in the event of a flight delay.

Causes of a delay

Travel time generally includes lots of time spent waiting – at check in desks, passport verification and at the departure lounge. The inconvenience at extra waiting time from delays can be very distressing even though the reality is they are often for very good reasons and the decision has made in the best interest of all the passengers and crew.


There are many contributing factors to delay flights, but by far the most common causes include hazardous weather conditions, air traffic congestion, faults and other issues with the plane that require immediate repair or maintenance, security concerns, problems with refuelling, delayed inbound planes and booking or boarding errors.


Who is liable?

If you have been left waiting delayed from a flight it is common to feel you would want to escalate some form of complaint. With around 36.8 million commercial flights in 2017, delays affect millions of travellers. If you are looking to claim compensation it is important to know the outcome will be based on if the delay is considered outside of the airlines control. As a brief overview, you may be eligible for compensation if the pilot or crew are unavailable, if the aircraft has technical problems and cannot fly or if the flight has been cancelled to due low booking numbers. On the flipside, compensation is not usually applicable if the delay has been caused by adverse weather conditions, political unrest, safety issues, industrial action or airport closures due to safety risks.

Protecting against flight delay costs

It is always worth checking your travel insurance before you travel as some forms of flight delays might be covered in your insurance policy. Expenses incurred due to a delay might be covered which it can help to know if you are having to buy food or alternate accommodation. It might also be a good idea to have your documents with you just to give you the peace of mind you have the information at hand in the event you might need it. Before proceeding with any claim it is advisable to check through your policy and also that of the airlines to be sure you are fully aware of their terms and conditions and know what you agreed to when booking the tickets.

What to do when claiming compensation

If you are seeking to claim compensation there are two options available. The first would be to make the claim yourself independently and you would need to contact the complaints department at the airline, making sure you refer to the EU regulation 261/2004.


The second option available to you would be to use an intermediary, usually a legal expert who is experienced in working on these kind of cases. Airlines will do what’s in their power to prevent paying out any compensation unless absolutely necessary, so don’t be surprised if your initial enquiry is rejected. If your case does need to be escalated further it can referred to the ADR scheme which in most cases will incur a small non-refundable fee.

If you find your claim has been rejected but still feel you are eligible for compensation your next step would be taking the airline to court. If you have been handling the case yourself so far it still might be worth consulting with a legal expert to determine your next steps, as court fees can be very expensive and if you lose, you could be made to pay the full costs, including those of the airline. An airline is likely to receive many similar complaints and will be well versed in knowing what the best action to take is to ensure the claim goes in their favour. You must remain aware there is a 6 month period from lodging the first complaint with the airline to the case being passed to court – if you go past this deadline you will not receive compensation, so it is important to act quickly and with all the required information to support your case. Enlisting the help of a legal expert will ensure you follow the fastest and most effective route to claim the right amount of compensation.

Going to court


If you find the court proceedings are unavoidable, there are certain pieces of evidence you need to collate to help show the impact the delay has had on you.If you can keep a time diary of any delay notifications from the airline, contact details and statements from fellow travellers will aid in your claim. Evidence that can assist with your claim can include booking confirmations, boarding passes plus any further notifications or communications relating to the delay that could be pertinent. It is important to build a clear and accurate picture of the events that took place, so that the court can fully comprehend the various aspects of the case.


The more detail you can provide and the more information you can provide the court will help with your claim. Again, a legal professional can best advise on what evidence will be most applicable for your case whilst also giving you suggestions what would make your case stronger.

It is also worth noting that historic claims within the last 6 years may also be eligible. If you have had a previous flight delay within this time frame caused by what you believe to be a fault of the airline, it is worth speak directly to a legal expert in the first instance, as it may be more difficult for you to gather the same information as easily from several years ago than if you just experienced the delay recently. They will evaluate the historic case, inform you of what your next steps are and then help you claim for compensation.


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