What to do if your flight is cancelled or delayed

What to do if your flight is cancelled or delayed due to airline strikes.

Delays and cancellations are common in modern air travel. Currently, there is an ongoing Aer Lingus pilot strike. An indefinite work-to-rule and an eight-hour strike from 05:00 to 13:00 local time on Saturday, June 29, 2024, have caused the cancellation of tens of thousands of passengers’ flights.

French air traffic control strikes also affect numerous flights to and from Ireland.

So, here’s a guide to help you understand your rights and options if this action impacts your flight.

Know your rights under EU Regulation 261/2014

EU Regulation 261/2014 sets out the rights of passengers in the event of flight cancellations or delays. These include:

  • Refunds
  • Re-routing
  • Care and assistance
  • Compensation

How to check if strike action affects your flight

  1. Airline notification:
    • Email/SMS Alerts: Airlines must notify passengers of any cancellations or significant delays via email or SMS. Ensure your contact information is up-to-date in your booking details.
    • Check Your Email and Phone: Check your email and SMS regularly for airline updates, especially in the days before your flight.
  2. Airline website:
    • Flight Status Page: Visit the airline’s website and navigate to the flight status page. Enter your flight number or route details for the latest information on delays or cancellations.
    • Travel Alerts Section: Check the travel alerts or news section on the airline’s homepage for information on strikes, weather disruptions, or other issues affecting flights.
  3. Airport resources:
    • Departure Boards: Monitor the online departure boards on your airport’s website. These are usually updated in real-time and provide the latest information on all departing flights.
    • Airport Apps: Many airports have mobile apps that provide real-time updates on flight statuses and gate changes.
  4. Third-party apps:
    • Flight Tracking Apps: Use apps like FlightAware, FlightRadar24, or TripIt to track your flight status in real time. These apps can also notify you about delays, cancellations, and gate changes.

What to do if your flight is cancelled or delayed.

A flight cancellation occurs in the following scenarios:

  1. Schedule Abandonment: Your original flight schedule is abandoned, and you are transferred to another scheduled flight.
  2. Return to Departure Airport: The aircraft takes off but is forced to return to the departure airport, and you are transferred to another flight.
  3. Arrival at Different Airport: Your flight arrives at an airport not indicated as the final destination on your ticket unless:
    • You accept re-routing (under comparable transport conditions at the earliest opportunity) to your original final destination airport or another agreed destination. This situation is treated as a delay, not a cancellation.
    • The arrival airport and the original final destination airport serve the same town, city, or region. This is also treated as a delay.

If an airline cancels your flight, you can choose between reimbursement, re-routing, or return.

Rights and assistance

In case of a flight cancellation, you have the right to assistance at the airport. You can claim compensation if the airline informs you of the cancellation less than 14 days before the scheduled departure. The airline must prove when and how it informed you about the cancellation. If they fail to do so, you can contact your national authority for further assistance.

However, compensation is not required if the airline can demonstrate that the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided even with all reasonable measures. The airline must provide evidence such as logbook entries or incident reports to both the relevant national enforcement body and the affected passengers.

Compensation for cancellation

The compensation amounts for flight cancellations are as follows:

Amount (EUR)Distance
2501,500 km or less
400More than 1,500 km within the EU and all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km
600More than 3,500 km

Options provided by the airline

If an airline cancels your flight, the airline must offer you a one-time choice between:

  1. Reimbursement of Your Ticket: Including a return flight to the airport of departure if you have a connecting flight, at the earliest opportunity.
  2. Re-routing to Your Final Destination: At the earliest opportunity.
  3. Re-routing at a Later Date: At your convenience, under comparable transport conditions, subject to seat availability.

Once you choose one of these options, your rights concerning the other two options cease. However, compensation may still be due depending on the type of flight and the delay in reaching your final destination.

Conditions affecting compensation

You are not entitled to compensation if:

  • The airline informs you more than 14 days in advance.
  • You are informed between 2 weeks and 7 days before the scheduled departure and offered re-routing that allows you to:
    • Depart no more than 2 hours before the original scheduled time of departure.
    • Reach your final destination less than 4 hours after the original scheduled time of arrival.
  • You are informed less than 7 days before the scheduled departure and offered re-routing that allows you to:
    • Depart no more than 1 hour before the original scheduled time of departure.
    • Reach your final destination less than 2 hours after the original scheduled time of arrival.

If the airline offers re-routing and you reach your final destination with a delay of 2, 3, or 4 hours, they may reduce the compensation by 50 per cent.

Passenger rights notice

Airlines must clearly display a printed or electronic notice informing passengers of their EU air passenger rights at the airport check-in desk, check-in kiosks, and online.If the airline denies you boarding, cancels your flight, delays your departure by more than 2 hours, or you arrive at your final destination with a long delay, the airline must provide a written notice outlining the rules for compensation and assistance.

If your flight is cancelled or delayed

Regardless of when you are notified, airlines must offer you the choice between:

  1. Re-routing as Soon as Possible:
    • Immediate Rebooking: The airline should book you on the next available flight to your destination at no additional cost. This re-routing should be done as soon as possible.
    • Availability: Re-routing is subject to seat availability, so it’s advisable to act quickly once you receive a cancellation notice.
  2. Re-routing at a Later Date:
    • Flexible Rebooking: You can choose to rebook your flight for a later date that is convenient for you. This option gives you flexibility, but ensure to confirm any time limits for rebooking.
  3. A Full Refund:
    • Refund Process: You are entitled to a full refund of your ticket price within seven days of the flight cancellation. This refund should include any taxes and fees paid.
    • Method of Refund: Refunds are typically processed back to the original form of payment. Check with the airline if you prefer an alternative method.

Arranging re-routing or refund

  1. At the Airport:
    • Airline Counters: If you are already at the airport, visit the airline’s customer service counter. Staff should assist you in rebooking your flight or arranging a refund.
    • Information Desks: Airport information desks can also provide guidance on how to proceed with your re-routing or refund.
  2. Online:
    • Airline’s Website: Most airlines have a dedicated section on their website for managing cancellations and rebookings. Log into your booking to view and select available options.
    • Customer Service: Contact the airline’s customer service hotline for assistance. Be prepared for potential wait times during peak periods of disruption.
  3. Third-Party Bookings:
    • Travel Agents and Tour Operators: If you booked through a third party, such as a travel agent or tour operator, contact them directly. They will handle the re-routing or refund process on your behalf.
    • Third-Party Websites: If you booked through an online travel agency (e.g., Expedia, Booking.com), follow their specific procedures for cancellations and refunds.

Care and assistance

If you choose to be re-routed as soon as possible, you are entitled to:

  1. Meals and Refreshments:
    • Vouchers: The airline should provide meal vouchers depending on the length of the delay.
    • Reimbursement: If no vouchers are provided, keep receipts for reasonable expenses, which the airline should reimburse.
  2. Hotel Accommodation:
    • Overnight Delays: If an overnight stay is necessary, the airline must provide hotel accommodation.
    • Transportation: The airline should also cover transportation between the airport and the hotel.
  3. Transfers Between the Airport and Hotel:
    • Shuttle Services: The airline might arrange shuttle services.
    • Receipts for Expenses: If you arrange your own transport, keep receipts for reimbursement.

Accommodation concerns

  • Non-Airline Liabilities: Airlines are not liable for any missed accommodations or events due to delays or cancellations. This includes hotel bookings, rental cars, or prepaid activities.
  • Travel Insurance:
    • Disruption Cover: Travel insurance policies that include disruption cover can help mitigate costs associated with missed accommodations.
    • Claims Process: Contact your travel insurance provider to understand the claims process and documentation required.
  • Travel Agent Flexibility:
    • Rebooking Assistance: If you booked through a travel agent, they may offer more flexibility in rescheduling your accommodation and activities.
    • Package Deals: Package holiday bookings often include clauses that can protect against such disruptions, offering more comprehensive coverage.

Compensation entitlements

Compensation depends on the flight distance and reason for cancellation:

  • €250 for short-haul flights (less than 1,500km)
  • €400 for medium-haul flights (1,500-3,500km)
  • €600 for long-haul flights (over 3,500km)

You are not due compensation if notified at least two weeks before the cancellation. Typically, strikes are not extraordinary circumstances. Therefore, you may be able to still claim compensation.

Claiming compensation

  1. Formal Contact: To claim compensation, formally contact the airline.
  2. Escalation: If dissatisfied with the response, escalate the matter to the National Enforcement Body, such as the Irish Aviation Authority.

Delayed flights

  • Long Delays (5+ hours): If delayed more than five hours and you choose not to travel, you are entitled to a full refund.
  • Shorter Delays: For shorter delays, you are entitled to care and assistance.
  • Compensation: Possible if you arrive at your destination more than three hours late, depending on flight distance.

Travel insurance benefits

  • Coverage for Expenses: Travel insurance can offer additional cover for expenses due to cancellations or delays, especially if it includes travel disruption cover.
  • Limitations: Usually covers only transport and accommodation costs, not lost opportunities or pre-booked event fees.

Lost or delayed baggage

  • Rights under the Montreal Convention: Passengers have rights for lost or delayed baggage, including limited compensation.
  • Immediate Reporting: Report issues immediately and keep receipts for essential items purchased while waiting for your bag.

Steps to take immediately if your flight is cancelled or delayed

  1. Contact the Airline: Immediately reach out to the airline for updates and next steps.
  2. Document Everything: Keep all communication records, receipts, and documents related to your flight disruption.
  3. Stay Informed: Regularly check the airline’s website and your email or SMS for updates.

Preparing for travel disruptions

  • Travel Apps: Use travel apps for real-time flight updates and alternate route suggestions.
  • Backup Plans: Have a list of nearby hotels and alternate transportation options.
  • Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of emergency contacts, including the airline, your travel agent, and your insurance provider.

Additional resources

Common questions and answers

What if the airline reschedules my flight to a different airport?

If the airline reroutes your flight to a different airport, the airline should cover the transport cost to the original destination or provide alternative travel arrangements.

Can I claim compensation for missed connecting flights?

If the airline delays or cancels your initial flight, causing you to miss a connecting flight, you may qualify for compensation and re-routing options, depending on whether you booked the flights together or separately.

What if I am travelling with children or have special needs?

Airlines must provide additional assistance to passengers with special needs, including unaccompanied minors. Ensure the airline is aware of these needs when booking and during any disruption.

Travel tips for avoiding issues

  • Early Flights: Book flights early in the day to reduce the risk of delays and reduce stress.
  • Direct Flights: Whenever possible, choose direct flights to avoid connection issues.
  • Carry-On Essentials: Always pack essential items, including medications and important documents, in your carry-on luggage.

Legal support

If you face significant issues and the airline is unresponsive, consider seeking legal advice. Organisations like the European Consumer Centre can offer guidance on pursuing claims.

Travel insurance benefits for flight cancellations and delays

Travel insurance can offer additional cover for expenses due to cancellations or delays, especially if it includes travel disruption cover. However, this usually covers only transport and accommodation costs, not lost opportunities or pre-booked event fees.

Types of coverage

  1. Standard Travel Insurance: This typically covers basic issues like medical emergencies, lost luggage, and trip cancellations due to specific reasons such as illness or family emergencies.
  2. Travel Disruption Cover: This is an additional layer of protection that covers costs arising from unforeseen disruptions like strikes, severe weather, or airline bankruptcies.

What travel insurance covers for cancelled flights

  1. Trip Cancellation: If your flight is cancelled due to covered reasons like severe weather or a strike, you can claim for non-refundable expenses, including flights, accommodation, and prepaid activities.
  2. Trip Interruption: If your trip is cut short due to a covered event, you can be reimbursed for the unused portion of your trip and additional expenses incurred to return home.
  3. Travel Delay: Coverage for additional expenses such as meals, accommodation, and transport if your flight is delayed for a significant period.

If you are ready to claim, here’s how to do so

  1. Documentation: Keep all relevant documents, including your insurance policy, receipts, flight tickets, and any communication from the airline regarding the cancellation.
  2. Notification: Inform your insurance provider as soon as possible about the cancellation. They will guide you through the claims process.
  3. Proof of Cancellation: Obtain written confirmation from the airline about the flight cancellation and the reasons for it. This is essential for your claim.

What travel insurance may not cover

  1. Disinclination to Travel: If you decide not to travel without a covered reason, your claim may be denied.
  2. Pre-Existing Conditions: Issues known before purchasing the policy, such as pre-existing medical conditions or forecasted strikes, may not be covered.
  3. Exclusions: Always read the fine print to understand exclusions, such as specific airlines or types of cancellations.

Tips for choosing the right travel insurance

  1. Comprehensive Coverage: Opt for policies that cover a wide range of disruptions, including strikes and severe weather.
  2. High Coverage Limits: Ensure the policy has sufficient limits to cover potential high costs of rebooking flights and accommodations.
  3. Add-ons: Consider add-ons like “missed departure” or “travel disruption” cover for enhanced protection.

In conclusion, here is an example scenario

Imagine you have a trip planned, but Aer Lingus cancels your flight due to a pilot strike. Here’s how travel insurance can help:

  1. Initial Steps: Contact Aer Lingus for re-routing or refunds. Collect all documentation related to the cancellation.
  2. Insurance Claim: Notify your insurance provider immediately. Submit all required documents, including proof of the flight cancellation and receipts for any additional expenses incurred.
  3. Reimbursement: Once the claim is processed, you can be reimbursed for non-refundable trip costs and additional expenses like meals and accommodation.

Finally, if you are hungry for more blog posts about Ireland, here you go…

Firstly, read my blog post answering the question: do I need travel insurance?

Then read my top tips for stress-free travel this summer from Irish airports.

In addition, here is my foolproof recipe for traditional Irish scones.

You might also like my list of the  7 restaurants worth the drive from Belfast.

Similarly, you might also like my blog post entitled Discover Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Garden.

If you are visiting Ireland, take a look at my many blog posts, for example things to do in Ireland.

In addition, here is my ultimate Cork City guide for culture, cuisine, and craic, for those planning to visit Rebel County.

Furthermore, if you are looking for a place to stay in Ireland, I highly recommend Glenlo Abbey and Longueville House.

Additionally, click here to learn about the traditional Irish foods we use to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

Finally, click here to learn about Easter in Ireland: Traditions, food, and festivities.

Lastly, do you like this blog post on flight cancellations and delays? If so, please share it with others.

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