The holiday season is drawing to a close, but for returning travellers now is the time to recoup their losses if travel troubles struck while they were away.
The Mail on Sunday explains your rights if transport lets you down.
Thousands of Ryanair passengers suffered infuriating cancellations and delays this summer while the airline was locked in wrangles with unions Europe-wide. Those whose flights were cancelled were offered refunds or another flight.
Although all passengers flying into and out of European Union countries are also entitled to compensation for long waits or cancelled flights under the so-called EU261 rule, there are exceptions.
Let down: Passengers were hit by Ryanair strikes
Ryanair has apparently been rejecting claims as it says staff strikes are one of the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that entitle airlines not to pay out. Other exemptions include dangerous weather conditions, air traffic control delays or aircraft sabotage.
But airline regulator the Civil Aviation Authority says passengers whose flights were cancelled with less than 14 days’ notice should be eligible for compensation.
A Ryanair spokesman says: ‘Under EU261 legislation, no compensation is payable to customers when the (strike) delay/cancellation is beyond the airline’s control. If these strikes, by a tiny minority of pilots, were within Ryanair’s control, there would have been no strikes.’
The Irish airline defends its stance by pointing to similar incidents, such as strikes by BA cabin crew last year, when the carrier took no action in relation to EU261.
WHEN TO CLAIM
Flocks of travellers will have faced disruption of all kinds whatever their chosen airline.
Under the rules each traveller is entitled to compensation of up to €600 (£540), depending on the length of delay and the flight distance. It does not matter if the original ticket was a fraction of that sum. If a hold-up is the airline’s fault, perhaps because of staff shortages or even a technical fault with the plane, there should be some cash on offer.
The compensation clock starts ticking after a three-hour delay arriving at the destination
The compensation rules apply to those flying from a European airport on any airline – and those arriving at an EU airport on an EU airline. This also applies to Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
The compensation clock starts ticking after a three-hour delay arriving at the destination. Passengers on a short flight of less than 1,500 km – say London to Paris – are entitled to €250 each.
For a flight between a European and non-European airport of between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres – say London to Marrakech – it is €400. Those on a long-haul flight out of Europe who face a four-hour plus delay receive €600.
If any stopover on an EU airline is delayed by more than three hours a claim is valid, even if it occurs outside the EU.
Although a claim can technically be made up to six years after the problem it is sensible to instigate it quickly. Brexit could throw a spanner in the works.
Someone flying with a non-EU airline, say United Airlines from Florida to London, does not have the same right to compensation under European rules.
But check the airline’s terms and conditions as it may have its own compensation arrangements.
HOW TO CLAIM
To start the process passengers usually apply via the airline’s website – though some request the paperwork by post. Alternatively use a free complaints tool such as that offered by website Resolver – but be aware easyJet will not accept claims this way.
Do not be tempted to use claims managers. Such firms grab up to 40 per cent of the compensation as their fee. These claims vultures are all over the internet and even place agents at airport arrival halls in popular holiday destinations to catch out weary travellers, as The Mail on Sunday revealed in July.
Martyn James, of Resolver, says: ‘These firms make no difference to the outcome of your claim but take a huge chunk of compensation for effectively doing nothing.’
If a claim is rebuffed, consider taking the case to an airline or airport dispute resolution service. For example, Aviation ADR mediates between Ryanair and its passengers. You can find details of such schemes via the Civil Aviation Authority’s website at caa.co.uk.
More than ten million people take the Eurostar under the Channel each year. Disruption is inevitable on such a busy service. But there is compensation available for delays of more than an hour.
If you apply within 60 days you can get a partial cash refund. This is worth 25 per cent of the price for a hold-up of between one and two hours and 50 per cent for any delay over two hours. The money should be received within 14 days.
You can still claim 60 days after the disruption (but not later than a year). In this case you will be awarded Eurostar e-vouchers for future travel. These are worth 25 per cent of the ticket price for a delay of one to two hours, 50 per cent for between two and three hours and 75 per cent for more than
three hours. These are valid for 12 months. Passengers whose train is cancelled can get a full refund or swap their ticket for one to use within six months.
For train delays in the UK contact the train operator. Most will pay something for an hour’s delay or more, while some will offer compensation for delays of 15 or 30 minutes.
Many train companies are signed up to a ‘delay repay’ scheme. Greater Anglia, for example, gives back 50 per cent on a single fare (25 per cent on a return) if passengers are delayed between 30 minutes and an hour. For delays of one to two hours they get the full price of a single or half the return. Two hours or more and the full price is returned whether single or return.
Pick up a delay repay form from a station and post it with the ticket as proof. Some firms accept online applications with a scanned copy of the ticket.
The usual time limit for claiming is 28 days. If a complaint is unresolved contact watchdog Transport Focus at transportfocus.org.uk.
Millions of us take ferries to the Continent and islands off the UK mainland each year. If a crossing is held up for a significant period compensation should be available – unless the delay is due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ such as dangerous weather conditions.
The amount paid is equal to 25 per cent of the ticket price for delays of one hour on a journey of up to four hours, two hours on a trip of four to eight hours, three hours on a voyage between eight and 24 hours and six hours for a journey of more than 24 hours.
If the disruption lasts more than double these times compensation rises to 50 per cent of the ticket price.
If a ferry is cancelled – or departure is delayed for more than 90 minutes – the company must offer an alternative sailing at no extra cost and a refund as detailed above.
For unresolved complaints, contact the Association of British Travel Agents at abta.com.
I had a five-hour delay – now about that payment…
After getting caught up in a delay of more than five hours on a flight from Southend airport to Caen in France, I know full well how exhausting delays – and claiming compensation – can be.
It transpired, but only after we finally embarked, that the hold-up on the Flybe flight was due to the pilot being stuck on a fog-bound Isle of Man the night before. To cut a long story short, he finally had to take a five-hour taxi ride from Manchester to Essex while his 90 or so passengers sat twiddling their thumbs in the departure lounge.
Setting aside my frustration over the curtailed weekend to visit my sister in Normandy, I knew I could at least claim compensation. I requested a form from the counter staff at Southend and made my claim a few days later.
Held up: Sally Hamilton was bound for Normandy
That was ten days ago and I have still seen no sign of payment.
Under EU261 rules I should receive €250, as my short flight arrived more than three hours late. An automated message from customer services simply said my application had been received.
A spokeswoman for the airline merely said: ‘Flybe complies with and meets fully all its obligations relating to EU261 rules. It pays compensation to customers who are legally entitled to receive it and processes claims as quickly and efficiently as possible based on current demand.’
I hope so, because my patience is wearing thin.
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