July Advice Column

I’m due to fly to Spain during the school summer holidays. After hearing about all the problems at airports, I’m really worried. My family have been looking forward to this and it’s cost us a lot of money. What do we do if our flight is cancelled or delayed?

A lot of people will be worried after seeing the recent news about flights. If you face issues, the Citizens Advice website has lots of information about what to do when your flight is delayed or cancelled.

If you’re already at the airport when they announce the delay, the airline should give you food and drink, access to phone calls and emails. You should also get accommodation if you’re delayed overnight (including journeys to and from the airport).

Your airline might offer you vouchers to pay for these or advise you to keep receipts to claim back expenses later. They will only refund ‘reasonable’ expenses, not expensive meals or luxury hotels.

What counts as a long enough delay to get this help depends on how long your flight is. A short flight only needs to be delayed two hours, whereas a flight of more than 3,500km needs to be more than four hours. Full details are on the Citizens Advice website.

It’s worth knowing that if your flight is delayed for more than five hours, you don’t have to take it. The airline legally has to give you a full refund for that flight (and any onward flights and return flights if you’re part-way through a connecting journey). Talk to someone from the airline as soon as you decide you don’t want to fly.

If your flight is cancelled altogether, you’ve a legal right to either a full refund or a replacement flight to get you to your destination. The refund includes any onward flights and money for a return flight if you’re part-way through a connecting journey. Ask about this at the airport if you can.

Don’t just rebook another flight yourself – check with the airline first because it’s their responsibility to sort out your replacement. If you do have to rebook it yourself, keep any receipts and evidence of why the airline couldn’t do this for you, for example screenshots of live chats. If the cancellation ends up delaying you getting to your holiday by two or more hours, you’re entitled to help with costs.

Check if you’re entitled to compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight. Again, this will depend on how long the delay was, the distance, and whether it’s the airline’s fault.

The Citizens Advice website has details on claiming compensation for delays or cancellations from the airline. You might also be able to claim from your travel insurance – check if your policy covers this.

If you have a problem with an airline and you’re not sure what to do, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133 or talk to an adviser online through the Citizens Advice website.

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