/ Money, Travel & Leisure

What’s the most extraordinary excuse you’ve heard?

No more excuses

Delayed flight? Airlines often refer to ‘technical problems’ to avoid paying compensation, but a new ruling may put a stop to that. What’s the worst excuse you’ve heard from a company?

There was a success for consumer rights this week. The European Court of Justice ruled that ‘a technical problem’ isn’t an extraordinary circumstance that airlines can use as a valid defence against paying flight delay compensation.

If Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) had won the case, millions of airline passengers across Europe may not have been able to claim compensation for delays. There was also a similar ruling by the Supreme Court last year against Jet2.

And then, something else yesterday. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority announced that it’s taking legal action against Ryanair due to the airline’s policies on compensation.

The CAA doesn’t think Ryanair complies with European consumer law after reportedly not paying proper compensation for delays caused by technical faults and trying to put a two-year time limit on paying out (you have six years). Ryanair responded by saying it ‘fully complies’ with the rules.

Are you claiming your compensation?

If you bought tickets for the theatre, only for the show to take place four hours later than advertised – and you had to spend those four hours waiting in the foyer picking at a complimentary packet of popcorn – you’d expect your money back. At the very least.

Earlier this year we found that around 900,000 passengers could be entitled to claim after analysing data for 1.7m flights over the past year.

In fact, only four in 10 people who were delayed actually claimed compensation. That means passengers could be missing out on millions of pounds they’re entitled to.

So we created an easy-to-use tool you can use to start your free claim for flight delay compensation.

Will flights cost more?

Airlines have been fighting tooth and nail to limit when passengers are entitled to claim compensation – often arguing that the extra expense of paying compensation will be passed on to consumers.

But, a report published by the European Commission in May last year casts a shadow over that argument. It found that if airlines increased ticket prices to cover their compensation costs (including providing food, free accommodation), there would only be an increase of between €1 and €3 per one-way ticket (approximately 73p to £2.19).

What ‘extraordinary excuses’ have you heard?

The only defence an airline has against paying compensation is when the delay was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’ such as poor weather, natural disaster or industrial action. Which is fair enough.

Now that the European Court of Justice has ruled that technical issues are not classed as extraordinary circumstances, where next for airlines?

If you’re delayed will you be claiming your compensation? Have you ever been fobbed off with any extraordinary excuses?

Useful links

Use our flight delays tool to claim compensation


Make sure that, when an airline does agree to pay compensation under EU261/2004, they don’t use an off-market exchange rate in their favour to convert from the round statutory EUR amount to a GBP amount. Check the live rate at http://www.truefx.com. Even better, find a friend with a EUR bank account who can receive the compensation for you and then withdraw EUR cash (or transfer to a Revolut card) for you to spend during your next trip to the Eurozone.


We are so lucky to have a Forex specialist on this site advising us on how to optimise our currency exchanges.


Do the CAA have a list of all flights that have been delayed where compensation is applicable ? If not, why not. It would sort all this nonsense out.


Good point William. Whilst one would like to trust the airlines ot be honest in the matter there exists an element of doubt.


If airlines do end up having to pay out more by way of compensation, then I would expect to see the costs passed on to passengers by way of fare increases.

This may also result in a competitive advantage for more punctual airlines, because their fares may not have to rise as much as those of their less efficient competitors.

Personally, I’d sooner arrive later (in safety) than earlier (on equipment that has been rushed into service to avoid financial penalties). I really don’t want to see airlines cutting corners on maintenance just to avoid financial penalties .


How many people know that the arrival time is defined as the instant when the door is opened to allow passengers to exit? I recently was on a flight which touched down two hours and fiftythree minutes late. It seems unlikely that, after taxiing and attaching the air bridge, we were still under three hours. However, as I was then unaware of the rule definition I did not check the door opening time. I wonder if there is any way of finding out?


Hello – did you ever find this out please? I’m in a similar position. Refused comp as apparently “only” 2 hours 56 mins late… I despute this but have no way of finding out…


From Bristol to Faro, 3 hours late excuse ‘the pilot did not turn up’ had to fly another in from Belfast.

Sue says:
28 April 2016

Our flight to Bucharest was delayed by 7 hours 15 mins. We had passed through Boarding and the plane was on the runway with the luggage ready to be loaded when we were told to return to the Departure Lounge. No information was given except to keep checking the departure board. It was rumoured a tyre had been damaged on landing but no-one was able to give any information. When we were eventually called to Board, passengers were handed a sheet of paper which we understood to be information on how to make a claim for compensation but they ran out and told us to ask when we arrived at Bucharest. On arrival no-one seemed to know what we were talking about and likewise on our return, so we never received this communication. We have been refused compensation by Blue Air who have given various reasons ranging from “a bird strike” to “despite the anticipated delay the passengers used our services”.