/ Travel & Leisure

Planes, trains and… a complete lack of helpful information

Airplane on runway in snowy, windy conditions.

Travel chaos hit many parts of the UK today as snow closed runways and delayed trains. Many of us aren’t sure of our rights to compensation. What are we entitled to when transport services let us down?

I was woken up this morning by my five-year-old bellowing ‘it’s snowing!’ and demanding to rush outside to play. She was bursting with excitement and surprise.

An hour or so later and there was a distinct lack of excitement or surprise on the travel network. South West Trains was running late, and I was surrounded by commuters grumbling about the impact of a brief flurry of snow.

Many travellers were affected by train delays today, from Kent to Aberdeenshire. But rail passengers weren’t the only ones to have their journeys lengthened by the wintery weather conditions. Dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed as Luton and Stansted airports closed their runways, leaving passengers facing a chilly wait.

Flight for your rights

Access to information is vital when delays hit airports. In these circumstances airlines are supposed to give passengers information about their rights, and ensure that their passengers get what they are entitled to.

In the case of flight delays of two hours or more, that means meals, refreshments and phone calls at the very least. It applies whatever the circumstances, even if the delay is caused by something outside the airline’s control – like weather.

If the delay, or cancellation, is caused by something that is within the airline’s control, you also have the right to compensation.

When I had a flight cancelled from Gatwick some years back, the information supplied by the airline wasn’t good. It ended up with a member of staff surrounded by an angry crowd who were not placated at being told it wasn’t the airlines’ fault. We were certainly not offered free phone calls or refreshments.

As I remember it, very few, if any, of the people in that crowd had any idea what their rights really were. Including me.

Flight rights survey results

Worryingly, it appears that is still the case. Our new flight rights survey found nine out of 10 people didn’t know or were unsure of what they were entitled to for travel delays and cancellations.

And only 5% of those who had experienced a delay or cancellation had been offered the free phone calls to which they are entitled.

Have you been affected by train or flight delays caused by today’s wintery weather? Were you told about your right to compensation?


It must be galling when you’re trying to go out on the piste to get held up by snow at a British airport. I remember we were trying to get to Madeira in May and Gatwick was shutdown because of snow. We got away after a few hours after not much information and even less welfare, and then – because of the delays – we hit terrible weather over the Atlantic and could not land due to tropical storms. At least they put us up for the night on another island and took us back to Gatwick the next day [arriving past midnight] but all claims for compensation [extra hotel costs and meals] were deftly driven into the long grass. The fragility of the rail system is due to it running in excess of capacity for much of the time and the lack of alternative or diversionary routes for when things go wrong.