/ Travel & Leisure

Should all airlines offer automatic compensation for flight delays?

flight delays

A delayed or cancelled flight can ruin a holiday and claiming compensation can be a frustratingly drawn-out process. That’s why we’re calling on all airlines to implement automatic compensation. 

According to Which?’s analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data, almost 1.2m air passengers were hit by extensive flight delays last year. This means many passengers may have been entitled to compensation under current EU regulation.

Holiday blues

My recent holiday to Ibiza was exactly what a holiday is meant to be: too much sun, sea and sangria. It was my first experience of an all-inclusive holiday and having the added effort of sourcing food and drink taken away was a delight. That’s not to say that we didn’t pop into the town to sample the authentic cuisine.

After all that R&R, my better half and I were fully recuperated and ready(ish) to face the ‘work, work, work, eat, sleep, repeat’ routine that awaited. However, we weren’t expecting the stresses of the real world to encroach on our holiday at the outward bound check-in desk.

On arrival at Ibiza Airport we were welcomed by a message, emblazoned in bright yellow, and alternating between Spanish and English. Our flight was delayed.

An hour or so later, a representative from the tour operator we booked through came round to let us know that our plane would be delayed by a full six hours! Faces red with frustration, we patiently waited to be checked in, graciously accepted the €30 food and drink voucher, and went to the departures lounge.

Yes, we were fed and watered and, as a Which? employee, I knew exactly what I needed to do to claim compensation, but we were still wasting our day doing nothing when we could’ve been on a beach or on our sofa.Thank goodness we weren’t on our way to an important business meeting, a family engagement or flying out for a holiday and suffering an even longer delay.

When we eventually took off at 1535 (we were due to fly at 1035), the pilot informed us the plane had been stuck in Moscow overnight. Armed with all this information, my girlfriend began the compensation process as soon as we got in. After completing the relevant forms, we were told to wait 56 days(!) before we heard back.

Wider issue

Of course, we aren’t the only ones to be hit by severe delays. Statistics from five years ago reveal that EasyJet, Ryanair and British Airways have seen an increase in the number of passengers suffering lengthy delays to short haul journeys.

Over the last five years EasyJet has seen a 111% increase in the number of passengers delayed by three hours or more, with the total now standing at 191,000. Ryanair and British Airways have seen their figures almost double over this period to 90,000 and 131,000 respectively.

If, like me, you flew short haul for your holiday, you would potentially be able claim €250 if you were delayed by more than three hours. Long-haul passengers could claim €300 if you arrived three to four hours late, rising to €600 if your flight was at least four hours late.

Should you have experienced a delayed or cancelled flight in the same way as me, you can use our new-and-improved tool to start your claim here:

Claim for a flight delay

BA’s catastrophic IT failure over the spring bank holiday this year was a huge catalyst behind the launch of our new Upgrade Airline Compensation campaign, which called on British Airways to introduce automatic compensation. Now we’re opening the campaign up to apply pressure on all airlines to implement automatic compensation.

You can support us by signing the petition below.

john wigglesworth says:
29 July 2017

The big problem here is cost which comes back to the consumer ? YOU in the way of added consumer Insurance!
Yes it is wrong that this happened, there needs to be more protection from hackers and much higher penalties to those who cause the problems! Most cause these for the thrill they get by what they do and the problems they creat

Jacky says:
29 July 2017

I don’t fly, ever. With climate change going as it is, it’s immoral.

Air travel doesn’t affect many people very often. It is a heavily subsidised mode of transport usually used by elites. Also dangerous pressure to speed up turn around times without thorough safety inspection. What about compensation for late buses?

M. Bellany says:
29 July 2017

Yes. I was considering that we, as passengers, will only have to bear this cost in the long run.

I treated my son to a week in Seville staying with a friend last year for his 21st. We live in Merseyside and there were no direct flights from Liverpool to Seville so going out he flew Liverpool to Malaga, train to Seville, and then coming back flew Seville to Gatwick and train Euston to Liverpool. Both flights with Easyjet. His flight back was delayed several hours (5+) and by the time he got to Gatwick he had not only missed the train I had booked, but also the last train home. This meant an overnight stay in London and a new train ticket the next day. Easyjet refused to compensate for anything more than drinks and a meal for the long wait in Seville. I had even taken out their insurance.
I won’t be using them ever again.

Stephen Dickinson says:
29 July 2017

I don’t suffer from flight delays, or the sardine effect, or the ridiculous check-in times. I have found a solution; I don’t fly anymore. The airline term for passengers is self-loading cargo. That term seems to have developed into a culture!

Kate says:
29 July 2017

No. It shouldn’t be automatic. That will only push up air fares in the end. Leave it to passengers to get off their a***s and claim. I did and I got €400.

I am increasingly fed up with ‘ Which’ asking support for one campaign after another. They even have a ‘Campaign Team’ whose job, I presume, is to dream up new campaigns whether they are needed or not. A major contributor to our compensation culture.

Robert says:
29 July 2017

Why should airlines. Pay more to passengers . Delay between 3 & 6 hours .
Than the price of the ticket.
All what will happen , the price of tickets will go thou the roof

Ian trying to claim flight delay compensation from Jet2.com, they dont halve drag their heels with any form of correspondence or e-mail replies.
Dont be put off by this complacency from them,they just want you to go away and give up the fight.
I say do the opposite and dig your heels in and keep niggling away at them. If they reject your claim,appeal,appeal again and keep appealing right till the end as far as the ombudsman.
They will pay up in the end, and the longer they delay payment,surely you can then claim the interest that they owe you as well, had you had them compensation sooner, and been able to bank the money yourself.
Oh one more thing dont accept their offer of holiday vouchers as a form of payment,whats the sense of giving them the money straight back.
Keep the faith,be patient,dont take their first offer and you will reap the reward for your patience,and we will all get what we rightly deserve.

alex says:
29 July 2017

booked holiday through Thompson sky tours delayed 5hrh 30mins refused to accept responsibility because it was a chartered flight ASL airlines I think this is why thompsons use them no win no fee companies will not pursue them because they are foreign government should change the law and make booking company responsable

What about delays on motorways? Once you have passed an exit and the motorway ahead is blocked by an incident, you are effectively trapped for anything up to 3 or 4 hours. The compensation culture has gone too far. Money paid out by airlines can only come from increased ticket prices.

Graham says:
29 July 2017

I don’t get compensated when there is a hold up or diversion on the road network in this country caused by accidents or roadworks. Rail passengers don’t get compensated for similar delays on the rail system, so why should air passengers be treated differently?

Mike Ellis says:
29 July 2017

Why go abroad, there are more than enough beautiful locations within the United Kingdom.

Malcolm says:
29 July 2017

I had a delay of 5 hours last year due to a bird deciding to enter the left engine as the plane landed at a small regional airport where there were no spare aircraft. There were passengers complaining bitterly (and reudely) that they would be late getting to their holiday destination – did they really want to get in an aircraft with only one engine working? Seemingly so; I didn’t, I was happy to have a cuppa and read my book while a spare aircraft was bought in from Manchester.

My Gran used to say ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ and so I ask you, who in the end is paying for this compensation? Surely it will be us through increased fares?

Puddick says:
29 July 2017

Not always something the airlines can control. We are becoming too keen on compensation these days egged on by firms like Which.

The problem is that the delays are due to air control. That is sth what airport should solve long time ago. What annoys me most that they always tell you at the check in. Why not text customers and tell them to come later????!! I ve wrote to the one of them and told them they not interested in passengers but th the xxx ing money. Must be simple solution to this but they not interested.

Anne says:
29 July 2017

I’m a bit worried that airlines might take more risks with safety if they were having to pay out automatic compensation for delays

I don’t agree with this compensation culture , if you travel with a holiday company and are delayed there policy is to find you hotel , food , transport for the delay and then you can claim as well this should be one or the other , if you want your holiday to double then claim away !!!!!!!!!

29 July 2017

Under Regulation EC 261/2004 you have the legal right to be compensated by the airlines for your flight delay inconvenience under certain circumstances.
This is a quote from Martin Lewis Money site. I made a claim in 2014 against Easy Jet using the EU Claim site referred to on that page. At present it is being dealt with by Bott and Co solicitors.
Why should airlines be allowed to renege on this commitment ?

Today our airlines are providing a truly fantastic service at very competitive prices. It is rare for flight delays to be attributable solely to the airline so any increase in compensation payments would be both unfair to the airlines and ineffective in reducing delays. One area which would lead to a very significant reduction in delays would be the automation of Air Traffic Control (ATC). Technically a fully automated ATC would have been possible in the 1960’s but the political will and comprehension has stalled this until now (50 years on) when, as I understand it our National Air Traffic Service (NATS) is at last going to have a look at it, see: http://nats.aero/blog/2013/11/safety-management-automation-air-traffic-control-future/. As an example of where manual ATC stifles efficiency and progress is the landing profiles which it forces airlines to follow; these involve descending in steps: descend at idle; throttle-up straight and level; descend at idle; and so-on. This burns up huge amounts of fuel because the jet engine is very inefficient when low and slow. The ideal descent is continuous with the engines at idle. Sadly the Americans have beaten us to it and are now using “optimized profile descents” at major airports, see: https://www.wired.com/2014/06/houston-nextgen-plane-descents/. I am a pilot and have been involved in the development of software for Military and Civil systems over many years.

As fellow pilot I would point out that the human / system interface has been responsible for some serious accidents in the past and that there is still no system which can adequately replace a well-trained human ATC. The US system does not automate the process entirely but enhances it significantly so that the load is eased on the humans involved.

But I agree that the optimized profile descent process would reduce pollution – possibly significantly over built up areas.