More than 1.6 million UK passengers are eligible for compensation, meaning Brits are missing out on more than £500m in compensation for delayed or cancelled flights, according to data from flightright, the consumer portal for air passenger compensation for delayed, cancelled or overbooked flights.

Here are top tips for consumers looking to claim compensation after their holidays:

Flight delays
Compensation for delayed flights is based on the length of the delay and the distance of the flight. Passengers are entitled to monetary compensation for flights with a delay of more than three hours and only when the airline is completely responsible for it. This means that when the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances (for example, strike action, bad weather or political instability) airlines don’t have to pay.  

If the flight distance is less than 1,500km and is delayed more than three hours, passengers can claim up to £200. If it is between 1,500km and 3,500km and delayed more than three hours, passengers can receive up to £315. When travelling 3,500km or more, passengers are entitled to up to £240 for flights delayed by more than three hours and £475 for flights delayed by more than four hours. If the flight is delayed more than five hours, passengers have the option to withdraw from the flight and get a full refund. By law, compensation will always be paid to the person that was travelling, not the person that paid for the flight.

Flight cancellations
If flights are cancelled, airlines are obliged to reimburse or reroute passengers on the next available flight or on an agreed date. After two hours of delay, airlines must provide snacks, refreshments and telephone calls or other means of communication, so don’t be shy in asking if there is anything you need. It’s also worth knowing that if the new flight is the following day or later, passengers are entitled to nearby hotel accommodation if necessary.

Airlines are exempt from paying compensation if the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances. Such circumstances include usually bad weather, war and political instability, as well as security risks and strikes. However, if there is a technical fault, passengers can still claim.

Changed flight times
Beware that, when booking flights, airlines retain the right to alter flight times and even the airport that you depart from or fly into, with little notice – in worst case scenarios, just a few days. This can have a serious impact on passengers’ arrangements, especially if it results in needing to take an extra day off work.

The fundamental issue with changed flight times is that passengers often do not understand whether the travel provider or the airline is responsible for the new flight times. Generally, terms and conditions frequently indicate that changes to flight times are permissible. However, passengers should not be discouraged. Essentially, a changed flight time is the same as a flight cancellation or a case of involuntary denied boarding if the passenger is informed about it in the 14 days leading up to the original departure time. In this case, the passenger can make a compensation claim of up to £475.

Lost luggage
Luggage collection is often a sore point at the end of a long journey. According to a Which? survey, 25% of people have suffered long waits to reclaim baggage, and yet very few are aware that, according to the Montreal Convention of 1999, airlines are responsible for the baggage they allow you to check in.

If a passenger’s luggage is lost, they could qualify for compensation. For mishandled baggage claims, the liability limit is £900 per passenger, unless you make a “special declaration of interest in the delivery of your luggage”. You may also be able to claim on your travel insurance, depending on the conditions of your policy.  

If passengers arrive back from their holiday and find that their luggage has been damaged or doesn’t arrive in the baggage hall, the procedure is to go to the relevant luggage handling counter at the airport and fill in a Property Irregularity Report (PIR).

For passengers that want to claim compensation for damage to their luggage, it is necessary to write to the airline within seven days of receiving the damaged luggage. If luggage is delayed, passengers must write to the airline within 21 days from when the luggage was handed into to the airline. If luggage does not reappear after 21 days, then it is considered lost.

Late airport arrival
Most airports advise travellers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before the departure of their flight to allow time for both check-in and customs. This is especially important if you are travelling from a large and congested airport, such as Heathrow or Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Passengers are allowed to check into their flight at least 45 minutes before departure and can be denied access if they arrive at the check-in desk later than this. However, if a passenger arrives less than 45 minutes before departure, but check-in is still ongoing, passengers should be allowed to check in. Airlines are not obliged to pay compensation for passengers who miss the flight due to late check in as they are technically not at fault.

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