words Alexa Wang
Statistics show that one in four planes arrives late or is delayed; with around 36.8 million commercial flights last year alone, the issue of flight delays affects millions of passengers every year.
At best, this leads to extended waits and inconvenience that many did not plan for, while at worst, it can mean that critical appointments or events can be missed, money and time have gone to waste, and travel plans are severely disrupted.
When a flight is delayed, a chain reaction is set off, forcing passengers into suddenly rearranging their travel plans, inevitably seeing money go down the drain. Here is some expert advice from the professionals at LegalExpert.co.uk on how to deal with flight delays.
What Causes Delays?
Air travel is a time-consuming and boring at the best of times, so when a delay occurs, it tends to be very inconvenient. However, flights are often delayed for good reason, and usually pertaining to the health and safety of passengers and crew, or logistical issues. The most prevalent causes of flight delays are:
- Hazardous weather conditions that make takeoff unsafe
- Maintenance issues that deem the plane unfit to fly
- Insufficient fuel levels at the airport
- Booking and boarding errors
- Heavy air traffic causing congestion
- Late arrival of planes from previous routes
- Security issues
When Is The Airline Liable?
Some reasons for flight delays are legally considered to be the fault of the airline, and in such cases, passengers are entitled to compensation for their losses. In some cases, however, the cause of a delay is considered outside the control of the airline, therefore relieving them of legal responsibility and meaning passengers affected are not eligible for compensation. Elements airlines are not liable for include:
- Bad weather causing unsafe flying conditions
- Industrial action (not applicable to airline staff)
- Political unrest
- Security and other safety issues
- Airport closure by air traffic management due to danger
Causes of flight delays that are considered to be the fault of the airline include:
- Unavailable pilot or crew
- The cancellation of underbooked flights
- Technical problems with the aircraft
- Late registration of flights due to clerical error
Flight delays are covered in some forms of travel insurance policy, so before travelling, it is important to know the finer details of your policy and what exactly it covers. In some instances, an insurance policy will include expenses relating to causes that are not eligible for compensation claims – for example, ticket costs of flights delayed due to weather conditions – so being familiar with the fineprint of the policy is essential before travelling, and keeping the documents on you throughout travel is a good idea. In the event of your flight being interrupted by flight delays, make sure you know how your policy and the airline’s own compensation policies affect your situation before pursuing any claims.
How to Claim Compensation
When considering making a claim for compensation, there are two approaches available: filing a claim independently, or doing so with the assistance of a legal expert. If you would prefer to attempt to claim alone, get the ball rolling by getting in touch with the airline directly and dealing with their claims and complaints department, and inform them that you plan to claim for compensation under the EU regulation 261/2004.
Even though passengers affected by certain delays are legally entitled to compensation, airlines do a lot to prevent paying out, so are likely to try to talk people out of making a claim, or eventually dismiss them. If this happens, refer the case to the applicable ADR scheme. Taking a claim to this level usually involves a fee of around £25, which is non-refundable in the event of your claim being unsuccessful.
Should your claim be rejected, and you still feel that your circumstances are eligible for compensation, you can take the next step, by progressing the case to court. If it gets to this point, it is a good idea to consult a legal expert for advice, even if you have been handling the case independently thus far. Because of how dismissive airlines and their adjudicators tend to be regarding compensation claims, it can be much easier and more direct to enlist the assistance of an expert who can make the process as fast and efficient as possible. There is a six month limit from lodging the initial complaint with the airline to pass the case on to a court, and compensation cannot be claimed once this period has passed, so make sure not to delay proceedings.
If You Go To Court
If your case proceeds to court, you will be required to provide as much evidence of your situation as possible, so if you have encountered a flight delay, make sure to start collecting documents and other evidence of the impact of the delay as soon as you can. Suitable kinds of evidence that you should gather include:
- Receipts, booking confirmations and any documents issued to you upon booking the flight
- Boarding passes and other documents pertaining to your travel
- Any notification or correspondence you had with the airline or any other company to do with your flight
You should provide as much detail as you can to give the court sufficient information to base proceedings on, so make sure you document the incident as fully and accurately as you can. Details including locations, dates, times, flight numbers and reasons given by the airline for the delay are all relevant. Gather as much evidence and documentation as you can and give it to your legal expert, who can then sort through all of your information and decide what will be pertinent to court proceedings. They may also suggest documents or other evidence not yet supplied that could strengthen your case.
Don’t forget that historic airport delays are also eligible for attention providing they occurred within the past six years. If any flight delays you have experienced fall within this window of time have been caused by factors that airlines are liable for, get in touch with a legal expert who specialises in flight delay claims, who can talk you through the process of claiming flight delay compensation, and make sure you receive what you are entitled to.