Flight Delays and Cancellations

When flights are delayed or cancelled, passengers have rights that airlines often do not explain. We've put together this guide to help you understand your rights if your flight is delayed or cancelled, so read on to find out everything you need to know.

Flight Delays and Cancellations advice from Total Travel Protection. Traveller waiting in airport.

Image by Skitterphoto via Pixabay

What are your rights under UK law?

If you are scheduled to fly in a plane that was delayed or cancelled, you have a few rights that airlines don't want you to know about. However, to be covered, your flight must meet the following criteria:

  • Flying out of an airport in the UK on any airline
  • Arriving in the UK on an EU or UK airline
  • Arriving in the EU on a UK airline

While it is not uncommon for passengers to wait for their flights, UK law requires airlines to provide them with care and assistance.

For short-haul flights, the law only applies if the delay exceeds two hours. For a medium-haul flight, the law applies if it takes more than three hours and less than four hours for you to reach your destination. Long-haul flights are covered by this law, as long as the delay lasts more than four hours.

If your flight is delayed, you are entitled to:

  • Food and drink: If you have not already eaten or drunk by the time your flight lands, you are entitled to food and drink provided by the airline.
  • Accommodation: If your flight is delayed for an extended period, e.g., more than four hours, you are entitled to an overnight stay at an accommodation provided by the airline or airport authority.
  • The fare to and from your accommodation: If you need to take a taxi to and from the airport while waiting for your connecting flight, they will pay for it.
  • Communication: You can also ask for means of communication, such as a phone or computer, to be brought to you.

Here is how it works

Many airlines provide meal and drink vouchers when your flight is delayed or cancelled. When airlines are short on staff, they cannot always provide care and assistance to all passengers. In this case, you can arrange care and assistance and seek reimbursement later.

It's important to keep receipts for all expenses reimbursable by the airline. However, it's unlikely that you’ll be refunded for luxury hotels or alcohol purchases. Some carriers may provide advice on what is considered reasonable for reimbursement purposes.

If you submit a claim, you must be given an estimate of how long it will take for the airline to respond. If you believe your claim has been handled unfairly by an airline, check out this site for more information.


There are factors that determine whether you get compensation.

If it wasn't a fault on the airline's end, you'll likely not get any compensation. If extreme weather events like hurricanes delay your flight, you might also not get compensated.

On the other hand, if it's an airline's fault that it took longer than expected to get you where you needed to be, you should definitely request compensation.

Notice from 7 to 14 days

Flight delay and cancellation compensation are calculated based on the time your flight was delayed.

You may claim compensation if you booked a flight and received 7 to 14 days' notice of its cancellation. This does not apply if your new flight departs within two hours of the original departure time and arrives within four hours of the original arrival time.

If your flight is less than 1,500km, you’re eligible to receive £220 if it is delayed by more than 2 hours. If it's delayed by less than 2 hours, then you'll receive £110 instead.

If your flight departs more than 2 hours before the original time and arrives at your final destination 3 hours or later, you'll receive £350 for a medium-haul flight between 1,500km and 3,500km.

For long-haul flights over 3,500km, you're entitled to £520 if your flight arrives at its final destination at least four hours later.

For a long-haul flight over 3,500km, you are entitled to £260 if it departs less than an hour before your original flight and arrives at your final destination no more than four hours later.

Less than seven days' notice

If you have been notified less than seven days before your flight that it has been cancelled, you may be eligible for financial compensation from your airline. If the new flight departs less than an hour before the original flight's departure time and does not arrive more than two hours later than the original flight's scheduled time, no financial compensation will be given.

For a short flight of less than 1,500km, you are entitled to £220 if it takes at least 2 hours to get to your final destination.

For a medium-haul flight between 1,500km and 3,500km, you are entitled to £350 compensation if it takes at least 3 hours to get to your final destination.

For a long-haul flight of more than 3,500km, you're entitled to £520 if it takes at least four hours to arrive at your final destination.

If you travel on a long-haul flight over 3,500km and are delayed for less than four hours, you can get £260 in compensation!

Alternate travel arrangements

Once you have received confirmation from the airline that your flight has been cancelled or delayed, it is up to you whether or not you still want to fly.

If you don't want to fly, you are entitled to be flown back to your original departure point.

On the other hand, if you want to continue with your journey, despite the delay, the airline will provide you with meal vouchers and accommodation until your replacement flight arrives.

If your flight is delayed for over 5 hours and you no longer wish to travel, you can ask for a full refund. However, when you take a refund, the airline will no longer be obligated to offer accommodation and food.

Does travel insurance cover a delayed or cancelled flight?

Travel insurance provides cover if you, rather than the airline, need to cancel the trip, e.g., due to ill health. As long as your policy covers medical expenses and accommodation while you are abroad, it should pay out if something happens on your holiday that means you have no option but to leave early.

Airlines are legally responsible for looking after their passengers, so if your flight gets cancelled or delayed due to weather conditions, for example, the airline will take care of you.

However, there are some benefits you may be able to claim from your insurance company if you're stuck in an airport waiting for your flight. The biggest one is that they may reimburse you for any food and drink costs incurred while you're waiting at the airport.

Total Travel Protection is the go-to travel insurance retailer for travellers with pre-existing medical conditions and older travellers. We’ll help you navigate the world of travel insurance, and offer expert advice on how to ensure you stay safe, secure, and healthy while you’re away.

If you have a holiday planned get a quote for travel insurance today.