Learn your consumer rights if you are travelling by air including compensation, special assistance and what to do if things go wrong.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled you are entitled to assistance and in some cases compensation. If you are denied boarding because the airline has overbooked the flight, you are entitled to compensation.
Your rights are protected by UK law (EC Regulation 261/2004 has been written into UK law) and are the same regardless of the airline you are travelling with.
Your rights are protected for any flight from or within the United Kingdom and European Union and on a flight from a non-EU country into the EU, provided the airline is licensed in the EU.
The following assistance must be provided by the airline regardless of the cause of the delay:
If your flight is delayed you may be entitled to compensation. The amount will depend on the length of your flight and the length of the delay.
Compensation will be paid at the following rates:
|Length of flight||Delay in reaching your destination airport||Compensation|
|Less than 1,500km||More than 3 hours||£220|
|1,500km - 3,500km||More than 3 hours||£260|
|More than 3,500km||More than 4 hours||£520|
However, if the airline can prove the delay was caused by “extraordinary circumstances” you will not receive compensation.
If your flight is cancelled you are entitled to:
If the airline cannot fly you to your intended airport, it is allowed to fly you to another airport within the same region. The airline must then transfer you to either your intended airport or a close by location agreed with you.
If your flight is cancelled you may be entitled to compensation. The amount will depend on the length of your flight and the impact the cancellation has in delaying your arrival to your final destination.
Compensation will be paid at the following rates:
|Distance of flight||Impact on arrival time to destination airport||Compensation|
|0 - 1,500km|
|1,500km - 3,500km|
|More than 3,500km|
However, passengers will not be entitled to compensation if:
Passengers will not be entitled to compensation if the flight is cancelled because of extraordinary circumstances. However, they are still entitled to a full refund or alternative travel arrangements plus assistance.
This section aims to help passengers by outlining what to do if your luggage is damaged, lost or delayed.
Airlines have different rules about how they can help if your luggage is delayed. Airlines can offer one of the following options:
If your luggage has not been found after 21 days you should write to the airline to claim compensation detailing the value of the items lost.
All airports and airlines in the UK and EU have a legal responsibility to assist passengers with a disability or reduced mobility throughout their journey. All disabilities are covered including hidden disabilities such as learning difficulties, autism and hearing loss. A passenger may have reduced mobility because of their age or because of a temporary injury such as a broken leg.
It is against the law for airlines, tour operators or travel agents to refuse a booking on the grounds of disability or reduced mobility. The only exceptions to this rule are:
Depending on the level of assistance you require, the airline may ask you to arrange for another person (a family member, friend or carer) to accompany you in order to comply with safety rules.
Further information is available in our Access to Air Travel guide below.
If an airline fails it can be a very worrying time for passengers. Your rights will depend on how you booked and paid for your flights.
Booked directly with an airline
Customers who bought their tickets separately with a personal credit card may be able to claim their money back from the credit card provider under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. To be eligible, you will need to have paid more than £100 for your flights. If the flight was cheaper, or you used a Visa debit card, you may be able to use the ‘Chargeback’ scheme that card issuers are signed up to.
Booked through an airline ticket agent
You should speak to the agent in the first instance as they may have provided travel insurance that includes Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (the type of protection provided may vary depending on the type of policy taken out).
Booked with an ATOL certificate holder
If you bought your flights as part of a package with an ATOL travel firm and received an ATOL certificate you should be ATOL protected. Contact your travel firm for more information.
Since 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free roaming for UK mobile users in 47 destinations in the EU has ended.
ATOL (the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) is a financial protection scheme. If you book an ATOL protected holiday or charter flight and your tour operator, airline or accommodation provider goes out of business before you travel you can claim a full refund.
If a service provider goes out of business while you are abroad you will be able to continue your holiday. Arrangements will be made for you to fly home once the holiday is over.
Before booking you should check with the travel agent or tour operator whether your flight or holiday package is ATOL protected. If it is protected you should be issued with an ATOL certificate as soon as you pay, even a deposit. The ATOL certificate is a standardised document which makes it clear how the trip is protected.
Keep your ATOL certificate safe and make sure you bring it with you when you go on holiday.
Financial protection if you are not covered by ATOL
If your flight is not ATOL protected you should make sure your travel insurance policy provides cover if the airline goes out of business. If you buy a ticket using a credit card and the airline goes out of business, you may be able to claim a refund from your credit card company under the Consumer Credit Act. The cost of a single (i.e. one leg) ticket must be at least £100.
If you buy flights using a debit or prepaid card (such as a Visa, MasterCard or American Express card), you may be able to use the card provider’s ‘chargeback’ process to claim back your money if the airline goes out of business. Usually, you must make a chargeback claim within 120 days.
We have template letters on how to claim a refund from your credit card provider.
Airports have different drop off and pickup charges with varying durations for free parking.
Before you book, check additional airline charges such as priority boarding, baggage charges and sizes, seat selection and airport/online check-in.
If you need to complain about an airline or airport, follow our three-step guide to complaining effectively.
If you are not satisfied with the service you receive, contact a member of the airline or airport staff. They may be able to resolve the problem at the time of travel.
If the airport or airline cannot resolve the problem at the time of travel put your complaint in writing with the time, date, route of your journey and the flight number. Send copies of your flight tickets if you are claiming a refund.
If you incurred any additional expenses as a result of a delay or cancellation including denied boarding, include proof e.g. receipts or invoices. We have template letters available to download for free.
If you have made a complaint and you are not satisfied with the outcome:
We have the legal power to investigate the complaint on your behalf.
We handle complaints regarding flights to and from Northern Ireland. If your flight was not to or from Northern Ireland, we will direct you to the organisation responsible for handling your complaint.
Many airlines offer an ADR scheme to passengers who are not happy with the outcome of their complaint. ADR is a process of resolving complaints without going to court.
If you have made a complaint to the airline and are not satisfied with the outcome, we can help.