Bad flight weather, consumer rights and travel insurance


Unless you have been hiding under a rock, I doubt there is anyone in the UK who hasn't been affected by the unusual weather, courtesy of the "Beast from the East"

As I write this, several airports have closed and those that are open have cancelled hundreds of flights, leaving many passengers stranded at airports, or not being able to fly at all.

So what are the rules regarding consumer compensation and can I claim off my travel insurance?

EU regulation and compensation

The EU regulations regarding airlines state that where "Extraordinary Circumstances" occur, which is defined as something an Airline cannot influence or stop from happening, they do not have to compensate passengers.

Bad weather such as snow storms are classed as extraordinary circumstances.

However if you are stranded at an airport and your flight is delayed, airlines still have to provide services such as food and refreshments, even if it is caused by heavy snowfalls.

EU Regulations on delay

  • If your flight is short haul (up to 1500km) and the delay is more than 2 hours, you are entitled to snacks, drinks and 2 telephone calls.
  • If your flight is medium haul (1500 – 3500km) you are entitled to snacks, drinks and 2 telephone calls after three hours.
  • If your flight is long haul (more than 3500km) you are entitled to snacks, drinks and 2 telephone calls after four hours.
  • If the delay is more than five hours, all routes are entitled to cancel the flight and receive a refund or the cost of alternative transport.
  • If the bad weather is going to be resolved within 24 hours, airlines will look to move the flight to the next day, they have an obligation to put you up in a hotel overnight and pay for airport transfers etc.
Of course this doesn't actually compensate you for the delay or cancellation of your flight and this is where travel insurance can help. Snow storms

If you have purchased a good travel insurance policy, there are areas where you may be able to claim compensation.

Travel Delay

The majority of travel insurance policies will cover travel delay. Where you have arrived at the airport, but your flight has been delayed for more than 12 hours due to "Adverse Weather" conditions. The compensation amount (varies according to each policy but ranging from £50 - £1,000) is mean't to help you pay for telephone calls, meals and refreshments purchased during the delay, provided you eventually travel, or for any irrecoverable unused travel and accommodation costs and other pre-paid charges, which you have paid or are contracted to pay if, after a delay or at least 12 hours, you choose to cancel your trip before departure.

Missed Departure

If you are travelling to the airport, become delayed due to adverse weather conditions and miss your flight, this section covers reasonable additional accommodation (room only) and travel expenses, incurred in reaching your overseas destination.

There are a couple of caveats to this cover. 1. You must have allowed sufficient time to reach your destination 2. If the weather conditions existed or were publicly announced or forecast by the date you purchased the insurance or at the time of booking the trip.

Trip Disruption

Five star rated policies such as the Platinum Policy offered by Flexicover provide the option to include additional cover for travel disruption.

These additional benefits cover cancellation and curtailment and will pay for any irrecoverable unused travel and accommodation costs (including excursions up to £250) and other pre-paid charges which you have paid or are contracted to pay, together with your proportion only of any reasonable additional travel expenses incurred if:

a. cancellation of the trip is necessary and unavoidable or,

b. the trip is curtailed or interrupted before completion as a result of any of the following events occurring:

  1. An airport or port you were due to travel from or through being closed for 24 hours from the date and time of your scheduled departure as shown on your ticket/itinerary.
  2. Air space being closed for 24 hours from the date and time of your scheduled departure, as shown on your ticket/itinerary.
  3. The vehicle in which you were due to travel is prevented from making the journey due to snow and ice.
  4. Road closures due to snow and ice prevent you from reaching the international departure point to commence your journey.

Having your flights cancelled or being stranded is particularly frustrating, thankfully it's not something that happens that often in the UK. However it does highlight the need for good quality travel insurance and the fact that you should take it out the same time you book a holiday or trip abroad.