Houston, we have a problem: what to do if your flight is canceled or delayed

Imagine you're at the airport, looking forward to your journey, approaching the departure board, and seeing the words "cancelled" or "delayed." And you have several flight segments ahead of you. What to do in this situation? Together with the Flyhelp air passenger rights protection service, we've delved into the issue and are ready to tell you all the details!
14 march 2019
13 min

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Flight Cancellation

When everything goes smoothly on a trip, it's a great journey, but if there are force majeure events, it becomes an adventure. One of the most common adventures that can happen to you is flight cancellation or delay.

According to Flightstats, in the past month alone, about 65,000 flights (63,183) were canceled worldwide – that's 1.5-2% of the total number of flights. Flight delays are even more distressing. Can you imagine that in the past month, over half a million flights were delayed? Half a million! Moreover, major airlines experience delays more often than low-cost carriers.


What compensation can you expect?

If your flight is canceled or rescheduled, you will receive a letter with all the details two weeks before departure. You will be offered:

  • Full refund of the ticket price within seven days;
  • Free choice of another flight.

If you were notified of the flight cancellation less than 14 days before departure, you may be entitled to compensation. Of course, it's not thousands of euros, but it's still nice!

You will receive:

  • €250 for flights up to 1,500 km. For example, from Kyiv to Minsk, Sofia, Riga;
  • €400 – from 1,500 to 3,500 km. For example, from Kyiv to Barcelona, Paris, Milan, London;
  • €600 – over 3,500 km. For example, Beijing, New York, Los Angeles.

What factors determine the amount of compensation?

"The amount of compensation for flight cancellation is calculated based on two factors:

  • When you were notified of the flight cancellation (7-14 days / less than 14 days);
  • What alternative route was offered to you (how much delay you experienced in reaching your destination);
  • The distance of the flight (from the departure point to the final destination, if you have connecting flights).

When a flight is canceled, the airline must offer you an alternative route. If you can be transported to your destination within 2-4 hours of the scheduled arrival time of the canceled flight, the compensation amount may be reduced by 50%.

If you are provided with a flight that arrives at the destination with a delay of less than two hours, then the airline is completely exempt from paying compensation.

In practice, in most cases, you will be informed of the flight cancellation at the airport, and airlines rarely have the opportunity to offer you a flight with a slight delay. Most likely, you will be offered a flight the next day.

Therefore, in 99% of cases, you can expect the full compensation amounts (€250/€400/€600), as shown in the table above. Also, if the alternative flight is operated the next day, you should be provided with hotel accommodation and round-trip transfers," - explain experts from the Ukrainian passenger rights protection service Flyhelp.

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What to do if your flight is canceled while you're already at the airport?

The first thing to do is to go to the information desk, airline representative, or tour operator. They will explain why the flight was delayed or canceled and offer a plan of action. If no one helps, call the airline's call center or OTA (the provider who sold you the ticket). Not tripmydream! We only search, but you need to call the one who sold the ticket.

"The passenger should contact the airline representative at check-in. If the passenger has further flights and the connection between them is disrupted, it is necessary to go to the ticket office or call the airline's call center to reissue the ticket to the final destination," - recommends Air Astana.

You will be offered two options:

  1. An alternative flight - with a layover, different departure time, or day. If the alternative flight departs several hours after yours, you will already be considered a passenger of the delayed flight, so the airline will provide you with food, drinks, and accommodation during the waiting time.
  2. Here's a life hack! If you don't have time or desire to wait, urgently look for tickets for the next flight before others overtake you. The airline must compensate you for the cost of new tickets. Just don't expect business class if you were flying with a low-cost carrier.

Refund for the ticket

The main thing to remember is that you will get a refund for the ticket, but with some considerations. Let's break down a real case: you are flying from Kyiv to Amsterdam to New York.

If all segments are purchased on one ticket, you will receive compensation for the entire route. However, if you had 2 separate tickets - Kyiv to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to New York - you will only get a refund for the canceled flight, for example, Kyiv to Amsterdam. As for the Amsterdam to New York ticket, you will have to follow the tariff rules. If you have an economy fare, don't expect much compensation, but it's better to clarify with the airline.

The same applies to return tickets. If you purchased a round trip ticket, the refund will be for all tickets. But if they are separate (one way) tickets, you will only get a refund for the actually canceled flight.

With connecting flights, it's similar. If you are delayed for the second flight due to the cancellation of the first one by the airline, the carrier must either reimburse the cost of the tickets for the entire booking chain or offer an alternative way to reach your destination. In the case of low-cost carriers, unfortunately, being late for the next flight segment is solely your problem. Low-cost carriers do not guarantee connections on their flights; each segment is a separate flight, so the airline is not responsible for your connection.

Is it possible to receive compensation for the cancellation or rescheduling of a low-cost carrier flight?

"There is absolutely no connection between the ticket price and the possibility of receiving compensation. Therefore, if you are flying with a low-cost carrier, you can expect the same amount of compensation, even if your ticket cost you 20 euros," - comment on this issue by experts from the legal service Flyhelp.


What else needs to be done? Collect additional evidence

Had coffee with a croissant? Bought a toothbrush? Don't throw away the receipts! They will be needed to claim compensation for additional expenses. Boarding passes, baggage tags, delay or cancellation certificates (can be requested at the check-in counter) will also come in handy. Take a photo or video of the departure board. The status of the required flight and the time should be visible in the frame.

If a charter flight is canceled, upon arrival at the hotel, request a certificate of the check-in date - this is the main evidence that due to the tour operator or airline, you missed a certain number of nights of the long-awaited and paid vacation.

With these receipts and certificates, contact the airline, intermediary company handling compensations, such as the Flyhelp passenger rights protection service, or, as a last resort, the court. Some passengers also demand compensation for moral damages, payments for which rarely exceed 10,000 hryvnias.


Are there any differences in compensation for charter and regular flights?

"Charter flights (in terms of cancellation) do not differ from regular ones - you are also entitled to compensation. There are several issues with charter flights:

  • Charter companies do not have full-fledged claims departments.
  • Here you won't find online forms. Most likely, it will be necessary to resort to legal action," - experts from Flyhelp explain.

Flight Delay

We've covered cancellations. Now let's figure out what to do when there's a flight delay. If the departure is postponed for 24 hours or more, the airline must provide you with transfer, accommodation, and meals. If the departure is delayed for 5 hours or more, there are the following options:

  • get a refund for the ticket;
  • choose another flight, and if the class is lower, receive the price difference within 7 days;
  • if the flight class is downgraded, the passenger must be reimbursed the difference within seven days: 30% for flights up to 1.5 thousand km, 50% - from 1.5 to 3.5 thousand km, 75% - for longer flights.

Even if the flight is delayed for more than 2 hours, you can expect "bonuses" from the airline - free food and drinks.

If the flight is 1.5 thousand km delayed by more than two hours, from 1.5 to 3.5 thousand km - by more than three hours, and longer flights - by four hours, the carrier must provide passengers with the necessary amount of food and beverages.

Is monetary compensation due for a flight delay?

"First of all, when your flight is delayed, you need to determine whether you are entitled to compensation. In most cases (when departing from Ukraine), compensation for your flight will be determined by the regulations of EU 261/2004 and the "Air Code of Ukraine." In the first case (EU 261), you are entitled to compensation for the delay, in the second case, you are not. Let's figure out when EU 261 applies to Ukrainian citizens.

  • You are flying from Ukraine to an EU country by an airline registered in the EU, such as Ryanair, Wizz Air, LOT, etc.
  • You are flying from the EU to Ukraine on any airline (including Ukrainian ones).
  • You are flying within the EU on any airline.

In most other cases, Ukrainian jurisdiction will apply, where compensation for delay is not provided (only for cancellation). Unfortunately, this applies to all popular resort destinations, such as Ukraine, Turkey, etc.," explain Flyhelp experts.


What to do if you missed your connection?

If the transfer from one flight to another is under the same booking and you are late for the second flight due to the cancellation of the first one, the carrier must either reimburse the cost of the entire booking chain or offer an alternative to reach your destination. If your flight is canceled at the airport and you are waiting for an alternative, you should be provided with the same conditions as in the case of a delayed departure.

"In the event that a passenger is late for their connecting flight due to the fault of the airline, the passenger's ticket will be reissued to the final destination on the nearest available flights or on an alternative route. It is important to note that if the company does not see the passenger's connecting flight, the ticket will not be reissued. This may happen if the passenger's route is not covered by a single ticket: different airline tickets on different carriers. It is best for the passenger to go to the airline's ticket office at the airport. If there is no ticket office, then to the airline representative or to the round-the-clock hotline," comments Air Astana.

What laws consider passenger rights?

Remember these documents that will help you determine who is right and who is at fault from a legal point of view:

  • The Montreal Convention (Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air) - the main document regulating the rights of passengers departing from Ukrainian airports and using the services of national carriers.
  • "Air Code of Ukraine," order "On Approval of the Rules of Air Carriage of Passengers and Baggage" and the rules of Ukrainian airlines (including the main provisions of the Montreal Convention).
  • Regulation EC No. 261/2004 (Articles 4-9) - for flights within the EU, departing from and arriving in the EU.

How to get compensation for a canceled flight?

There is no universal template for a claim to an airline, but for example, the European Commission has developed a standard complaint template to the airline demanding compensation for cancellation, flight delay, or denied boarding. If you're good with English, you can download this template from the European Commission's website, fill it out, and send it to the airline. But in reality, this document is not needed - most airlines' websites have online forms for filing such complaints. HOWEVER, it will be much more effective to apply for compensation through specialized services.


In practice, to file a claim against an airline, you need just three documents:

  • Electronic ticket (with booking number);
  • Photo of your passport;
  • Boarding pass.

Also useful:

  • An airline certificate confirming the flight issue. If there is no certificate, but you received an SMS or email, take a screenshot or print them out;
  • Photo of the departure board, receipts for purchases made, unused tickets, hotel bookings - any documents confirming your expenses and losses due to flight disruption;
  • Confirmation of flight delay or cancellation from an independent source. For example, you can use the Flightaware or Flightradar website.

After the airline processes your claim, you will receive a response (within 42 to 90 days, depending on the jurisdiction).

The response time depends on the internal regulations of the airlines as well as the seasonal workload of the claims department. In many cases, Flyhelp can shorten the response time by using dedicated communication channels with the airlines.

If you receive a positive response - great! You just need to coordinate a bank transfer with the airline and receive your rightful compensation. This may take another few weeks.

What to do if you receive a compensation refusal?

"If you have received a refusal, the airline will send a response explaining the reason for the refusal. It will look something like this:

Wizz Air flight W6 1568 Kyiv (IEV) 09:00 - Warsaw (WAW) 10:10 (01 February 2019) was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions (low visibility caused by fog in Kyiv).

Please consider that Wizz Air as an operating air carrier shall not be obliged to pay compensation, if cancellation or long delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances according to Art. 5. par. (3) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the council establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.

Article 5/3 of Regulation EC261/2004 describes a list of force majeure events that exempt airlines from paying compensation.

There are also several decisions of the European Court that provide additional explanations regarding force majeure situations. For example, the European Court in the case CJEU C-257/14 Van der Lans ruled that a technical aircraft malfunction is not considered force majeure unless a manufacturing defect is detected (which obviously occurs extremely rarely).


Thus, if you have received a refusal, all the work comes down to verifying or refuting the refusal.

It can be quite simple, for example, in case of refusal due to bad weather, in some cases, it is enough to study the weather reports to verify that the refusal is legitimate.

In less clear situations, you will need to request additional information from the dispatch center, airport, and other sources and conduct a more thorough analysis. The complexity lies in the fact that the concept of "flight weather" does not exist, and the decision to take off/land is based on a whole range of factors (runway availability, aircraft technical characteristics, pilot qualification level, etc.).

By law, the airline must provide you with all the necessary information so that you can effectively defend your rights. However, do not expect the airline to provide you with confirming documents. In most cases, they will be limited to a weather report from a free source, and in practice, you will have to collect and analyze evidence yourself.

Also, in each country, there is a national aviation authority (in Ukraine - the State Aviation Administration), which can accept your complaint to the airline and conduct an independent investigation. Unfortunately, their decision is not binding (they can only impose a fine on the airline). The next instance is the court," - Flyhelp explains the procedure.


In what cases will you NOT get a refund?

And now for the fly in the ointment. There is a list of force majeure situations for which the airline is not obliged to compensate you. These include:

  • Bad weather
  • Armed conflict and political unrest
  • Natural disasters
  • Airport staff strikes. If airline employees are on strike, this is not considered force majeure in many cases.

What to do if your flight is delayed due to force majeure?

Everything is the same as in the situations mentioned above, except that compensation is not provided for this.

Are there any exceptions?

Sometimes airlines attribute flight delays caused by their fault to adverse weather conditions. If you are sure that this is the case, you need to find confirmation of the meteorological situation on the METAR (METeorological Aerodrome Reports) website - this is a specialized resource used in aviation to determine meteorological conditions. However, the information available on this site is presented in a code, which is not easy for an ordinary person to decipher without external assistance. Therefore, this solution is only for those who are not looking for easy ways out. It is much more convenient and profitable to use the services of specialized platforms.

When you find yourself in any of the situations described above, remember that you have every right to compensation for the time spent and the forced change of plans. Delays and cancellations happen every day, so for airlines, solving such problems is routine, and for passengers, it is not as complicated a process as it may seem at first. Just open this article, follow the plan outlined, and everything will work out for the best.

Who to contact for compensation in case of flight cancellation or delay?

Flyhelp is a Ukrainian service for protecting the rights of air passengers, operating on the principle of "justice as a service" (JaaS).

With Flyhelp's assistance, you can claim compensation of up to 600 euros for flight delays or cancellations without any risk to the passenger. The service covers all expenses and receives a commission (20%) only upon payment of compensation. No result, no payment.

Several reasons to seek help from Flyhelp:

  • The lowest commission on the market (20%);
  • The office is located in Kyiv, and you can always get consultation on the issue at hand;
  • You don't need to do anything - simply submit a request through the Flyhelp website (it will take less than a minute) and wait calmly for the result.
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