My handy guide will show to how to get a refund if your flight is cancelled, and advise when you are entitled to compensation.
Flight cancellations can happen at any time, and usually at very short notice. This post on how to get a refund if your flight is cancelled should help if this happens to you.
While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, information is subject to change. This post only refers to flight bookings, and not package holidays, hotel accommodation etc.
When are you entitled to a refund or compensation
If your flight is delayed by more than 5 hours, or your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund. If an airline cancels your flight then they MUST offer you the choice of the following:
- re-routing as soon as possible;
- re-routing at a later date at your convenience; or
- a refund.
If you choose the first option then your airline must provide you with care and assistance while you wait for the alternative flight. Care and assistance comprises of:
- meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time;
- hotel accommodation where an overnight stay becomes necessary;
- transport between the hotel accommodation and the airport;
- two free telephone calls/access to email.
If your airline does not provide the care and assistance, or you are forced to make your own arrangements, you should retain all receipts and submit copies of these receipts to your airline for reimbursement.
You are NOT entitled to compensation if any of the following occurred:
- You received more than 2 weeks notice of the cancellation.
- You received less than 7 days notice of the cancellation and were offered re-routing which departed no more than 1 hour before the original departure time and arrived no more than 2 hours after the original arrival time.
- You received between 7 days and 2 weeks notice of the cancellation, and were offered re-routing which departed no more than 2 hours before the original departure time and arrived no more than 4 hours after the original arrival time.
You ARE entitled to compensation when:
- You chose to be re-routed as soon as possible (option 1 above) and were given re-routing outside of those timeframes.
However, if the airline can prove the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided, such as adverse weather conditions, air- traffic control restrictions, or security risks, they may refuse to offer compensation.
How much compensation are you entitled to:
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If your flight is cancelled, or delayed beyond certain timeframes, your airline should provide you with written information about your entitlements and also with care and assistance. The timeframes are as follows:
- for all flights less than 1500kms, the delay must be greater than 2 hours.
- for European flights of more than 1500kms and all other flights of between 1500 – 3500kms, the delay must be greater than 3 hours.
- for all non-Community flights of more than 3500kms, the delay must be greater than 4 hours.
The amount of compensation payable depends on the distance of the flight. If the flight is classed as:
- Up to 1500kms: €250 per person.
- Flights over 1,500 km within the EU and other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km: €400 per person.
- Flights over 3,500km: €600 per person.
However the amount of compensation payable in respect of non-Community flights of more than 3500kms may be reduced by 50% if you arrive at your destination less than 4 four hours after the scheduled arrival time. Compensation is also reduced for re-routed flights.
The law states that when calculating the distance of a flight, you must use the ‘Great Circle Method’. This method is traditionally used across the aviation sector to determine the distance between two airports – you can calculate the distance of your own particular flight here.
The above information was available from IAA.ie, but exemptions from compensation may are possible, and information is subject to change.
How to get a refund if your flight is cancelled:
1. Apply via the airline refund form.
Most airlines have a travel disruption or refund section on their website. If the airline has cancelled the flight, the refund process should be straight forward, however you may find the refund page difficult to find!
Check the Frequently Asked Questions, as well as any travel disruption pages or information on vouchers – there will possibly be a link for a refund at the bottom of the page.
If you can not find this link, try to contact them by email or web chat. Failing that try their social media channels. I have added some of Ireland’s top airlines refund links below:
2. Keep an acknowledgement of your request.
When you have applied for a refund you should receive an email to say that your request has been received. If not, take a screen shot of your application showing the time and date that you applied. If neither of these are possible, contact your airline via email, chat or social media to confirm that your refund application has been received.
3. Follow up with your airline if your refund has not been received within six weeks.
If a flight is cancelled, airlines are obliged to refund you within seven days. However, refunds are generally taking a lot longer to process. I would expect refunds to take up to six weeks from the original application, but I suggest following up your request two weeks after your initial application to check on the status of your refund.
4. Make a complaint to the Commission for Aviation Regulation
In some cases airlines will try to offer vouchers instead of refunds, however, they are still obliged by law to offer a refund, under regulation EU 261. The Commission for Aviation Regulation is the National Enforcement Body for EU 261, which sets out the rights of Air Passengers in the event that their flight is cancelled or delayed, or if they are denied boarding or downgraded.
If your airline is not responding to you, or you are unhappy with the length of time that the refund is taking, you can make an official complaint to the Commission for Aviation Regulation via www.IAA.ie. They will will take up your claim with the airline on your behalf, at no additional cost to you.
It is important to note that they can only carry out investigations in relation to flights departing from Irish Airports, and flights arriving into Ireland from outside the EU where the flight is operated by an EU airline.
For details on making complaints relating to departures from other EU countries, click here.
Myself and fellow travel journalist Ed Finn interviewed the Air Passenger Rights Manager, Sarah Fischer from the Commission of Aviation Regulation. Sarah explained to us in great detail how to get a refund if your flight is cancelled. Listen to the full podcast here:
5. Claim from your travel insurance
If for some reason you are still unable to secure a refund if your flight is cancelled, check to see if your travel insurance will cover you. Travel insurance companies insist that you try all other methods of securing a refund before you make a claim.
If you can prove that you have tried to secure a refund and it is not forthcoming, you may be able to submit a claim. Travel Insurance can also be useful to claim out of pocket expenses for accommodation or meals if your flight is cancelled.