Air traffic control strike: know your flight rights

Most travel insurance policies have a get-out clause that doesn’t cover industrial action

Under EU Regulation 261, airlines must offer passengers affected by flight cancellations a full refund or a rerouting on the next available flight or at a later time that better suits the passenger. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

Under EU Regulation 261, airlines must offer passengers affected by flight cancellations a full refund or a rerouting on the next available flight or at a later time that better suits the passenger. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 15:08

My flight has been cancelled as a result of the French air traffic controllers strike, what can I do?

Passengers who are due to fly into or out of French airports or even through French air-space until June 29th are likely to experience serious disruptions as a result of industrial action but it is important to remember that if your flight is delayed or cancelled you have certain rights.

What are they?

Your rights are clear and unambiguous. Under EU Regulation 261, airlines must offer passengers affected by flight cancellations a full refund or a rerouting on the next available flight or at a later time that better suits the passenger.

If you opt for a refund, then the airline’s responsibility to you ends immediately. If, however, you ask to be put on the next available flight, then the airlines must provide care and assistance until you can be accommodated on an alternative flight.

What does care and assistance mean?

An airline must provide you with meals and refreshments for a start. And if necessary it will have to cover the cost of hotel accommodation and transport between the hotel and the airport and you will have to be offered two free telephone calls and access to email.

My flight has not been cancelled but delays look inevitable.

If you are facing a long delay, the airline must also provide you with care and assistance. So if you are left hanging around in an airport then they must cover the reasonable cost of your meals and refreshments. If your flight is delayed by more than five hours the airline must offer you the choice of continuing with your journey or a refund of the cost of your ticket.

There is no-one from the airline at the airport to give me money for the hotel, what can I do?

If the airline does not provide the care and assistance it is legally obliged to at the moment you need it, you should make your own reasonable arrangements and retain all receipts and use them to claim back the reasonable expenses.

Reasonable expenses? That seems a bit vague?

It is indeed. Ultimately it is aviation regulators across the EU who decide what is reasonable, although if you check into a five-star hotel and eat and drink all around you and then look to be reimbursed, you can expect to be disappointed.

How do I claim back expenses incurred?

Passengers should send copies (it is very important that the original documentation is never sent just in case it goes missing) of all receipts to the airlines on which they booked flights. Submissions should also include booking references, passenger names, original flight details and new flight details.

If an airline has not made an initial response within 15 working days, passengers are advised to contact the aviation regulator in the country where the aircraft had been stranded, again sending copies of receipts along with booking references, passenger names, original flight details and new flight details.

Am I covered by my travel insurance?

Probably not. Most policies have a get-out clause and don’t cover industrial action.

Am I entitled to compensation?

Maybe, although it is most unlikely. If you are affected by flight cancellations or long flight delays as a result of this strike action and seek compensation, it is only likely to be granted after an investigation.

Passengers who remain unclear about their entitlements as set out in EC Regulation 261/ 2004, or who have further queries in relation to same, should log onto www.flightrights.ie or contact the Commission for Aviation Regulation on 1890 787 787.