Q&A: My flight was disrupted due to the snow storm - what am I entitled to?

At least 100,000 airline passengers need to be accommodated due to flight cancellations

Footage from last night shows Dublin Airport in complete shutdown as blizzard hits. Video: Dublin Airport

 

With more than 1,000 flights to and from Ireland cancelled as a result of Storm Emma, well over 100,000 people will need to be accommodated by airlines operating into and out of Irish airports in the days ahead.

But what can people expect as they try and get back on their journey and up in the air?

I am one of the 100,000 whose flight was cancelled. Have I much by way of protection?

Your rights as an air passenger are crystal clear and unambiguous and the good news is that while the inconvience is not to be understated you should not be left out of pocket - too much.

The first thing you are legally entitled to is a written notice setting out your rights and entitlements under EC Regulation 261/ 2004. If you don’t get that notice, make your displeasure known straight away.

What is EU 261?

It is the EU Regulation that protects you as an air passenger. It states that airlines must offer all passengers affected by flight cancellations a full refund or a rerouting on the next available flight or at another time that suits them.

What can I expect if I just go with the refund or the flight at a different time?

You can expect just that. If you opt for a refund, then the airline’s responsibility to you ends immediately after that point as it does if you opt to be rebooked on a flight in three months time.

Neither a refund or a different booking is any good to me, I need to be put on a flight now?

The airline is legally obliged to do just that. And it is legally obliged o provide you with meals, refreshments, accommodation, transport to and from the airport and access to communication – such as email – until you can be accommodated on an alternative flight.

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So if my Ryanair flight to London has been cancelled can I check in to the Merrion Hotel and eat in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud on Michael O’Leary’s dime until he can get me on a plane?

No. No you can’t. The word we left out of our last answer was “reasonable”. You are entitled to claim reasonable expenses.

What if I am in Berlin and my airline can’t get me home for the next 10 days. Do I just have to wait?

No, as it became clear when Ryanair was cancelling thousands of flights last autumn, if an airline can’t get you home – or away – in a reasonable time frame – then they will have to book you on a flight with an alternate carrier if that is possible.

Am I entitled to compensation?

That is always the big question. The short answer is no. You can only go looking for compensation if a flight cancellation is the fault of the airline. When flights are cancelled due to an “act of God” (or because of Storm Emma) the issue of compensation does not arise as flying in bad weather is incompatible with the safe operation of a flight and so exempt under the passenger rights legislation.

The airports are open again but my flight is facing a long delay. Do I have any rights?

Yes. If the flight is delayed for more than two hours then the airline is legally obliged to cover meals and refreshments and accommodation if needed. If your flight is delayed by more than five hours you can be offered a choice of continuing with your journey or a refund of the cost of your ticket.

There is no-one from my airline to be seen in the airport. What do I do?

If the carrier does not provide care and assistance directly then you should make you own reasonable arrangements and retain all receipts in the process.

How do I claim back expenses?

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.

My package holiday is under threat. Can I get my money back?

If you have booked through a travel agent or tour operator they will most likely make every effort to get you to your destination although some details may have to change. If your holiday is cancelled entirely then you must be offered a refund or replacement holiday.

I was due to hire a car in my destination and paid up front. Will my airline cover that cost?

No. That money might be lost forever.

Am I covered by my travel insurance?

Possibly, but probably not. Some more high-end travel insurance packages offer cover in these circumstances but cheaper policies will have an “act of God” get-out clause.