Flying to the US? Here’s What to Do if You’re Delayed or Cancelled

Many bad things can happen during the course of a flight, and delayed or cancelled flights are right up there with the worst of them. Yes, screaming toddlers and armrest hegemony don’t even come close.

There is nothing that beats spending endless hours at the airport terminal, only for the ticker to update 5 hours later with CANCELLED. It can be a real downer, signaling the start of a hellish day.

A delayed flight could send your planned schedule into total disarray or cause you to miss a connection, compounding your woes even more. Even in the case of shorter itineraries, an unforeseen delay could mean missing an important event.

Sadly, flight delays and cancellations are a pretty common occurrence, especially during winter. And the worse thing about it is that passengers are always at the mercy of airlines.

However, there can be a silver lining in this.

When worse comes to worst, you can flip the script and get the airlines to compensate you for the inconvenience. Of course, this is not something they will be eager to do, but that’s why we have helpful solutions like Service.

Before it gets to that, there are a few ways you can reduce your chances of being the victim of a flight delay or cancellation.

Avoiding Flight Cancellation or Delayed Flights

Of course, there is no surefire method that can proof you from flight delays or cancellations, but there are a few things you can do to skew the odds in your favour.

How?

Glad you asked.

  • Be the early bird

Maintenance issues are behind one-third of all flight delays and cancellations, with weather accounting for the other two-thirds. Often the case, you find that the probability of a flight delay or cancellation rises as the day wears on, meaning an overnight stay is in the cards.

Besides, in the event a morning flight gets cancelled or is delayed for whatever reason, you have the time to squeeze onto another flight later in the day.

  • Avoid checking a bag

As crazy as this may sound, checking a bag might not always be the best idea. Once that bag is on a flight, tracking it down will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do should you end up on another flight.

Stick to carry-ons if you are worried about avoiding delays and cancellations.

  • Consider smaller airports

The busier an airport is, the more schedule changes are likely to occur – choosing an airport with fewer flights will lessen your chances of being inconvenienced by a delay.

Regional jets flying out of major airports such as Heathrow or Gatwick are best avoided. If you are flying out of a hub airport, always choose the bigger planes as they are always afforded priority.

What to Do if You’re Faced with a Delay or Cancellation

There are two sides to flight delays and cancellations.

If the delay or cancellation is caused by factors beyond the airline’s control – extreme weather, volcanic eruption, or staff strike – you have no option but to suck it up and hope for the best.

However, there is a caveat to this. If the airline blames the delay or cancellation on the weather, yet other flights are departing, you have may have solid grounds to contest.

In the second scenario, if the airline could have prevented the cause of the delay or cancellation you are in some cases legally entitled to compensation under EC/EU 261 regulations.

In the case of a delay, eligibility for compensation kicks in when your flight from the UK to the U.S. is delayed four or more hours.

For you to be eligible for monetary compensation, you should be booked on an EU-based airline such as British Airways or Ryanair – as this law only applies to EU based carriers and flights leaving an EU member state.

Of course, money does not make up for the lost time and missed opportunities, but it certainly does help, especially considering flight delays of more than three hours are subject to compensation amounting to 600 euros (£537.75).

Claiming Flight Compensation

You might be surprised to learn that about 900,000 passengers booked on flights taking off from Europe would be eligible for delay compensation, yet a staggering 62% of them do not present a claim, according to research by Which?

The research was based on the opinion of 7,000 of its members about the experience of flying from a UK airport.

If the reason behind your flight delay or cancellation was within the airline’s control, you need to exercise your legal rights and request compensation because airlines never compensate proactively.

The airline might offer snacks at the airport when your flight is delayed for more than three hours in the name of expressing sympathy, but that is just but a smokescreen. Regulation requires that they compensate you in cash.

If the delay means an overnight stay, the airline is required to pay for accommodation and sustenance until a replacement flight is found.

To recap, you are eligible to file for flight compensation claims in all instances bar those not within the airline’s control, or what is regarded as ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

These extraordinary circumstances include:

  • Bad weather
  • Air traffic control
  • Airport equipment faults
  • Your own schedule changes
  • Multiple schedule changes

Last Thoughts

When it comes to paying up for flight delays and cancellations, airlines can play hardball even in cases where it’s clear you’re in the right.

You may think that your travel insurance will compensate you in the event your flight is disrupted but unfortunately, insurance is unlikely to cover flight cancellations in their entirety. Even in cases of delays they only pay derisory amounts.

Filing a claim for a flight disruption can be both confusing and time-consuming, but startups like Service can help simplify the process.

Service can find past delays and cancellations up to a year old and file a claim on your behalf, in addition to covering you for future delays and cancellations so you can travel worry-free.

Nobody likes flight delays, or cancellations. But they are inevitable. While flight compensation won’t make up for the lost time or opportunities, when you find yourself in this situation, you don’t want to be the one left clutching on the wrong end of the carrot.

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Flight cancellations and delays are a common occurrence, so don't get stuck by using our guide to preparing yourself for when it happens to you.

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