Law guide: Complaints and disputes

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Cancellations and delays outside EU regulations

Cancellations and delays outside EU regulations


Your rights will be determined by the contract with the airline (called 'general conditions of carriage').

Most airlines follow the Conditions of contract and other important notices from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

What you can expect during a cancellation or delay

If your flight is cancelled or fails to operate, you're given a choice of a later flight on the same airline, some mutually agreed alternative transport (within a reasonable period of time), or a refund.


The Montreal Convention states that an airline is responsible for 'damage occasioned by delay' up to a limit of 4,150 'Special Drawing Rights'. (This is a measure of units based on the daily exchange rate for the currency used in the country where a claim is being paid.) The airline won't be liable, however, if it can prove that it took all reasonable steps to avoid the damage or that it was impossible to take them.

Generally, any payment that an airline is prepared to make for a delay will be, at best, reimbursement of expenses that it accepts were directly and necessarily incurred because of the delay (like meals or overnight hotel accommodation). Very few will voluntarily pay compensation in addition.

Airlines generally don't accept any liability for inconvenience, stress or any consequential losses caused by the delay, unless a court makes them do so.

Alternatively, airlines may transfer passengers to other flights to avoid delays.


When a flight is cancelled, an airline must provide alternative transport (not necessarily by air), or a refund.

Most airlines' conditions of carriage specifically exclude liability for any loss or damages caused by the cancellation, such as inconvenience or stress, unless a court makes them do so.

For information on flights that fall within EU law, see Cancellations: rights under EU regulations and Delays: rights under EU regulations.

Consumer Rights Act

Passengers may also be protected by the Consumer Rights Act (depending on where they bought their ticket from), if the service they receive is not provided with reasonable care and skill. This includes flights that are cancelled.

Airline operators who provide a poor service are liable to pay compensation under the Act. The compensation claimable includes the cost of the ticket and other losses that you may have incurred due to the poor service, such as having to pay more for the same journey using another form of transport. You will need to prove your loss and that you kept resulting costs to a minimum. The airline operator cannot exclude or limit the amount you can recover to less than the ticket price.

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