On Tuesday, 8th January 2019 drone sightings at major UK airports dominated media headlines for the second time in one month.
Between 19th and 21st December 2018, all flights at Gatwick Airport were grounded amid worries over aviation safety, plunging 140,000 passengers’ Christmas plans into chaos. This month, although on a more minor scale, flights were grounded at Heathrow Airport too, due to a similarly deliberate attempt to wreak havoc.
The events have left many passengers understandably upset and wondering what their rights are regarding compensation.
We have compiled a list of FAQs regarding the events.
Am I entitled to flight delay compensation due to the drone sightings?
The presence of a drone was both outside of the airlines’ control and also an event which is not inherent in the normal exercise of running an airline and it is therefore considered to be an “extraordinary circumstance”, which means compensation is not claimable.
If you had taken out a travel insurance policy, it is worth checking whether it covers you for events such as these, especially if you had to abandon your entire trip.
What are my rights if my flight is affected due to a drone?
Airlines do however still have an obligation to provide care and assistance to passengers affected by delays between two and four hours as stated in Article 9 of EU Regulation 261/2004. Bott and Co have created a downloadable flashcard that clearly states what the airlines must provide legally to passengers in these situations.
If a flight is delayed or cancelled, the airline must provide meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time, hotel accommodation where an overnight stay is necessary, transport between the airport and accommodation as well as two free telephone calls, telex, fax messages or emails.
Download your copy now and place it in your hand luggage for reference should you end up being delayed.
Can I claim expenses back from the airline for money that I spend during the delay at the airport?
Certain expenses are coverable by the airline, as long as they are deemed to be both “reasonable” and “necessary”. You can be reimbursed for the cost of a replacement flight, or a refund, the cost of a hotel room if you are delayed overnight, food and drink consumed while waiting and the cost of two telephone calls if for instance you phoned abroad to let friends/family/colleagues know about your delay.
Is this likely to affect air travel again and again?
While we cannot predict how many times the problem will arise again, there is a degree of reassurance from a recent decision to extend airport exclusion zones for drones to around 5km from the current 1km.
Police will be given the authority to fine or even jail drone users in breach of this rule, and operators of drones weighing between 20g and 250kg will have to register and take an online drone pilot competency test from 30 November.
The Civil Aviation Authority has a 24-hour helpline: 0300 303 2800 from the UK and Ireland and +44 1753 330330 from overseas.