What happens if your flight has been cancelled or delayed due to bad weather? We explain your legal rights to claiming flight compensation under EU regulation 261. You could be entitled to up to €600 in flight compensation.
Can I Claim Flight Compensation For Bad Weather And Storms?
Depending on the exact nature of the bad weather, you could be entitled to claim compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004.
Bad weather must be ‘freak’ or ‘wholly exceptional’ for an airline to use it as a defence against paying compensation
Bad weather must be ‘freak’ or ‘wholly exceptional’ and considered an extraordinary circumstance for an airline to use it as a defence against paying compensation.
For example, heavy snowfall during a summer in Egypt would be both freakish and wholly exceptional, whereas heavy snowfall during winter in a ski resort would be neither.
Bad weather must also affect the ‘flight in question’ in order for airlines to use it as a defence. If your flight was delayed because of the knock-on effects of a different flight being affected by bad weather, your flight should be claimable.
For example, if you are booked to fly from Manchester to Paris, but the airline cancels the flight citing bad weather in Stockholm (where the aircraft was before arriving in Manchester), then you have a claim because your flight hasn’t been affected directly by bad weather.
You can also claim if there is a continuous level of bad weather at an airport. For example, if you book on a flight from London Heathrow to a ski-resort and there is always bad weather at the ski-resort, then it is not an extraordinary circumstance for bad weather to cause delay or flight cancellation, because snow is ‘inherent’ at the ski resort.
After all, the airline would have had to take normal weather conditions into account when deciding whether to allow its aircraft to fly into that airport as part of its business plan.
Is Bad Weather An Extraordinary Circumstance?
Bad weather is not always an extraordinary circumstance, despite what an airline might tell you when you try to claim direct from them.
In fact, the only time weather is an extraordinary circumstance is when:
- The flight in question is directly affected by ‘freak’ or ‘wholly exceptional weather.’
- Air Traffic Control decides to reduce flow rates due to bad weather. For example, if ATC decides only 20 planes an hour can land as opposed to the usual 45 planes an hour, that would be an extraordinary circumstance.
- Air Traffic Control decides to delay a flight, and this causes a knock-on effect to flights throughout the day.
- An airport is closed because of bad weather.
The best advice we give to passengers is to put their details into our flight delay compensation calculator to see if they can claim for a delayed flight.
The best advice we give to passengers is to put their details into our flight compensation calculator and we will give you an instant decision.
We take weather readings at every airport everywhere in the world at least once an hour, which means we can give you an instant decision. We can check your flight information against our huge database of flight and weather information.
The CAA includes bad weather in its list of extraordinary circumstances but as Her Honour Judge Clarke said in her “ruling on bad weather in Evans v Monarch that list is not legally binding and has been proven wrong in court a number of times.
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Judge Clarke said: “I give no weight to it [the CAA’s list]. It is not legally binding. It is clear from its long list of deletions and amendments, arising from changes enforced upon it by decided cases, that the Civil Aviation Authority’s view on what should be considered extraordinary circumstances for the purposes of Article 5(3) has often been at odds with that of the courts. I cannot see that it helps me at all.”
In Evans v Monarch, Judge Clarke also made it clear in her ruling that bad weather, such as lightning, that is ‘inherent in the normal exercise of the carrier’s activity’ is not an extraordinary circumstance.
What Are Extraordinary Circumstances?
Flight Delay Regulation allows passengers to claim a fixed amount of compensation according to the length of their delay and flight distance. However, the regulation gives examples of things that may be classed as extraordinary circumstances where the airlines may not have to pay out under EC261/2004.
Extraordinary circumstances are situations that are not inherent in the normal running of an airline. It doesn’t matter whether or not the delay was the airline’s fault.
Extraordinary circumstances are instances that are not inherent in the normal exercise of the airline’s activity. Examples include security threats, industrial strikes and acts of terrorism or sabotage.
That means it doesn’t matter that bad weather is not the airline’s fault; it matters whether or not the bad weather is inherent. If weather is not ‘freak’ or ‘wholly exceptional’ – like a volcanic ash cloud for example – then it is inherent, and cannot be classed as an extraordinary circumstance.
What Weather Conditions Can I Claim Flight Compensation For?
Flight delays caused by meteorological conditions (weather issues) can be eligible for flight compensation if the delay is more than 3 hours and depending on the severity of the weather problems.
Can I Claim For Flight Delays Caused By Fog?
Fog is not an uncommon occurrence, particularly in the UK at certain times of year, but when fog is so bad that Air Traffic Control have to limit the number of flights taking off and landing, or the airport is closed, that can be an extraordinary circumstance.
If the fog is at a completely different airport to the one you are arriving to or departing from but delays the plane that was supposed to take you to your destination, then this type of situation could be eligible for compensation.
A member of The Law Society, Coby helped establish the flight delay compensation sector in the UK.
His work has been recognised throughout the industry, winning numerous awards, including The Manchester Law Society Associate of the Year. Coby has been a key speaker on Flight Compensation, appearing on Sky News, BBC Radio and national newspapers as a flight delay expert.
Can I Claim For Flight Delays Caused By Wind Or Rain Storms?
Other typically wintry conditions in the UK such as high winds or heavy rain shouldn’t usually be sufficient to cause significant delays. However, if the wind is so strong that it makes landing or taking off very difficult for the pilots, then the
Air Traffic Control may decide to limit the number of flights coming in or departing. This could then lead to an extraordinary circumstance and the airline might not have to pay compensation.
If heavy ongoing rain causes floods at the airport, forcing closures or long delays, then this would usually be classed as an extraordinary circumstance as well.
If the airline has told you the delay was a weather-related extraordinary circumstance but you don’t agree the weather was bad enough, then use our flight delay calculator to get a second opinion in seconds.
Can I Claim For Flight Delays Caused By Ash Clouds?
One of the more famous flight delays in recent years was caused by an Icelandic volcano erupting and sending ash clouds high into the atmosphere. Due to the danger for planes of flying through these clouds, airlines had to ground their fleets until the ash cloud had dispersed.
Delays due to volcanic activity and ash clouds would be considered an extraordinary circumstance and therefore the airline wouldn’t have to pay compensation. They would still need to provide care and assistance, such as overnight accommodation and food and drink.
Can I Claim For Flight Delays Caused By Sand Storms?
Sandstorms are not a weather condition that affects the UK too often but they can occur in hot arid countries that people in the UK travel to, such as Dubai, or Egypt.
Despite the fact it might not be completely surprising to experience a sandstorm in a desert country, they are not usually commonplace enough to be considered anything other than an extraordinary circumstance (as the law currently stands).
This is unless the sandstorm has not caused the Air Traffic Control to adjust the flow of aircraft from the usual rates and if other flights are landing and departing without problems of course.
Can I Claim For Flight Delays Caused By Turbulence?
Anyone who has experienced turbulence knows it can be a little unnerving – even when it’s only light turbulence. Caused by the plane flying through air flowing at different speeds (like swirling water at a river’s edge) turbulence can cause the plane to rapidly drop several feet in altitude.
Severe turbulence that forces a pilot to take emergency action and divert the plane is very rare and it is unlikely you will ever experience this or even know of someone it has happened to.
However, severe turbulence causing a pilot to take a diversion or make an emergency landing would be considered an extraordinary circumstance.
How Much Compensation Can I Claim?
EU Regulation 261/2004 states that passengers are entitled to between €250 and €600 each as a result of a flight delay or cancellation.
How much compensation you can claim for your delay doesn’t depend on the reason; it instead depends on the distance between the departure and arrival airports.
Flight Delay Compensation Amounts
|Flight Distance||Length Of Delay||Compensation Amount|
|Up to 1,500km||3 hours or more||€250|
|1,500km-3,500km||3 hours or more||€400|
|Over 3,500km||3 hours or more & between 2 EU Member States||€400|
|Over 3,500km||3-4 hours||€300|
|Over 3,500km||4 hours||€600|
What Other Rights Do I Have If I’m Delayed by Bad Weather?
Regardless of whether or not you are entitled to claim compensation for your delay caused by bad weather, you are always entitled to care and assistance from the airline for delays of two hours or more.
If your plane is delayed by 2+ hours due to bad weather you are entitled to
- Food and drink in reasonable relation to the waiting time
- Hotel accommodation if you are required to stay overnight
- Transport between the airport and hotel (if necessary)
- Two telephone calls/telex/fax/email messages
How long the delay needs to be before you are entitled to this care and assistance depends on the length of your flight. The delay needs to be two, three, or four hours for flight distances up to 1,500km, 1,500-3,500km, or over 3,500km respectively.
For example, a flight from Gatwick to Orlando, Florida would need to be delayed for at least 4 hours before you are entitled to care and assistance as the distance is more than 3,500km.
For shorter flights the care and assistance kicks in earlier so a flight from Luton to Barcelona, which is less than 1,500km, would only need to be delayed for 2 hours for the airline to provide you with care and assistance.
If you are delayed by over five hours due to bad weather you are entitled to a refund of the cost of your ticket if you decide not to travel.
If your flight is cancelled due to bad weather you are entitled to the care and assistance set out above as well as either re-routing at the earliest opportunity or a refund and return to your original departure point. If you do receive a refund, that doesn’t mean you can’t claim compensation to make up for your loss of time.
Cases We’ve Won Relating To Bad Weather
Bott and Co has settled numerous cases where passengers have been delayed due to bad weather.
Jager Vs easyJet
An important case was that of Frederique Jager Vs easyJet Airline Company Limited in September 2013.
The passenger, Ms Jager had been due to fly from Heathrow to Nice, however due to the aircraft being delayed on its journey from Italy to Heathrow; the passenger didn’t arrive in Nice until three hours and 12 minutes after the scheduled arrival time.
EasyJet cited the delay of Ms Jager’s flight as a result of bad weather at Milan Linate Airport, Italy which meant the aircraft didn’t arrive at Heathrow on time to take Ms Jager and her fellow passengers to France.
Bott and Co proved that because the weather had not affected the ‘flight in question’, Jager was entitled to compensation.
Evans v Monarch
Evans v Monarch is an important ruling because it highlights clearly that if bad weather is inherent in the running of an airline, it cannot be extraordinary.
In court Bott and Co argued that “Aircraft fly through the skies. On occasion they are struck by lightning. They are designed to withstand such lightning strikes, continue flying, reach their destination and then be investigated and repaired according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This is not extraordinary”.
Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke agreed and ruled in favour of Bott and Co’s clients Michael Evans and Julie Lee awarding them €600 each for the delay. You can read more about the case here
Huzar v Jet2
Although the case of Huzar v Jet2 was predominantly a ruling on technical problems, a significant ruling about bad weather was also made. The Supreme Court upheld that in order for bad weather to be classed as an extraordinary circumstance, it must be ‘freak’ or ‘wholly exceptional’. As a Supreme Court ruling, this is binding on all other courts in England and Wales.