Flight Strikes: Your Compensation Rights

If your flight is delayed for a significant period of time, you might assume you are entitled to some compensation.

Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. In this post, flight compensation experts Flight Reclaim run through the details of when you can and can’t claim compensation for strikes and also outline what other entitlements the beleaguered traveller might have.

Flight Directly Affected By Strike

If your flight is directly affected by a strike you will not usually be entitled to compensation.

As unfair as this might seem, it occurs because strikes are seen as ‘exceptional circumstances’ and airlines are not required to compensate for exceptional circumstances. This definition might seem dubious – an exceptional circumstance surely better defined as a rare occurrence such as ash from volcanoes affecting flights, rather than the relatively common occurrence of a strike creating havoc.

However, the definition exists and it is enough to cover the airline in most cases.

An exception would be if the strike is directly related to the airline on which you are booked, for instance if the employees of your specific airline are taking action, yet the rest of the airport continues to function as normal.

In this case, unless you have had at least two weeks notice of the impending strike (and so time to consider alternate arrangements), there is likely to be a high chance that compensation can be claimed.

There are other qualifying factors that apply – for instance the delay caused by the strike must be at least two hours (three hours for flights of longer distances).

Flights indirectly Affected By The Strike

As unfair and counter intuitive as it might seem, there is a greater ability to claim compensation when your flight is indirectly affected by the strike.

Let us explain.

Let’s say an airport’s baggage handlers are on strike all of Monday and so all those flights that should be departing are cancelled.

Passengers booked on to those flights have no chance to claim compensation, the delay and strike classed as ‘exceptional circumstances’.

On Tuesday, the airport is fully functional once more, but there is of course an increased pressure on seats with many of Monday’s passengers moved on to Tuesday flights.

If your booking is for a Tuesday flight but you find yourself bumped, denied boarding or removed from the flight then you have a claim for compensation – the action the airline is taking is then choosing to remove you from the flight, rather than it being the direct result of the ‘exceptional circumstance’ i.e. the strike.

It might seem, and indeed is, arbitary. The result for the passenger is the same, a delayed flight and a disruption to plans, because of semantics one scenario leads to compensation, the other doesn’t.

In both cases – Airline Assistance

Irrespective of whether you can claim compensation, the airline does have an obligation to help you get to your destination.

In most cases, this will involve being moved on to a different flight, but you can also chose to cancel the booking and make alternate arrangement. You might, for instance, want to travel by train instead for a domestic journey – in this case you could cancel the flight booking and arrange your own train journey, or request that the airline do it for you (and so avoid the danger of ending up out of pocket, paying more for the train than the plane had cost).

If you take a refund your entitlement to any extra assistance (or compensation if eligible) will cease, by taking a refund you have agreed to an ending of the contract.

Another option for flights that aren’t direct is a flight back to your original destination. If, for instance, you were flying to an appointment that has now been missed and are stuck in an airport you were simply changing flights at, it might be more practical to fly home rather than continuing on a journey that no longer has a purpose.

When your flight is delayed – and here it doesn’t matter whether this is directly or indirectly caused by the strike – you also have an entitlement to two free phone calls (or faxes if you’re reading this 30 years ago!). 

Furthermore, you will be eligible for free refreshment and also hotel accommodation – both of these depending on the length of the delay. Hotel accommodation is, of course, related to the strike grounding you overnight, the refreshment entitlement kicking in after two hours for short flight, three hours for longer journeys.

The logic is beyond us here too – it seems that people flying 1,500km or less don’t get as hungry or thirsty as those booked in for longer journeys.

In all cases, approaching the flight desk and remaining firm but polite is also important. Airlines are used to dealing with the after effects of strikes, but they will also be inundated with people trying to make alternate arrangements. Keep to the point, giving details of when you need to arrive by and discussing what options are available.

Strike Affects Flight Checklist

  • If flight directly affected by strike, compensation unlikely to be available
  • Exception is if strike is by the airline’s staff (and two weeks’ notice hasn’t been given)
  • Compensation can be available when strikes indirectly affect you – i.e. you are bumped from a flight because others have been moved on to it.
  • Compensation will only be available if it leads to delays of at least two hours (more for longer journeys)
  • Irrespective of compensation, airline is responsible for helping with alternate arrangements, these can be another flight, return to point of origin or cancellation and refund for ticket
  • Airline also responsible for providing free calls, refreshments and, depending on delay, overnight accommodation 

If you are entitled to compensation 

If you are entitled to compensation, or believe you might be then please contact an expert in taking cases on a no-win, no-fee basis.

It is also essential to turn down any compensation offer the airline might make at the time unless it seems suitably generous. 

Airlines, knowing they are liable for compensation, will often make offers that are far less generous than the passenger would receive if they pursued the claim. For example, the offer might be for airmails vouchers whereas there could be an entitlement for a sizeable sum in compensation.

Anyone who takes the airline’s offer removes the possibility of making a later claim for compensation proper.

Treat disruption and compensation as being very different. If your plans are disrupted, you need a solution that is timely and works for you – this will often mean being moved on to the next available flight. However, there is not the same immediate need to sort compensation and take whatever the airline waves at you.

Claims can be made years after the disruption, tackle this issue once the initial panic of flight disruption has passed.

About Flight Reclaim

Airlines get things wrong. Occasionally this is missing luggage, but missed connections, flight cancellations and delays are also common.

Some passengers also suffer through the airlines’ policy of overbooking, finding that despite having a booking for a flight they are bumped or denied boarding.

At Flight Reclaim, we help you get the compensation you are entitled to when things go wrong with flights or holidays.

Hopefully, you won’t need our services but unfortunately flights get cancelled, passengers get bumped or denied boarding and connections are missed because of delays.

We have helped more than 50,000 passengers, operate on a no-win, no-fee basis and have helped claim more than £20 million in compensation. Our success rate is 98% – these figures all helping to explain why we are so highly rated on TrustPilot.

If you are ever affected by delays, cancellations or being refused boarding on an over-booked flight, then do get in touch. We will help get you the compensation you are entitled to.

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  • 50,000+

    Passengers helped
  • 100%

    No-Win, No-Fee
  • £20m+

    Compensation Claimed
  • 98%

    Success Rate