Flight cancellations: what are your rights, from refunds to missed work?

Thousands of Britons are stuck abroad after about 200 flights were cancelled over the weekend, including 80 by easyJet on Sunday. But what are your rights if you are one of those affected?

What if I have to stay the night?

If your return journey is cancelled you should contact the airline to find the next available flight. You have the right to choose between being refunded or rerouted on a new flight, either with the same airline or a different carrier.

The airline is supposed to give you the chance to fly home on the same day, but if the departure is on a later date the carrier should help you find accommodation and cover the cost. It should also pay for expenses such as food, drinks and hotel transfers.

Am I entitled to any other compensation?

You can claim compensation if the flight was cancelled fewer than 14 days before departure. How much depends on the type of flight, on whether you take a refund or have the airline arrange a return trip, and on how much later your new departure and arrival are than your original plan.

You can get up to £220 for flights of less than 1,500km, up to £350 for journeys between 1,500km and 3,500km and a maximum of £520 for long-haul flights above 3,500km, according to Citizens Advice. Contact your airline for the full rules and to make a claim.

Jan-Frederik Arnold, the chief executive of Flightright, said: “You are entitled to compensation independently of the refund and hotel and dinner and so on. Airlines sometimes try to only accept one or the other because consumers don’t know their rights.”

If you are forced to buy a new flight with a rival carrier, you can claim the cost of the replacement ticket. If your original flight was more expensive, however, you would be better off requesting a full refund.

What if the airline doesn’t offer to pay?

If there is nobody to discuss compensation with – for example, if there is no one at the desk at the airport – you can make a claim later. Keep receipts for all the extra expenses you incur, including accommodation, food, drink and hotel transfers.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, airlines are unlikely to reimburse you for luxury hotels or alcohol, so keep your spending to a reasonable limit.

What if my flight was part of a package holiday?

In this case, your accommodation, food and transfer costs should be covered by the tour operator rather than the airline. Get in touch with the company as soon as possible. If you can’t contact them you should keep a record of additional costs to claim a refund.

What if I’m due to return to work?

Let your employer know as soon as possible if flight cancellations mean you will be unable to make it to your next shift. You may be able to take an extra day of annual leave or work remotely to avoid missing out on pay.

Shazia Shah, an employment lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, says: “Those that have access to the work systems might be able to work from abroad but care is required to ensure no rules are breached, for example, in terms of tax or social security.

“Another option is to negotiate a compromise such as unpaid leave, or asking to make up the time later in order to not lose any pay.”