Aviation Passenger Charter   GOV UK

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Published 17 July 2022

© Crown copyright 2022
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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/aviation-passenger-charter/aviation-passenger-charter
We want everyone to enjoy the ease, convenience and benefits of travelling by air.
This Aviation Passenger Charter sets out what you, as a passenger, need to know about your rights and responsibilities when flying. In this charter we break down your journey into stages, to help give you the information you need to:
The charter also covers what you can reasonably expect from your airline, travel agent, tour operator and airport, and sets out best practice in terms of how passengers should be treated. In addition, it outlines the things that you should do to help make your journey experience as positive as possible.
As a passenger you also have certain responsibilities to make sure you have everything you need for your journey, and to communicate with your airline and airport (either direct or via your travel agent or tour operator) in advance of travel if you have special requirements.
Most journeys by air occur without disruption, and flying is usually a positive experience. However, sometimes things can go wrong, which is why there are regulations that give you rights when travelling by air. These rights are in place to ensure you receive fair treatment as a passenger and include protections for you if things go wrong, such as if your flight is cancelled or delayed.
The charter has been developed by the government, in partnership with the aviation sector, travel industry, disability and consumer groups. We will regularly review the charter and update it as needed to ensure it remains as useful as possible for passengers. The charter is not intended to be a legally enforceable document but does outline the existing legally enforceable rights. It is intended to provide you, as a passenger, a helpful point of information when you are travelling by air. Every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in this charter is as up to date as possible.
There is a wide range of choices available to people choosing to travel by air, including booking directly with an airline or through a travel agent or tour operator, whether shop, phone or online based.
There are also options around ticket types, such as booking as part of a package, return or single journeys, and flexible or non-flexible tickets. All of these things may mean you are entitled to different protections if things go wrong. So it is important that you check before you book and understand the protections and restrictions associated with your booking, to ensure you are prepared for your journey.
Once you’ve booked your flight, its important you prepare before you travel, including ensuring you have all the documentation you need to travel.
Terms and conditions of your booking must be available at the time of making the booking from the airline, travel agent or tour operator you are booking with. They must be clear and easy to understand and easy to find. They must also provide clear information on what to do in the case of cancellations, date changes and if you need to rebook.
Airlines must provide a breakdown of all taxes and charges included in your ticket. These are necessary additional charges that are included in the base fare of your ticket.
Airlines and travel agents selling flight tickets should make clear at the time of booking whether there are any additional charges for optional extras, for example, luggage allowance, and seat selection. These charges should be prominently flagged from the outset of the booking process and be optional. It should be possible to book the flight or holiday without the need to add these extra elements.
No additional charges should be added to your booking for special assistance for disabled and less mobile passengers, or for carrying medical equipment and up to two pieces of mobility equipment per passenger.
If you have booked a package holiday that includes a flight, such as flight and accommodation or flight and hire car, you may have ATOL protection and an ATOL Certificate to prove it. This means that, if your tour operator goes insolvent (which is very rare) before you travel, you may be able to apply to the CAA for a refund under the ATOL scheme. If you are abroad at the time of the failure, the CAA will help you in returning home to the UK.
The ATOL scheme also applies to some flight-only sales booked through travel agents, but flight-only sales booked directly with scheduled airlines or with airline ticket agents are not ATOL protected.
If you have booked your holiday using a credit card and the payment was over £100, you may have financial loss protection under the Consumer Credit Act.
If you have booked with a travel agent or tour operator, they are responsible for ensuring you receive details of how to check in along with any required documentation.
Before committing to booking a flight, you should check the key terms and conditions of your ticket to make sure you do not experience any surprises later in the journey. For example, you might wish to check whether you are booking a fixed or a flexible ticket, what the baggage allowance is and any associated fees, and any costs that you might face if you need to amend or cancel the booking.
Some airlines may charge for additional products and service, such as for luggage allowance, in-flight meals or selecting your seat in advance of travel. You should check whether there are any extra charges that may apply before you make your booking.
You should check the entry requirements section of the travel advice for the country you want to travel to. This will tell you what documents you need, how much time you need on your passport or travel document to travel there, and how long you can stay.
If you are travelling on a UK passport, you may need to renew your passport. Make sure you leave plenty of time to do this.
Check current processing times for updating your passport.
For travellers on a non-UK passport, it is best to check with your country’s embassy in the UK.
You should check the travel, visa and entry requirements for the country you are travelling to. Some countries have specific entry requirements including:
Health-related entry requirements are in place in some countries. For example, some countries require proof of a negative test or proof of vaccination on entry for certain illnesses or diseases, such as yellow fever or COVID-19.
Further advice is available on extra requirements for business travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
Make sure you have any necessary documents with you when you travel.
The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) provides travel advice. This includes the latest information on COVID-19, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings. Make sure you check this advice and sign up for automatic email alerts so that you are notified if something changes.
If you are travelling to the UK, you will need to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas, where appropriate.
It is advisable that you have adequate travel insurance in place for your trip that is suitable for your plans and needs. You should check what cover is provided, including medical treatment, travel disruption, industrial action, airline failure and planned activities such as adventure sports as appropriate.
Ideally travel insurance should be taken, at the time of booking or as soon after as possible, to ensure you are covered in the event of any issues ahead of your journey, for example in case you need to cancel.
You should check the terms and conditions of your insurance cover and ensure you understand what is excluded from the cover. This should be set out clearly in the insurance policy document.
If you do not have appropriate insurance, you could be liable for emergency expenses, including medical treatment, which may cost thousands of pounds.
When you travel, make sure you take your insurance policy details with you, including the policy number and your insurer’s emergency assistance telephone number.
Share your policy details with people you’re travelling with and friends or family at home, in case they need to contact your insurance company on your behalf.
You are recommended to apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which lets you get state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. You will still need adequate travel insurance in addition to the GHIC.
Read further information on booking travel insurance.
Many airlines offer the option of online check-in. For some airlines this is the only free option and they may charge you if you check in at the airport. You should check in at the earliest opportunity.
If you have checked in online, ensure that you take your boarding pass with you to the airport. Most airlines, travel agents and tour operators allow you to either print, text, or download the boarding pass to your mobile, and many airlines will have their own app.
If you have booked through a third party such as a travel agent or tour operator, you should check their instructions on how to check in for your flight, as there may be specific booking details or booking references that you need to enter. If you have any issues checking in, please contact your travel agent or tour operator.
You should make sure your airline, travel agent or tour operator have your up-to-date information, in case they need to contact you.
Check the airline’s website in advance of your travel to find out when you need to be at the airport – it is your responsibility to get to the airport and to the boarding gate on time. If you are late and miss your flight, you may need to pay for another flight to take you to your destination.
Make sure you plan your journey to the airport in advance, including what form of transport you will take to get there, and leave plenty of time to arrive for check in. However, please note that arriving before your check-in opens can create additional crowding at the airport.
You should make sure you have appropriate baggage allowance for your journey. You may want to consider whether you can travel with hand luggage only.
If you are travelling with hand luggage, there are strict limits on what and how much you can carry as hand luggage. This may differ between different airlines, including the size of the bag you may bring as hand luggage. It is important to check the information from your airline on this. If your bag is too big or too heavy, you may be charged additional costs to carry the bag.
It is vital that aviation is accessible and enjoyable to all, and that those who require assistance to travel receive a high-quality service from airlines and airports and are treated with respect and dignity. Airlines and airports take accessibility very seriously and will aim to provide you with a service that meets your needs.
Some passengers may experience challenges navigating the airport and airline environment, and need special assistance to help them do so, such as older people and pregnant women who are less mobile and disabled people. This includes physical disabilities such as wheelchair users, or people with vision or hearing impairments, and non-visible disabilities, such as people with heart conditions, those with chronic illnesses, people living with autism, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
This is not a definitive list, so if you feel like you may require special assistance when travelling by air, you should contact your airline, travel agent or tour operator to discuss your needs. You do not have to provide medical evidence to prove your need for special assistance and should not be asked for this.
Some passengers with accessibility requirements may be required by an airline to travel with another person who can provide assistance during the flight. This is a safety measure for travellers who cannot evacuate an aircraft independently in the event of an emergency. Your airline will provide details of when this is required. The person accompanying you will need to buy their own travel ticket.
In the UK, disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility are legally entitled to special assistance from arrival at the airport, through to leaving the aircraft at your arrival destination free of charge. This includes help moving through the airport, boarding the aircraft and getting into your seat, assistance during the flight, getting off the aircraft, and transferring between flights.
You do not have to provide medical evidence to prove your need for special assistance and should not be asked for this. In a small number of cases you can be asked for proof of your fitness to fly – for certain health conditions. This is different to your right to special assistance and is normally a simple request for information about your condition. In some cases the airline may require further details if there is any cause for concern on safety grounds.
An airline cannot refuse to let you fly with them on the grounds of disability, unless it is for justified safety reasons. Your airline would need to provide you details of those reasons in those instances.
All essential information throughout your journey must be provided to you in accessible formats for example braille, audio, large print.
You can carry up to 2 items of mobility equipment free of charge, including a battery-powered mobility aid. This does not count as part of your baggage allowance.
You are entitled to take as much medication as you need with you on your flight, although you can be asked for a certificate from your doctor.
You can also bring some medical and mobility equipment onboard the aircraft with you. For example crutches, or small medical devices such as CPAP machines, nebulisers or portable dialysis machines. Your airline will be able to provide confirmation of what you can bring on board the aircraft with you and what will have to be stored in the hold.
Airline staff will provide assistance with accessing toilet facilities if required. They will not be able to assist you in using toilet facilities, eating or taking medication. If you require assistance with these tasks, you will need a companion with you who can provide you with assistance.
Airlines must allow you to travel with your recognised assistance dog in the cabin free of charge.
Read more information in this guidance about travelling with assistance dogs.
If you think you might need assistance when travelling by air, it is very important that you should notify your airline as soon as possible following your booking. You should provide details of what assistance you think you need at the airport and / or help you need to board the aircraft, including if you may or may not require a wheelchair.
If possible, you should notify your airline at least 48 hours before you travel. If this is not possible, for example you are booking travel with less than 48 hours’ notice, you should let your airline know of your requirements as soon as possible after booking. This notice will give the airline time to make necessary arrangements for the flight and share the information with the airport. The airport will make arrangements for special assistance at the airport, including helping you on and off the aircraft and handling of any equipment.
If you do not give advance notice, it can be difficult for the airport and airline to provide tailored support to meet your needs. They will do their best to provide you with assistance to make your journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
If anything changes before your flight, you should let the airline know as soon as possible, so that they have the most up to date information which they can share with the airport, to ensure they can provide the best service possible for you.
If you have booked through a travel agent or tour operator, you may also be able to request special assistance through them. If you are asked for details of any special assistance requirements during the booking process, please provide these so they can assist you.
If you require assistance in the destination country, you should make your airline aware as they will be able to advise on what is available and arrange this for you. You can also check with the airport you are arriving in, and will be departing from, to see what assistance is available.
There are complex safety regulations associated with the transportation of battery powered mobility aids. If you will be flying with mobility equipment, you should share the relevant information about it as far in advance of the flight as possible. This is so that the airline can ensure mobility aids can be safely and securely loaded into the cargo hold of the aircraft. Relevant information includes:
Advance notice provides vital information for staff to properly assemble and disassemble the mobility aid. You should try to provide the airline with information about the value of your mobility equipment, and check with them if it would be covered in the event of any damage.
You may also want to:
Read information in this guidance about damage or loss of mobility equipment.
Airlines may have different rules about carrying oxygen on board the aircraft and some may charge for this. If you require oxygen onboard the flight, it is important that you check the oxygen policy of the airline you are flying with, before you travel. For more information on travelling with oxygen you may wish to go to the British Lung Foundation.
You should also bring along a letter from your doctor for your prescriptions, as you may need to show this to the security staff at the airport or airline staff.
If you need to carry liquid medication in greater quantities than the current security rules allow or need to carry needles or syringes in your hand luggage, we recommend you check with your airline before you travel. You will need to declare it at security.
You may want to consider bringing all of your medication in your hand luggage, in case of any delays, or lost baggage. This ensures you have the medication you need with you at all times.
Some countries do not allow certain medication to be brought in. Check any restrictions with the country’s embassy or high commission.
If you are travelling with an assistance dog, it must meet certain criteria to travel with you in the cabin. You must have certified documentary evidence to prove this.
UK airlines usually recognise guide or assistance dogs trained by organisations that are members of either Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation.
Generally, your assistance dog will need to sit on the floor in front of the seat. If you think this will not be possible, for example your dog is a large breed, you should speak to your airline.
When travelling with your dog, including assistance dogs, the rules you must follow depend on the country you are going to or coming from.  You should check your airline’s policy on animal travel and the government guidance on bringing pets to Great Britain before you travel.
If you have a non-visible disability, you may wish to use a lanyard or badge that identifies to staff at the airport that you may need extra support. This is optional but can be helpful to communicate to staff and make you feel more confident. You can get these at the airport, or through some disability charities.
If you have a food allergy, you should tell the airline as soon as possible, and preferably at the time of making your booking. Airlines take the welfare of their passengers very seriously and will have a policy for managing your allergy. These can differ between airlines so please check with your airline before travelling.
You may also wish to consider other measures, such as taking your own food and making sure you have any medications with you.
If you have booked through a third party such as a travel agent or tour operator, you may also be able to request a certain type of meal through them. Speak to your travel agent or tour operator.
If you are accompanied by another person who can provide you with assistance, the airline will make reasonable efforts to seat you next to that person.
Airlines will make reasonable efforts to arrange seating that meets your individual needs, without extra charge, for example in the bulkhead seats for more space, but this is subject to safety requirements and availability. For example you may not be able to sit in an emergency exit seat.
During your journey there are a number of things you should prepare for.
Check-in times vary from airline to airline and by destination so make sure you check this in advance.
It is important to allow enough time to check in and also for passing through security and on to the departure gate. Your airline will usually tell you what time you need to check in and get to the departure gate.
They may recommend a slightly longer time frame for disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility, so be sure to confirm this in advance of your flight.
You should make sure you leave enough time to reach the airport in time for check in. You should also not arrive earlier than the stated check in opening time (unless you have been informed otherwise by the airline), as you will not be able to check in before that time.
You will need to go through airport security before reaching the departure area. You will need to present your boarding pass at security. This is to help maintain your safety and security onboard.
There are restrictions on what items you can take in your hand luggage when boarding an aircraft in the UK, so familiarise yourself with the rules.
You should also try to remove any items, such as liquids, from your hand luggage before you get to the security queue. This will help you pass through the security checks as quickly as possible.
Check full details on what you can and cannot take in your hand luggage.
Once you have passed through security, airport screens will display the gate number for boarding your aircraft within plenty of time before flight departure.
Signs will guide you in the direction of the gate. Some gates are a longer walk from the departure lounge, so make sure you leave plenty of time to find the correct gate.
At the boarding gate you will need to present your boarding pass and passport.
It is illegal to be drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs whilst on an aircraft. You need to remain in a fit state to evacuate the aircraft in an emergency. If you are intoxicated, this could affect the safety of yourself and others.
If you get intoxicated, you may not be able to take your flight and will be responsible for making any new travel arrangements at your own cost.
It is your responsibility to listen to the safety briefing and read the safety information card which will give vital information on the location of exits and emergency equipment. As this can vary from one aircraft type to another, it is important to do this each time you fly.
Airlines are responsible for communicating essential information regarding flight safety in an accessible format, for example braille, audio, large print. You should let your airline know at the time of booking if you require accessible information and what format is most helpful to you.
You should behave in a respectful manner towards all staff at the airport and onboard the aircraft. You should also expect to be treated with respect by all staff throughout your journey.
If you cause a disruption on the flight, through drunken behaviour or otherwise, you can face up to 2 years imprisonment and a fine. You could also face up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine for endangering the safety of an aircraft.
If the aircraft has to divert due to your behaviour, you will have to pay the costs which typically range from £10,000 to £80,000. The airline may also ban you from flying with them again.
Once you land at your destination airport and leave the aircraft, you will be asked to show your passport and any entry documentation required by the destination country, to immigration officials at border control. Your passport may be stamped depending on your destination, at this point.
You should check the travel advice for the destination country to see if you need to get your passport stamped.
Once you have passed through passport control, if you checked in luggage, follow the signs to baggage reclaim to collect it.
You will need to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas where appropriate to travel back to the UK.
Read further information on visas and immigration.
On arrival at a UK airport, your passport, or where appropriate, identity document and any entry documentation will need to be checked. If you require a visa to enter the UK, you may also be asked to show this at the border.
There will be clear signposts as to where to go when you get off the aircraft and which border control queue to join.
Always keep your passport and travel documents with you – don’t be tempted to pack them away in your luggage as you will need to show your passport on your arrival. To avoid delays, when you arrive at UK passport control, where possible please:
You can use automatic ePassport gates at some airports if your passport has a ‘chip’ on it which is usually faster than the other channels.
You can use ePassport gates if you:
If your passport does not have a ‘chip’ that would allow you to use an ePassport Gate, you will need to have your passport checked by a Border Force officer at the immigration desk.
Border Control is managed by the UK government’s Border Force and is a matter of national security. It is not the responsibility of your airline or the airport.
What you can bring with you into the UK depends on where you’re travelling from. You must declare to customs:
You must declare all commercial goods. There are no personal allowances for goods you bring in to sell or use in your business.
You and your baggage may be checked for anything you must declare.
Airports must locate assistance points at various points in the airport boundary. This may include at drop-off points, car parks, train stations and bus terminals.
When you arrive at the airport you should go to an assistance point, before going through security. This can be inside or outside of the terminal.
Assistance points will usually have a disability related logo and include a buzzer or telephone so you can call for assistance if they are not staffed at that time.
If you park at a medium/long term car park, you will usually need to make your own way to the terminal using the airport’s bus service. In the UK these vehicles usually have a ramp, so wheelchair users can board.
The assistance you can expect to receive at the airport includes:
If you feel like you might need a wheelchair to travel around the airport but do not have one of your own, the airport can provide one for you.
If you have your own wheelchair or battery-powered mobility aid you should be able to use your own equipment right up to the departure gate.
If you have a non-visible disability, the assistance service desk can provide you with a lanyard or badge that identifies to staff that you may need extra support. This is optional but can be helpful to communicate to staff and to make you feel more comfortable. You can either get these at the airport, or in advance through some disability charities.
You should let your airline or travel agent know about any severe food allergies at the point of booking. You should also tell the staff at the boarding gate about any severe allergies so that the cabin crew can prepare for your arrival.
You should make sure that you take any medication you may need with you in the aircraft cabin, and that it is stored in an easy-to-reach place.
If you have requested assistance, you will be helped to the departure gate and to board the aircraft. This may involve the use of lifts or wheelchairs. You may also receive assistance into your seat, if required, and with tasks such as stowing your hand luggage. Often you will be boarded first, though this will not always be the case.
When providing this assistance, different equipment may be used and this can vary depending on which airport you are flying from. These could include ambulifts (also referred to as high lifts), ramps, and small ‘transfer’ wheelchairs which are used on the aircraft.
Airlines are required to make all reasonable efforts to arrange seating to meet your needs. This includes making every effort to ensure a travelling companion is seated next to you.
Airlines will also provide assistance with moving to the toilet facilities if required. Facilities will vary depending on aircraft type and airline so it important to discuss your onboard needs with the airline before you travel.
For passengers using a wheelchair or mobility aid, on arrival this should be returned to you at the cabin door, unless you have requested to collect your wheelchair at baggage claim.
Speak to a member of the cabin crew before leaving the aircraft if you have requested assistance. They may require you to stay on the aircraft whilst arrangements are put in place to assist you. This could include:
Special assistance should be appropriate to your specific needs as far as possible.
You should be able to be accompanied by a family member or friend through the airport.
Your family or friends can provide you with assistance if you would prefer.
On arrival to your destination, you should be provided with assistance as quickly as possible, and in line with the CAA’s accessibility quality standards.
Most flights go ahead with no, or minimal disruption. Unfortunately, sometimes things do go wrong, and it is important that you know your rights when this happens.
It can be incredibly frustrating if your journey hasn’t gone as planned. Depending on the circumstances, you have rights to ensure you receive clear information, assistance whilst you wait, prompt refunds or alternative flights and, in some cases additional compensation, if you experience issues when you travel by air.
Depending on how and what travel services you booked and what has happened, you will have different rights, and different operators will be responsible for those rights. This charter is focused on your rights in aviation, and therefore focuses on the rights your airline will provide you with during disruption. However, where you have other rights, for example because you have booked a package holiday, these are also highlighted below.
If you experience disruption to your flight and you have booked a package holiday, you should tell your package organiser. Your package organiser is responsible for your whole holiday, they need to know if services are disrupted. It is important to do this immediately so they can manage other aspects of your booking.
The below information is only relevant to flights covered by UK law and applies to all such flights, however you booked the flight. To be covered, your flight must either:
If you experience issues with your flight, such as a delay or cancellation, or you are denied boarding (i.e. the flight departs but you are prevented from flying despite making it to the boarding gate in good time), airlines must provide you with information about your rights with regard to assistance, refunds and compensation.
This should be provided in a timely manner and take the form of a written notice. Often this will be by email, although this may not be possible, for example if the delay or cancellation happens very close to departure, and should be provided at the at the check in desk if you are at the airport.
The information must set out the rules for assistance, refunds and compensation and should be made available to all passengers who have a flight cancelled, experience a delay of at least 2 hours, or are denied boarding. Airlines must ensure that this is provided in an accessible format for all passengers.
Government expects all airlines to ensure that, when providing information to passengers on their rights during disruption, it is provided quickly and is as easy as possible to follow. This should include providing a clear link to the relevant web page to submit a claim for a refund and compensation, if this is not automated.
Government expects industry to apply good practice and ensure that information about how to complain is also easily available on airline and airport websites and apps.
It is also good practice for airlines and airports to provide information on any alternative dispute resolution bodies they are a member of. It is a requirement for them to advise passengers how to contact such bodies in the event that you cannot reach an agreement with the airline or airport.
If your flight is significantly delayed you are entitled to care and support whilst you wait for your flight, and if you arrive over 3 hours late to your final destination you may also be entitled to compensation. The information in this section also applies if a flight delay results in your missing a connecting flight.
If your flight is significantly delayed, you are entitled to care and support from your airline until you are able to fly. This includes meals and refreshments, a means for you to communicate (often by refunding the cost of your calls), overnight accommodation if needed and transport to that accommodation.
Whether or not you will receive care and support depends on the length of your flight and how long it has been delayed.
Occasionally, due to major disruptions, airlines may not be able to arrange this care and support. If this happens, you may be asked to make your own reasonable arrangements, then claim the cost back from your airline.
If you end up paying for things yourself, you should keep every receipt and be mindful that only reasonable expenses may be eligible for reimbursement. For example, airlines are unlikely to refund you for things like luxury hotels or alcohol. Airlines should provide guidance on what are reasonable costs in these circumstances. If you are in any doubt, you should check with your airline.
Airlines must provide you compensation if your flight arrives at its destination more than three hours late, and the delay was not caused by extraordinary circumstances.
The amount of compensation available depends on the length of your flight.
Sometimes long delays or cancellations are due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’. This means that they were caused by something outside of the airline’s control, and the airline took all reasonable steps to avoid the disruption. There is not a definitive list of extraordinary circumstances, however examples include suspension of flights due to bad weather, cancellations/delays due to air traffic control decisions, natural disasters, a bird striking an aircraft or political instability.
If a long delay or cancellation is caused by an extraordinary circumstance, compensation is not available for passengers. If you are unsure of the reason for a cancellation or delay, you should contact your airline in the first instance.
If the delay exceeds 5 hours, your airline must offer you a refund within 7 days and a return flight to your first point of departure. The airline may only pay a refund in vouchers, if you agree to this.
If you missed your connecting flight because your first flight was delayed you are entitled to a flight back to your original departure point.
If you choose to still take the flight after a delay of 5 hours or more, you can claim compensation as set out above.
If you flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund or an alternative flight. In addition, if you choose an alternative flight and are waiting at the airport, you are entitled to care and support. In some circumstances, depending on the notice period for the cancellation and the length of any delay to an alternative flight, you may be entitled to additional compensation.
If your flight is cancelled by the airline (regardless of the reason for the cancellation), you are entitled to a choice between:
If you are waiting at the airport for an alternative flight, the airline must provide you with care and support until you fly, including meals and refreshments and a means for you to communicate (often by refunding the cost of your calls). If the cancellation or delay means an overnight stay you are entitled to hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and accommodation.
Occasionally, due to major disruptions, airlines may not be able to arrange care and assistance. If this happens, you may be asked to make your own reasonable arrangements, then claim the cost back from your airline.
If you end up paying for things yourself, you should keep every receipt and be mindful that only reasonable expenses may be eligible for reimbursement. For example, airlines are unlikely to refund you for things like luxury hotels or alcohol. Airlines should provide guidance on reasonable costs in these circumstances, if you are in any doubt, you should check with your airline.
In addition to a refund or an alternative flight, you are also be entitled to compensation.
This applies if:
There are some instances where compensation would not be available, even if the flight was cancelled within 14 days. This includes:
The level of compensation depends on the length of your flight and time of alternative flight you are offered.
Sometimes airlines book more people onto a flight than there are seats, which means on rare occasions, a passenger may be denied boarding through no fault of their own.
This could be due to a number of reasons. For example, some airlines over book their flights as people do not always turn up, or an airline may need to use a smaller aircraft than planned. This is different to when passengers are denied boarding on the basis of reasonable grounds such as disruptive behaviour, incorrect documentation, or safety reasons.
If too many people turn up for the flight, airlines must first ask for volunteers. This means, you could be asked to voluntarily give up you seat in exchange for benefits agreed between the you and the airline for example vouchers. Plus you would be entitled to a choice between a refund within 7 days or to be re-routed under similar conditions.
If an insufficient number of people volunteer, the airline can deny carriage to passengers without their agreement. This is also known as being ‘bumped’ from your flight.
If this happens to you, under UK law you are entitled to:
The level of compensation depends on the length of your flight and time of alternative flight you are offered.
If you have booked a package that included a flight, you are still entitled to the rights set out above from your airline.
If your flight is cancelled or delayed and you’ve booked a package holiday, the airline may notify your package organiser, who will contact you in advance and re-arrange your flights or cancel and refund your package. If the airline contacts you directly, you should contact your package organiser and let them know of any alternative options you have been offered. This is so they can assist you and manage other aspects of your package.
Additionally, if your flight cannot be rearranged and your holiday has to be cancelled or new arrangements means your holiday is significantly changed (which will depend on the circumstances), then your package organiser must offer you a refund. The package organiser may also decide to offer you the option of another package of an equivalent or higher quality, or another package of lower quality at a reduced price.
You should speak to your package organiser if there are any disruptions to your flight as soon as possible
In the unlikely event that your baggage doesn’t arrive in the baggage hall, or if it is damaged, it is essential you tell your airline on arrival at the airport. Most airlines have a dedicated baggage desk within the baggage claims area
You may want to include cover for mishandled baggage in your travel insurance.
Occasionally baggage may be delayed, particularly if you had to change aircraft during your journey.
If your baggage is delayed, you will need to contact the airline staff immediately to provide a description so that they can trace your baggage. It can be helpful to have a photo of your baggage on your phone just in case.
Many airlines will reimburse you for essential purchases when your bag is delayed. If you are away from home this may cover essential toiletries, underwear and laundry costs. Remember to keep receipts.
If your baggage is lost or damaged, airlines are liable for your losses, depending on the value of your lost baggage and up to a maximum of around £1,000.
If your baggage is damaged or lost, you will need to put in a written claim to the airline.
For damage you will need to do this within 7 days.
For delayed baggage, the deadline for the claim is 21 days. A bag is generally considered irretrievably lost after 21 days of searching, after which a claim can be submitted.
You will have to demonstrate that your bag and its contents were worth the amount you are claiming by providing proof of purchase. Depreciation will be deducted at an airline’s discretion.
Airlines and airports take damage or loss of mobility equipment very seriously and will do what they can to help.
If your mobility equipment is lost or damaged, you should speak with your airline and the airport immediately so that they can make arrangements for you. This can include providing you with temporary equipment, arranging for onward transport, arranging for repairs and providing compensation where needed.
You may wish to take a photo of your equipment before it is loaded onto the aircraft and of any damage caused, which you can share with the airline and airport.
If wheelchairs or other mobility equipment are lost or damaged whilst being handled at the airport or transported on the aircraft, the airline must provide you with compensation. This is limited to around £1,300. You may wish to get insurance to cover your mobility equipment.
You can also raise a complaint if necessary as outlined below.
If you miss your flight or connection due to a delay of special assistance, you should speak with your airline who can help make arrangements to ensure you can continue your journey.
If you have concerns about the provision of special assistance, you should contact the airport that is responsible for providing this service.
On very rare occasions, your airline or the company you booked with may become insolvent and cease trading before you’ve travelled, or while you’re abroad.
If you have ATOL protection and are yet to travel, you may be able to apply to the CAA for a refund under the ATOL scheme.
If you are abroad at the time of the failure, the CAA will help you in returning home to the UK.
You should take your ATOL certificate with you on your trip and keep it safe. It explains what protection you have and what to do if the tour operator collapses and stops trading.
If you booked a flight on its own directly from a scheduled airline which subsequently goes insolvent, you may not have the same ATOL package protection. However, your own travel insurance may cover you for airline failure.
If you booked your flight through a travel agent, check with them if your flight was ATOL-protected, or if they have scheduled airline failure insurance.
If you paid with a credit card, and the payment was over £100, you should contact your card issuer. If you paid less than £100, or if you paid by debit card, your card company may have their own ‘charge back scheme’ to help you.
If you booked a flight on its own directly from a scheduled airline which subsequently goes insolvent, you may not have the same ATOL package protection. Your own travel insurance may cover you for airline failure.
If you booked your flight through a travel agent, check with them to find out if your flight was ATOL-protected, or if they have scheduled airline failure insurance.
If you have booked your holiday using a credit card and the payment was over £100, you may have financial loss protection under the Consumer Credit Act.
Credit card payments under £100 and all debit card purchases of any value may give you refund rights under the card industry’s ‘chargeback’ schemes. You should check with your bank or card issuer.
Under UK law, you have a right to claim compensation under a number of circumstances, as set out in the sections above.
There is no standard claims process, so you should contact your airline directly if you believe you have a valid claim.
Your airline will need detailed information to process your claim. It helps to provide as much detail as possible including the flight number, booking reference, departure and arrival airports, details of where the disruption occurred and information about the circumstances, such as length of delay.
It may take some time for the airline to process your claim if the disruption was severe and they are processing lots of claims.
If your claim is declined, the airline should explain why. If you are not happy with the decision you can escalate your claim as detailed below.
The rights set out above should offer you protection when things go wrong. However, if you are unhappy with your experience, and feel your airline or airport has not met their responsibilities to you, you can raise a complaint. This includes if you required special assistance and did not receive the assistance and support you requested.
If you have a complaint, you should raise this directly with the airport or airline you have a problem with, or with the travel agent or tour operator who booked your package. Airports and airlines may have different methods for submitting complaints so please check on their website, app or call their customer service line. The airline should make the process of complaining straightforward and easy for customers to use.
You should not incur any costs (such as premium rate phone call costs) to resolve your problem.
You should receive a response within 8 weeks, or a holding reply if your complaint requires further investigation.
You should try to resolve any issues with the airline, travel agent, tour operator or airport directly.
If you have already complained to the airport or airline, and are not satisfied with the response they have provided, or they have failed to communicate with you within 8 weeks of your complaint, you have a number of options:
Refer your complaint to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider that the airline or airport are a member of. The majority of UK airlines and some airports are members of an ADR provider.
If the airport or airline does not have an agreement with an ADR provider you can refer your complaint to the CAA.
For complaints concerning flights to and from Northern Ireland contact the Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022, or complaints@consumercouncil.org.uk.
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of ADR, you can choose to take direct legal action through court.
If you have a dispute that you can’t resolve with a travel agent or tour operator that is a member of ABTA, ABTA also has an ADR scheme you can use. If they are not a member of ABTA, you can contact Citizens Advice.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) was introduced so that passengers can resolve complaints cheaply and quickly and avoid having to go to court. The decision by an ADR provider is binding on the airline or airport if you accept the decision.
You can refer your complaint to an ADR provider if the airport or airline is a member of an ADR scheme and:
ADR bodies handle complaints relating to:
Most UK airlines and some airports are members of an ADR scheme. Airlines and airports should make information about whether or not they have ADR membership clear when you make a complaint.
Find out which airports and airlines are members of an ADR scheme on the CAA website
If the airline or airport you have raised a complaint with is not a member of an ADR scheme, you can refer your complaint to the CAA’s Passenger Advice and Complaints Team (PACT). The CAA PACT team can make a decision on whether they think you have a valid claim, and take it up with the airline or airport concerned. Note that there is no legal basis to enforce those decisions.
You can only refer a complaint to the CAA if you have made a complaint to your airline or airport and are not satisfied with the outcome, or if you have made the complaint but not received a reply within 8 weeks.
PACT will only handle complaints related to:
PACT does not have legal powers, so any decision they make on the outcome of your complaint is not binding on the airport or airline.
For complaints concerning flights to and from Northern Ireland you should contact the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.
If you have not been able to resolve your complaint with the airport or airline, and neither an independent ADR body, PACT or the Consumer Council in Northern Ireland have been able to successfully intervene, you may choose to take your case to court.
You may want to seek legal advice before taking this step as court claims can be costly and time consuming. Legal advice can also be costly, but there are some options, for example through citizens advice.
If you have any feedback or comments on the Aviation Passenger Charter, please send them to AviationConsumers@dft.gov.uk.
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