If your travel plans are interrupted by weather, you need to know how to handle it, what your rights are, what the airline is obliged to do for you and if you’re entitled to any compensation. Here’s an overview of what to do if you find yourself in this situation.
What Should You Do if Weather Disrupts Your Travel Plans?
1. If your flight is disrupted because of inclement weather, you should first ask the airline to confirm the reason behind the disruption in writing as this may help with travel insurance or your compensation claim in the future.
2. You can choose to either wait it out, find another flight or in some cases; you may be able to get a refund. For example, once your flight has been delayed for more than five hours you are entitled to a full refund on your unused ticket if you are flying from within the EU.
3. The airline is obliged to get you to your destination somehow. They should try and find you alternative flights with a different company, but this could mean waiting at the airport for a long time.
4. The airline is also legally required to look after you while you wait by providing complimentary food and drinks at the airport and, if appropriate, overnight accommodation for you until you’re able to travel. You are also entitled to a limited number of free phone calls and emails to friends or family if you are delayed for more than two hours.
Can You Claim Compensation if Your Flight is Cancelled Due to Bad Weather?
If a flight is cancelled, delayed or even overbooked, you would usually be entitled some level of compensation. However, when it comes to flights being delayed or cancelled because of extreme weather, this is rarely the case.
Unexpected and extreme weather events come under the category of ‘Force Majeure’ or extraordinary circumstance. It’s an unavoidable occurrence that the airline has no control over.
- Natural disasters which cause ash clouds that hinder the visibility of the pilot and the plane’s height and speed sensors or instruments.
- Adverse weather conditions such as storms, snow, freezing rain or fog exempt which mean the flight must delay or cancel take-off for safety reasons.
However, there are exceptions in some circumstances. If bad weather affects a previous flight and your flight is delayed as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. Other scenarios when compensation might be viable is when other airlines are operating as normal the same airport or the weather causing the delay was to be expected.
Find out more about flight compensation by checking out our article, which answers the question, can you claim compensation for bad weather flight delays?
What About Travel Insurance?
Some travel insurance companies may pay out if you experience disruption to your travel plans due to extreme weather, but they may not. It’s crucial to check the small print of your policy and question anything you don’t understand fully.
If you are hoping to make a claim on your travel insurance, you should gather and keep as much documentation as you can. This could include written statements from your airline in the event of a delay, and any evidence of road closures and travel incidents if you are held up on your way to the airport. It’s also possible to hire specialists to handle your travel compensation claim if you’d prefer to avoid the hassle.
What About Disrupted Train Journeys?
Train travel is different from flying as almost all train operators provide compensation regardless of the cause of the delay or cancellation. It’s called the ‘Delay Repay’ policy in most cases and means you’re entitled to at least a partial refund of the price of your ticket if your journey was delayed by as little as 15 minutes in some cases. The level of compensation will depend on how late the train was and whether it causes you to miss connecting trains or flights as a result.
If you were disrupted for between 30 minutes and an hour, you could claim back half the cost of the one-way journey. For a delay of up to two hours, you can potentially claim back the cost of a one-way journey. If your delay was over 2 hours long, you can claim up to the cost of the return ticket as a whole.
Top Tips for Travelling During Extreme Weather
Sometimes, we have an inkling that our travel plans may be disrupted by bad weather. It’s always recommended to keep an eye on the forecast in the weeks leading up to your flight. If you’re really concerned, contact the airline before you leave for the airport to see if there is any chance the flight could be affected by bad weather so you can start to make alternative arrangements.
For example, if you believe bad or extreme weather is a possibility:
- Investigate alternative ways to get to your destination, e.g. from other airports which may not be affected.
- Look for accommodation near the airport which you can stay in if needed (the airport may fund this in some cases).
- Check if the hotel you’re heading for is affected by the same weather so you can make alternative arrangements if necessary. It’s also wise to let them know your arrival time or date may be changing.
- Ensure you have everything you need for a longer journey, such as supplies for children or medication. Keep it in your hand luggage.
- Make sure you have travel insurance well in advance, as you can’t claim compensation if the policy started after the extreme weather began.
- Consider changing your travel dates if possible. When extreme weather is forecast, some airlines will give you the option to move by up to seven days.
Do you have any stories of your travel plans being disrupted due to bad weather? Please leave us a comment below so we can all learn from your experiences.