No matter where in the world you’re going to or coming from, flight delays can happen. They can often mean missing connections, sacrificing quality holiday time and finding yourself stuck at the airport for hours (or even days) on end.
When this happens, you might be wondering – what level of responsibility does the airline have?
Flights leaving or heading to Australia
If a delay is caused by something like a mechanical breakdown or a crewing problem (i.e. something that’s within their control):
- Airlines generally have a responsibility to help you; if the flight is seriously delayed, they may even be obliged to put you on another available flight.
- They may also provide other compensation (e.g. for meals, accommodation) depending on their specific policy and/or how long the delay is.
If things outside of their control (e.g. adverse weather, natural disaster) cause a delay:
- They will usually still try to put you on the next available flight if your original plane is drastically delayed.
- But most of the time, they won’t be responsible for any other expenses you incur (since it’s not really their fault the flight is running behind).
With extensive delays, it’s always a good idea to ask if the airline can rebook you on another (sooner) flight. If not, find out whether a refund is possible under the circumstances.
Flights in other countries
There are dozens of rules and regulations regarding what you can be compensated for if your flight is delayed when travelling between overseas destinations.
The airline’s responsibilities will differ depending on what country you’re in and what the airline’s policy is.
- For example, in the EU (whether flying in or out), the airline can be obliged to compensate you financially if your flight is more than 3 hours late, and if the issue is something within their control. You can also receive compensation for items like food/drink, accommodation, transfers and phone calls.
The best mode of action is to keep all receipts for anything you buy, and to apply for compensation directly with the airline.
Can travel insurance help?
Travel insurance can often provide cover and financial help when flight delays occur, assuming its part of your policy.
- When purchasing, check that your policy includes travel delay insurance and check the T&Cs. How much can you claim, and under what conditions?
- In most instances, only your flights leaving and returning to Australia will be covered; insurance usually won’t cover flights overseas (e.g. flying from Mexico to the US, or flying domestically in another country).
- To get the most value, look for travel insurance packages that cover delays both within the airline’s control (crew problems, mechanical failures) and outside of their control (weather, strikes).
What else can you do if delays significantly disrupt your travel plans?
- Speak to your travel insurer about what things you can claim based on the circumstances of your delay.
- Contact the airline and outline your complaint in writing. Don’t forget to include receipts for any expenses to be reviewed by your travel insurer.
- If the airline doesn’t resolve your issue, get in touch with the Airline Consumer Advocate to see if they can help with your complaint.