Hurricane Gonzalo gained strength overnight into Thursday as it barreled in the Atlantic toward Bermuda, which was bracing for a hit from the powerful Category Four storm / AFP/Getty Images

So what are your rights? Simon Calder unravels the mess

Tens of thousands of passengers have had their journeys disrupted today, due to a combination of Hurricane Gonzalo and a pilots’ strike at German airline Lufthansa. More than 150 flights to, from and within Britain have been cancelled. These are your rights

Q: My flight was cancelled. What am I entitled to?

Either a full refund, including the inbound sector of a return trip, or re-booking on an alternative flight. If you choose the latter, the airline is obliged to get you to your destination as soon as it can. And if that involves switching you to a rival airline, it must do so. 

Q: I’ve chosen to continue with my journey, but I will be stuck at the airport for four hours. What can I expect the airline to provide? 

The rules on care in a delay are clear. Regardless of the cause, the airline must provide meals and, if necessary, accommodation until the flight departs. The trigger point depends on the length of the journey. For short flights, up to 1,500km, for example Manchester to Munich, it's two hours; mid-haul journeys (1,500 to 3,500km, e.g. Heathrow-Istanbul) three hours; and longer trips, four hours. The EU rules on cash compensation do not apply for “meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, security risks, unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes”.


Q: I have tried repeatedly to get through to the airline to change my flight, without success. If I make my own arrangements, will I be able to claim the cost back from the airline?

The law is cloudy, but if you can demonstrate that you made every effort to go through the correct channels, e.g. by noting the times you tried to phone, and were defeated, then you may have a good case. It is important to seek to minimise the amount you spend; if you had only an economy ticket, the airline will not be inclined to refund the cost of a business class replacement. 

On a similar theme, if the airline fails to provide meals and accommodation if necessary, you can make your own arrangements but cannot expect, say, the cost of alcoholic drinks to be refunded. 

Q: As a result of the disruption, I have incurred a serious financial hit. Who do I claim from?

You could try to make a claim under the terms of the Montreal Convention, but I would not advise it. Sometimes, you just need to put disruption down to experience. However, it may be that your travel insurance offers some cover for the consequences of delays.