Is compensation due after the IT collapse at air-traffic control?
Wednesday 11 December 2013
Q. My in-laws' China Eastern flight from Heathrow to Shanghai last Saturday was four hours late due to the National Air Traffic Service (NATS) issue. Can they claim compensation? Steve Wong, Surrey
A. No. The equipment failure that disabled part of the NATS air-traffic control centre led to delays and cancellations across the UK. The reduced capacity affected practically every flight from around 6am.
Heathrow was hit more severely than other airports because it works close to full stretch. More than 200 domestic and European flights were cancelled before the bug was fixed early on Saturday evening.
Your in-laws were among the tens of thousands of travellers who faced long delays. Their China Eastern flight eventually departed at 1am – long after operations normally end at Heathrow.
Under European law, airlines must compensate passengers who arrive at their destination three hours late or more. But the carrier avoids liability if the cause was "extraordinary circumstances, which could not have been avoided". The IT collapse at NATS headquarters at Swanwick in Hampshire was plainly beyond the airlines' control.
What about travel insurance? Some policies provide cash compensation for delays, but these kick in only after a wait of 12 hours. If your in-laws had onward transportation booked, such as a domestic flight or train, they might be able to claim.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...
£240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...
Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...
£27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...