Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Can I claim compensation after five-hour delay at the airport?

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Q. In October my partner and myself had a five-hour delay returning from Egypt. Would I be able to claim for compensation?

Daniel McKean

A. If you were flying on an Egyptian airline, no. The European rules on airline passengers’ rights depend on whether the flight departs from an airport within the EU.

For all departures from or within Europe, the entitlements apply regardless of the nationality of the airline. If, though, the flight departs from outside the EU, then the rules apply only to European airlines flying to an EU member state; in the case of flights from Egypt, that means the likes of BA, easyJet, Monarch or Thomson Airways.

The rules provide for cash compensation if the delay is three hours or more. If you were travelling on a qualifying airline, then you should be able to claim compensation of €400 per person if the airline cannot demonstrate “extraordinary circumstances” which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

The definition of what constitutes “extraordinary circumstances” has been argued over endlessly. Some events – such as heavy snow or volcanic ash grounding all flights – are clearly beyond the airline’s control. Others, such as routine maintenance work that overruns, are the responsibility of the airline. As a last resort the Civil Aviation Authority will arbitrate when the airline claims “extraordinary circumstances”. The CAA has produced a useful web page, including a standard letter to make a claim, for which I have created a short link:

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