Gatwick airport chaos: These are your rights if your flight was cancelled by drones

Flights will continue to be suspended until 7pm

Simon Calder
Gatwick Airport
Thursday 20 December 2018 16:17
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Gatwick airport delays: Simon Calder explains why drones have caused such chaos

In the chaos and confusion at Gatwick Airport, with tens of thousands of travel plans in disarray after reports of drones flying over the airfield grounded all flights, many passengers have said to The Independent that they have not been provided with their rights under European air passengers’ rights rules. This briefing should provide clarity.

If a flight is cancelled, what is the passenger entitled to?

Whatever the circumstances of the cancellation, the European rules are clear. It is the airline’s responsibility to sort out your journey, finding another flight – either on its own services or a rival – and providing meals and, if necessary, accommodation until it can get you where you need to be.

So, for example, after Cathay Pacific cancelled its Gatwick-Hong Kong flight, it had to find seats for passengers from Heathrow. BA and Norwegian were obliged to do the same for Las Vegas-bound travellers.

What if the airline says “you’re on your own”?

It has breached the long-established rules and you should report it to the Civil Aviation Authority.

If your credit card has enough headroom, you can rebook on a different airline and book a hotel until the flight, but you must do so as cheaply as you can and also keep notes of what you were told by the airline so you can challenge any refusal to provide recompense.

Any cash compensation?

No. This counts as “extraordinary circumstances” and no payment is due to passengers. But there is evidence that some airlines are conflating their duty of care with the “extraordinary circumstances” clause and saying they do not need to provide hotel rooms because the incident is not their fault. This is not the case.

What about consequential losses such as hotels or rental cars?

Unless you have booked a package holiday or have gold-plated travel insurance, you won’t be able to claim compensation for facilities that you can’t use.

When will Gatwick get back to normal?

It will take several days – and probably several more for everyone to get where they need to be. With every minute that goes by, another planeload of passengers will find their travel plans in tatters.

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