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How to claim refunds for travel delays

Chris Torney / 12 February 2015 ( 07 August 2019 )

If your flight is delayed or the train you are planning to take is cancelled, you may be able to claim a refund or some form of compensation.

Travel delays

There are now strict rules that train operating companies and airlines have to follow if their passengers’ journeys are significantly disrupted.

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Rail delays

Under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage in the UK, train companies must provide a refund of a fraction of the ticket price if delays or cancellations result in passengers arriving more than an hour late.

However, this is a minimum requirement and some operators offer more generous compensation: for example, Southern refunds half of the price paid for a single ticket for delays between 30 and 59 minutes and the whole of a single ticket for an hour or more.

The watchdog Passenger Focus has more information about individual companies’ disruption policies.

Related: Cutting the cost of train travel

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Flight disruption

Rules introduced by the European Union in 2012 mean that airlines must compensate passengers who are delayed by three hours or more. These rules apply to EU-based airlines, as well as to all flights which depart from the EU – but they do not cover delays that are due to exceptional circumstances, such as poor weather.

The level of compensation depends on the flight distance and the length of the trip: for flights of 3,500km or more, for example, a four-hour delay entitles passengers to €600 (£553 correct at time of review) in compensation.

For more details about compensation levels, visit the European Union website.

Related: Get a good deal on your holiday

Claiming for further losses

Rules on both rail and air delays generally do not cover any losses that arise as a result of delays – for example, lost earnings due to a missed day at work, or the failure to make a connecting train.

However, National Rail says that train companies will consider additional claims “in exceptional circumstances”. As such, it could be worth making a claim but the operator will be under no obligation to offer you any more money than its refund policy stipulates.

In most situations, the only way to get compensation for such consequential losses is by taking out a travel insurance policy that explicitly covers this type of claim.

This would also allow you to claim compensation if you missed a flight or train due to traffic problems or other delays, for example.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.