Flight Cancelled or Delayed Due to Weather

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Has your flight ever been delayed or cancelled due to inclement weather? If it has, chances are that these delays or cancellations cause a lot of hassle and can affect your plans. However, unlike a host of other situations in which airlines can be held responsible for delays, the situation with inclement weather is different. 

Typically, an airline can only be held responsible for delays or cancellations where it has control over the situation. However, changes in weather patterns are usually out of an airline’s control, as a result of which they cannot be held liable for delays due to such weather patterns. This exception is laid out in Article 5 III of EC Regulation 261/2004. 

However, whether you can claim compensation also depends on your situation. If, for instance, an airline fails to ensure they have enough de-icer before the onset of winter, further leading to delays and cancellations, they can be held liable to compensate passengers. 

Passenger Rights in Case of a Flight Delay or Cancellation Due to the Weather

Any airline passenger taking off from an EU airport or landing in an EU airport on an EU airline is protected by the regulations laid out under EU 261. The regulation was designed to compensate passengers for any delays or cancellations caused as a result of the airline’s negligence. 

However, some delays or cancellations that occur due to changes in weather conditions are considered “extraordinary circumstances.” A flight cancelled due to bad weather that’s not in the airline’s control exempts airlines from having to compensate passengers. Some examples of such weather conditions include a storm or even an ash cloud. 

Most Common Weather-Related Issues When Flying

Weather-related issues often result in flights getting disrupted by way of delays or cancellations. Some of the most common reasons for a flight cancelled due to weather are mentioned below. Keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive. 

  • Thunderstorms 
  • Strong winds 
  • Storms
  • Snowfall
  • Fog, leading to low visibility 
  • Cyclones 
  • De-icing when taking off or landing 
  • Aircraft struck by lighting 
  • Other natural disasters and weather changes.

According to most airlines, bad weather is the primary reason for most delays and cancellations. Passengers are typically eligible to claim compensation if there is a delay in their flight and their final arrival time is beyond three hours from the scheduled time. However, this liability is negated in the event of severe weather conditions, as these are beyond the airline’s control. 

The keyword here is “severe,” as airlines often misuse the word to avoid compensating their passengers for disruptions in their flight schedule. However, the weather conditions mentioned above are considered extraordinary, as a result of which airlines are exempt from compensating passengers. 

When Are You Entitled to Compensation?

In the event of extraordinary changes in weather patterns, the only situation in which you could avail of compensation is if the airline could have taken steps to prevent the problem, but failed to do so. 

However, as mentioned earlier, airlines sometimes cite “bad weather” as a reason to avoid compensating their passengers. This tends to become apparent when you notice only your flight delayed due to weather, while others continue to operate as per schedule. 

The key detail to note is that while an airline might cite flight delays due to weather, this doesn’t exempt them from compensating their passengers. According to a ruling by the ECJ on 11 June 2020 (Case C-74/19), the airline must prove that it took every possible measure to re-route its passengers as early as possible. 

They must also prove that it wasn’t possible to rebook their passengers on a faster connection. This applies to the possibility of rebooking passengers on their own flights, or even those of other airlines. These rebookings include both direct and indirect connections. 

An airline must also take into account the possibility that another means of transport (a bus, train, or a taxi) could get the passenger to their destination faster. 

Aside from bad weather conditions, another reason airlines commonly invoke to cancel flights is the absence of de-icing fluid in their flights. However, as a passenger, you must know that an airline is liable to compensate you if the delay caused due to the bad weather is the result of the lack of de-icing fluid. 

This is because it’s an airline’s responsibility to ensure their flights have the necessary fluid to deal with negative temperatures. Additionally, you can claim compensation since the company or airline should have anticipated the problem in the first place. 

Compensation for Flight Delay or Cancellation Due to Weather

When dealing with weather flight cancellations or delays beyond 3 hours, the EU 261 entitles passengers to different amounts in compensation depending on the distance of the flight. 

  • If the flight was scheduled to travel a distance of less than 1500 kilometres, you’re entitled to €250 for a delayed, overbooked, or cancelled flight. 
  • If the journey of the flight was between 1500 and 3500 kilometres, passengers are entitled to a compensation of €400 for a flight that’s delayed, cancelled, or overbooked. 
  • If the flight’s distance is greater than 3500 kilometres, passengers are entitled to a compensation of €600 for a delayed, cancelled, or overbooked flight. 

The table below details these values based on their criteria in terms of distance. 

Short distance – up to 1500 kmMedium distance – up to 3500 kmLong distance – more than 3500 km

Other Rights If Your Flight Was Affected by Bad Weather

Regardless of whether the reason for your flight’s delay or cancellation is deemed to be an extraordinary circumstance caused due to bad weather, passengers are entitled to certain benefits while they wait at the airport. 

The rights and benefits available to you depend on the distance of your flight. The table below mentions the details of these benefits based on the amount of delay in the flight’s departure. 

Flight DistanceDelayEntitlements 
Flights up to 1500 km2 or more hours late Snacks & drinks as well as 2 phone calls or 2 emails. 
Flights between 1500 – 3500 km3 or more hours lateSnacks & drinks as well as 2 phone calls or 2 emails. 
Flights over 3500 km4 or more hours late Snacks & drinks as well as 2 phone calls or 2 emails. 
All flights Minimum 5 hours latePassengers can withdraw from the flight. Airlines are mandated to reimburse them or find alternative transportation. 
All flights Flights postponed to the next dayAirlines must provide accommodation in a hotel, as well as transport to and from the hotel and the airport. 

Which Flights Are Covered by EU261

EU 261 applies to all passengers on flights within Europe, along with flights departing from a European airport, or landing in a European airport via a European airline. 

ItineraryEU air carrierNon-EU air carrier 
From inside the EU to inside the EU✅ Covered✅ Covered
From inside the EU to outside the EU✅ Covered✅ Covered
From outside the EU to inside the EU✅ Covered❌ Not covered
From outside the EU to outside the EU❌ Not covered❌ Not covered

How To Get Compensation

If your flight has been delayed or cancelled due to bad weather, there are only two legal ways in which you can claim compensation. These methods are described below. 

Legal Representation 

The best solution for passengers is to seek the assistance of our partners who provide you with the services of air passenger rights lawyers. We individually select the best partner based on the problems the passenger faces, thereby increasing their chances of receiving compensation. 

Contact the Airline Directly 

An alternative to seeking the services of our partners is to contact the airline directly to apply for compensation for a flight delayed due to weather. However, airlines try their level best to not compensate passengers in most situations. Added to this is the fact that most passengers are not fully aware of their rights and the best strategies to claim compensation. 

This is where it helps to seek the services of an air passenger rights lawyer through one of our partners, as they increase your chances of being compensated for any delays or cancellations. 

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