If you’re affected by Ryanair’s announcement that they are cancelling many hundreds of flights over the next six weeks, you’re going to need to know your rights. This is how the news broke:
If your outbound flight has been cancelled at short notice:
First, see if you can rebook. According to Ryanair’s website, this should be possible online. People are reporting on social media that the Ryanair helplines are overwhelmed and they’re not able to complete a rebooking over the phone. Obviously with so many people chasing so few seats at short notice, many are going to be disappointed. So what then?
If you cannot find a satisfactory rebooking (e.g. your flight is being rebooked but so late into your holiday to make it as good as useless) then you’ll need to apply for a refund. You may also be entitled to compensation. These are your rights under EU law if the destination is within the EU or if it’s an EU carrier like Ryanair:
Flights under 1500km – 250 euros compensation
Flights over 1500km – 400 euros compensation
Note: this only covers you if your cancellation occurs 14 days or less before your flight. If you are due to travel in more than 14 days’ time and your flight is cancelled, this will be treated by the airline as a rebooking or rerouting. You still have the right to cancel with a full refund of what you paid for the flights, but will not be eligible for additional compensation.
Delayed arrival whether with Ryanair or alternative carrier
Flights under 1500km – 2 hours
Flights over 1500km – 3 hours
If you are delayed, you are also entitled to food and accommodation vouchers. Full details here:
Note that it can take many months to secure this compensation, despite EU regulations stating refunds must be paid within a week. Remember you will need to keep all receipts and boarding passes. It’s also a good idea to send letters recorded delivery if you are getting nowhere by email.
If you decide not to travel, have a look at what expenses you’ll incur, such as accommodation that cannot be cancelled at short notice. The airline is not liable for this. It will need to be claimed back from your travel insurance company. Making a claim such as this doesn’t affect your right to EU compensation if applicable.
If you’re abroad and your inbound flight has been cancelled:
The above applies but you’ll also have to factor in whether you need to be back home as a matter of urgency or can afford the time and money (up front at least) to extend your trip. You might find it easier to deal with staff face to face at the airport though this can add to your stress as there will be a lot of other angry passengers there which isn’t going to make you feel better.
You can try to persuade the airline that rebooking you with an alternative carrier e.g. a seat on a rival airline is a better idea. You’ll have more bargaining power if the airline itself is very tight for space and is struggling to get you somewhere, especially if you’re stranded and they’re having to pay for your overnight accommodation. Remember if you pay for your own alternative flights, you’re out of pocket.
It can be very hard to get them to pay, as I found out with CityJet a few years ago. CityJet refunded their own flight (that they cancelled fifteen minutes before departure) but because I didn’t want to wait for an alternative with CityJet or spend another night in Paris even at their expense, I paid for the Eurostar alternative. I eventually funded it out of the compensation I received eight months later. Read the full story here:
If you can get through on a helpline, that is often better, but you will need to be patient. Be as calm, polite and flexible as you can, particularly if you need to get back home in a hurry. Remember the person on the phone isn’t directly to blame and venting your frustration isn’t going to get you anywhere.
If you’ve a flight coming up which is currently unaffected:
This currently is where most Ryanair passengers are, fortunately, and the social media furore should calm down for the most part now that people know where they stand. Nevertheless:
Have a Plan B. Research alternative airlines or other means of transport on the inbound leg. Check your email on a regular basis so that if your flight is next to be affected, you’re amongst the first to know – and fight for the seats that might be available on alternative flights.
Print out or save to your phone a copy of the EU regulations (see link above) so that there can be no dispute with airline staff about your rights – it will be in black and white.
Double check your travel insurance, especially the limits and excesses for flight delays and flight cancellations. Again, keep all receipts and boarding passes as you’ll need them to make a claim. Keep proof of the cancellation.
Ryanair’s lack of consideration for their customers, though not a surprise, is still a concern. They won’t be the first and last airline to do this. I’ve had similar late in the day cancellations from American Airlines (weather related issues leading to a 48 hour delay in New York when I should have been in Nicaragua) and as mentioned, with CityJet (who didn’t even inform us the flight was cancelled, just checked us in as normal and quietly removed our flight from the departures board). But for the record, Ryanair, you need to remember who keeps your staff in a job and your planes in the air.
Update 17 September from the excellent Simon Calder at The Independent:
Update 18 September of full list of cancellations on the Ryanair website:
One of the biggest obstacles to independent travel is the fear of things going wrong. Without the safety net of a tour company, worrying about how to cope might well seem like a sure fire way of ruining a good holiday. I decided long ago that I’d prefer to be in control – no surprises for those who know me beyond the computer screen. But things do go wrong and it’s good to know what to do if that’s the case.
Missing a flight is stressful. It doesn’t matter why or whose fault it was, it’s stressful. Mostly, when I’ve missed flights, it’s been a case of a late-arriving inbound flight causing a missed connection, but I’ve arrived at the airport on more than one occasion to find my flight had already departed. You can read the stories here:
What to do if you miss a connecting flight because the inbound flight is late
If you’re still on the plane when your next one is merrily backing off the stand, no amount of pleading with airport staff is going to get you on that flight. The first thing to think about is whether you have a through ticket. If you buy two separate tickets and the first is delayed, the carrier operating the second leg has no obligation to honour your ticket. Don’t choose flights with very short connection times either. Immigration officials can be very stubborn.
Minimise your chances of being stranded by choosing a carrier who operates multiple flights a day to your final destination if at all possible and avoid opting for the last flight of the day. If they have space, you’ll still get to your destination the same day, albeit later than planned.
Speak to the ground staff as quickly as possible; if there are more people to rebook than there are seats available, you don’t want to be last in the queue. Holding a frequent flier card with that airline can also help you move up the queue. It can also pay to get an aisle seat as near to the front of the plane as you can, particularly if you know you have a tight connection.
Be nice. It’s not the fault of the ground staff if your plane was late in. Getting angry isn’t going to help. In fact, it’s likely to hinder your chances of organising a speedy replacement flight if you piss off the one person that can arrange it for you. Save your breath and stay calm.
Be flexible. Can you travel to a different airport in the same city? It’s inconvenient, perhaps, but still better than not arriving at all. Let the ground staff know what you’d be prepared to put up with. If you’re due at a hotel but are going to lose the first night of your booking, get in touch with them and explain – they might let you off any financial penalties they’d usually impose.
What to do if it’s your fault you miss the flight
Technically, the airline doesn’t have to do a thing and you’ll have to abandon your travel plans or buy a new ticket. So be nice and hope they take pity on you – and I mean really nice. Appeal to their better nature. Coming back from Bangkok, arriving 21 hours late for a flight just after midnight, I explained to the check in staff my humiliating predicament. As a Geography teacher who taught about time zones and tourism amongst other things, if they couldn’t fit me onto that night’s flight, I was going to have to confess to my students the real reason I’d shown up for work a day late…
What to do if it’s their fault – your flight is cancelled
Your airline must offer to rebook you on a later flight or offer you a refund. They have an obligation to get you to your destination, though not necessarily by the routing you’ve chosen or on a particular day.
Note that if your flight originates in the EU or arrives there from anywhere else but on an EU airline, you are entitled to compensation – even if the airline claims you aren’t. If an EU and a non-EU codeshare applies – such as Virgin and Delta, for instance – you’ll only fall into this category if your ticket and therefore contract is with the EU airline – Virgin in my example. I had a long and drawn out fight with Cityjet over this right to compensation, but eventually won. Read about how to get your money back here:
You’ll see from that post that keeping evidence is crucial. Make sure you keep hold of boarding pass stubs and receipts until you’re safely home without any problems. Never send off your only copy of something; scan instead.
Make sure you have decent insurance in case you need to recoup your costs that way instead. This may be your only option for compensation if you’re travelling outside the EU on a non-EU airline.
For more information, there’s a useful link here: