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Passengers stuck at Belfast International Airport on Monday Alamy Stock Photo
uk flights

EU consumer body offers advice to Irish passengers left stranded by UK airport disruptions

Carriers can cite “extraordinary circumstances” as reason not to offer compensation to passengers.

THE EUROPEAN CONSUMER Centre Ireland has issued a statement reminding people whose UK flights were cancelled this week of the consumer rights that apply in the EU. 

Flights were grounded in the UK and elsewhere on Monday after an air traffic control failure, leaving thousands of people stranded at airports. 

The UK’s National Air Traffic Service (NATS) has said that the failure was caused by flight data it received, with both primary and back-up systems responding by suspending automatic processing. 

The situation for those customers when it comes to claiming compensation under rights guaranteed by the EU is complicated by the fact that the UK is no longer part of the bloc. 

According to the European Consumer Centre Ireland, this means that passengers’ rights to compensation will be determined by the nationality of the airline and their itinerary. 

Carriers can also cite “extraordinary circumstances” as reason not to offer compensation to passengers. 

“With respect to the latest disrupted flights in the United Kingdom, EU rules only apply to flights from the UK to the EU when they are operated by an EU air carrier, unless consumers have already received compensation or benefits under UK law for the flight incident/cancellation,” the consumer body said.

“EU air passenger rights do not apply to flights from the UK to the EU operated by a UK carrier or another non-EU carrier.  

“Compensation is not due if the carrier can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.”

The statement goes on to explain that consumers still have rights outside of compensation in these situations though.

“While compensation is not due in respect of cancellations or delays due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’, airlines still have a duty of care to their passengers. EU consumer protection law for air travel entitles air passengers to a full refund of the cancelled flight, a rescheduled, alternative flight and assistance and duty of care for delays.”

The statement adds that “if passengers find the free rescheduling and rerouting not acceptable, the airline is not obliged to offer assistance in the form of free food, drink or accommodation while waiting for the alternative flight.”

In this case, consumers with travel insurance are advised to check their policy before deciding to accept an offer from their airline.

And with regard to travel agents and other third parties, the consumer body statement said:

“If the cancelled or disrupted flights were booked through a travel agent, online travel agent or booking engine, all queries must be addressed to these. The same jurisdictional rights apply to third-party flight booking intermediaries.”  

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