What should be considered in case of a flight delay or cancellation due to bad weather, like storms and snow?
Storms can paralyse air traffic for long periods of time. Especially in winter, weather-related flight cancellations and delays can occur. Severe frost and heavy snowfall can make runways impassable and lack of de-icing equipment can make take-off impossible. However, storms cannot always be classified as exceptional circumstances that exempt the airline from performing its services.
One thing can be said: Bad weather conditions are one of the airlines’ most popular excuses for not granting a passenger’s claim for compensation. Even if the weather was the reason for a flight delay or cancellation, passengers should know their rights and know that they do not have to be stranded at the airport and see for themselves what happens next.
Passengers’ rights in the event of bad weather
The passenger may claim transportation to the airport originally booked. If this cannot be done by air, the airline is obliged to offer the passenger another transport option. If the passenger does not see this option as a suitable alternative, he/she is entitled to a refund of the entire ticket cost.
If the delay lasts more than two hours and the flight distance is up to 1500 km, the passenger may request the Airline to provide assistance services. If bad weather continues into the night and the alternative flight cannot take off until the following day, the Airline must cover the cost of hotel accommodation, meals and drinks, as well as telephone communications. If the storm drags on for a long time and the passenger is stuck in one place, he should know that there is no time limit on the assistance services. This means that the airline will cover the cost of overnight stays while the passenger waits for favourable weather conditions.
When is extreme weather an exceptional circumstance?
Extremely bad weather conditions can be described as an “exceptional circumstance” if they make take-off dangerous or impossible. However, our contract lawyers often report that airlines often misuse the term “severe weather” as an excuse for flight delays and flight cancellations. It is the responsibility of the airline to ensure that the aircraft can take off smoothly. If the airline was not able to obtain de-icing materials, this does not constitute an exceptional circumstance. It is important to distinguish between weather-related overtime of the crew and bad weather itself as the reason for the delay. In the first case, there is no exceptional circumstance, but the airline is obliged to either guarantee the flight or pay a high compensation.
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