What should be considered in case of a flight delay or cancellation due to bad weather, like storms and snow?

RFM, bad flights-16

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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When do I have the right to compensation?

According to EU regulation 261/ 2004, passengers are entitled to compensation in the event of delays and cancellations of flights. The same applies to overbooking and cancellations.

Under what conditions does the right to compensation apply?

There are various possibilities:

  • You have taken off with any airline (including non-EU) from an airport within Europe or
  • You have arrived at an airport within Europe with a European airline
  • Your flight has been delayed for at least three hours
  • Your flight has been cancelled
  • Your flight was affected by overbooking. Therefore, you could not get a seat at short notice
  • You missed your connecting flight. For this reason you have reached your destination airport with at least three hours delay

Who can assert a claim for compensation?

Everyone in this world can claim the right to compensation. They do not have to be EU citizens. The only criterion is that one or more of the above conditions must be met. Perhaps you are aware of other passengers who have had problems with a flight within the last three years? We would be happy to help your friends too.

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NOTE: We first check each new case against EU law. If there is no positive result here, we also check under the passenger flight right laws of Canada, India, Turkey, Ukraine.