Get your money back on delayed flights

If you are on a flight and it is delayed by more than three hours, you are normally entitled to compensation from the airline. But last week the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said some airlines are still refusing to hand out money that their customers are entitled to – and named five of the worst offenders.

Delays are infuriating and can ruin a holiday, which is why there are laws on compensation to encourage airlines to run flights on time. If you are on a flight into or out of an airport in the European Union (EU), or which is operated by an airline based within the EU, you are entitled to compensation if you are more than three hours late getting to your destination. However, the delay must be the airline’s fault – you can’t claim if the hold up was due to bad weather.

More than 10,000 flights were at least three hours late between March 2015 and April 2016, according to research carried out by consumer group Which. So there are plenty of people who should be receiving compensation from their airline. Unfortunately, not all airlines are especially forthcoming with payouts. The airlines criticised by the CAA – American Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines – all refused to pay compensation when delays meant passengers missed connecting flights, causing them to be late to their final destination.

The airlines were using the complication of a connecting flight as an excuse not to pay, which the CAA rejected. “Airlines’ first responsibility should be looking after their passengers, not finding ways in which they can prevent passengers upholding their rights,” says Richard Moriarty, director of consumers and markets at the CAA. “So it is disappointing to see a small number of airlines continuing to let a number of their passengers down by refusing to pay them the compensation they are entitled to.” The CAA has now ordered the offending airlines either to pay up or face legal action.

So how should you claim compensation if this happens to you? Your first port of call is, of course, to contact the airline whose flight was delayed. You need to make your request in writing – you can find examples of template letters online. Make sure you quote European Commission regulation 261/2004, which governs the rules on compensation.

You should receive a payment of between 250 and 600 per passenger, depending on the length of your journey and the amount of time you were delayed. If your flight is delayed by more than five hours, and you choose not to travel as a result, you are entitled to a full refund for your ticket, regardless of the reason for the delay. It’s worth noting that you can file a claim for delayed flights as far back as 2011. If the airline refuses your claim, and you don’t believe they have given a valid reason why, you can take your complaint to the CAA. “Where we see evidence of passengers being denied their rights, we will not hesitate to take the necessary action to ensure airlines change their policies and their customers get the assistance they are entitled to,” says Moriarty.

Finally, if the delay wasn’t the airline’s fault, it’s worth checking your travel insurance to see if that will pay you any compensation. “Most travel insurance policies will give you some cover if your flight’s delayed,” says the Association of British Insurers, but “usually delay cover will only kick in if the delay was caused by adverse weather, strikes, or mechanical aircraft failure”. For example, Aviva will give you £25 for each 12-hour period you are delayed up to a maximum of £250, according to MoneySavingExpert.co.uk, while Direct Line will pay out up to £200 if you’re delayed by more than 12 hours.

In the news this week…

Good news for those wanting to borrow more money to buy a house, says Sarah Davidson on ThisIsMoney.co.uk. The Bank of England has “tweaked an obscure” technical rule, with immediate effect, which is likely to make it easier for borrowers to get a mortgage of more than 4.5 times their annual income. The details of the change are fairly technical, but essentially, the Prudential Regulation Authority has confirmed that it will amend rules that require mortgage lenders to ensure that not more than 15% of their new residential mortgages each year have loan-to-income ratios greater than 4.5 times an applicant’s annual income. In the future, banks will have to adhere to this limit on a four-quarter rolling basis, rather than the current fixed quarterly basis. This means that lenders will be able to manage the limit more easily, rather than having to “err on the side of caution and avoid making big loans in case they breach the fixed quarterly level”. Lenders will probably be able to offer bigger loans to around 10% more borrowers than before, says Ray Boulger of mortgage broker John Charcol.

Lawyers have accused the government of bringing in a “tax on the bereaved” after the Ministry of Justice confirmed that probate fees (which must be paid before probate is granted) are to rise by as much as 9,000% from 1 May, says Hugo Greenhalgh in the Financial Times. Probate fees, which currently stand at £215 (or £155 if you apply through a solicitor), will rise to as much as £20,000 for estates valued at more than £2m. When the new fees were put to consultation, around 98% of the 831 respondents objected, but the results were “almost entirely ignored”, says Richard Dyson in The Daily Telegraph. However, the Ministry of Justice is keen to point out that the majority of estates will be better off. Estates valued below £50,000, or those exempt from requiring a grant of probate (58% of all estates in England and Wales, according to the Ministry) will pay nothing. Fees will then go up depending on the size of the estate, starting at £500 for estates valued below £300,000. For those who have to pay, it is possible to get a loan to cover probate fees, but that will mean paying interest as well.