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Airport delays and missed flights: Can you get compensation?

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Passengers at some of the UK’s biggest airports are reporting big delays and queues at airport security. If it’s resulted in you missing your flight, here’s what you need to know.

Travellers at Birmingham, Gatwick and Manchester have reported long queues at airport security, with some missing their flights despite arriving hours earlier than necessary.

If you’ve missed your flight because of a hold-up at the airport security, campaign group Which? said it’s unlikely you’ll get any compensation.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, explained: “Queues at the security check are the responsibility of the airport rather than your airline. Your airline isn’t liable to pay compensation or refund you if you miss your flight because of long queues at security.

“Unfortunately, it will be difficult to get the airport to reimburse you. No large UK airport has a policy to compensate passengers who have missed flights because of long security queues. In law, passengers could possibly claim frustrated contract and argue the airport is at fault for them missing their flight – but this would almost certainly require going to court.”

However, where holidaymakers have missed a flight because of long queues at the airline check-in desk, then there is potential for a claim to be brought against the airline under the Consumer Rights Act.

Boland said this is the responsibility of the airline – even if it has outsourced the service to a third party – so if you arrived at the airport at the time instructed but you miss your flight because of delays at the check-in or bag drop, then you may be able to make a claim. However, he added: “This is unlikely to be straightforward and may involve a court case.”

Another potential route is via your travel insurance policy. Some may include cover for missed departures, but they may not specifically cover this if it’s caused by long queues. As such, Boland suggested providing evidence that you turned up with plenty of time, as advised by the airport or airline.

“This could be a bus ticket or parking stub that marks your arrival at the airport with a time and date, or a receipt from a shop or restaurant inside the terminal,” he said.

Alternatively, some passengers who have missed flights from these delays could claim back the air passenger duty (APD) from the airline. Airlines are obliged to issue this refund, but Which? warned that most also charge a fee which costs more than the refund you’ll receive.

The APD for an economy class ticket in Europe stands at £13. However, Ryanair charges £17 for the refund, while Jet2 charges £25 per booking. As such, Boland said passengers should check the charge with their airline first before choosing to request an APD refund.

What to do if you think you’ll miss your flight

Which? said passengers should make a fuss as most airports will bring you to the front of the queue if your flight is due to depart shortly.

It also advises holidaymakers to contact the airline. Some may be able to put you on the next flight without charging, such as British Airways. It said if customers need to make a change because of “events beyond your control”, they should contact it as soon as possible.

Virgin Atlantic runs a similar policy. But EasyJet has a ‘rescue fare’ where customers need to rebook for a fee. You’ll need to show you were there at least two hours before the scheduled departure time.

For Ryanair customers, they’re charged £100 to rebook a missed flight, though Which? said this is still likely to be cheaper than rebooking on the same day.