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Gatwick chaos: can I claim compensation?

Written by: Danielle Levy
Festive holidaymakers currently face chaos at Gatwick airport, after drones flew over the runway and resulted in flight delays and cancellations on Thursday.

The airport has now re-opened after 33 hours at a standstill. However, airlines must now try to resolve the backlog of delays and potential cancellations.

If you have been affected, can you claim compensation?

Compensation is typically paid under European Union (EU) rules if a delay is the fault of the airline. However, as the closure of Gatwick airport on Thursday was beyond the control of the airlines, the view that has been taken is that no compensation will be paid.

This is because the flying of drones has been classified as an “extraordinary circumstance” by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Nevertheless, the airline is still responsible for making sure that passengers get to their final destination. Alternatively, they can offer passengers refunds for the original price of their air ticket.

Can I claim via my travel insurance?

Transport secretary Chris Grayling told the BBC that the government plans to talk to the insurance industry today to make sure they treat claims “reasonably”.

“This is something I would hope the insurance industry would take an enlightened view about,” he added.

Travel insurance policies will normally cover costs if a flight is delayed. For example, an extra night’s stay at a hotel. However, the responsibilities of an insurer in a rare situation like this are not yet clear. Individuals are typically required to tick a box to cover them for disruption when they apply for their travel insurance policy.

It is worth checking with your insurer to see if they will cover any costs you have incurred as a result of delays at Gatwick.

Is my flight affected?

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) advised customers who are due to fly imminently to or from Gatwick airport today to liaise with their travel provider and airline to establish if arrangements will be affected.

“Where flights have been cancelled customers will be entitled to arrange alternative flights with their airline, discuss other alternative travel options or get a refund. Customers booked on package holidays, which have been cancelled due to the disruption, will be offered a replacement booking by their tour operator or a full refund of the holiday cost,” ABTA explained in a statement.

The organisation added that no compensation is due as the situation is outside of the control of the tour operator or airline.

On a positive note, Southern Rail has said it will offer a full refund to passengers who were due to fly on Thursday. For holidaymakers who have chosen to fly from an alternative London airport, Southern Rail will allow pre-booked Gatwick airport tickets to be used to get to London Luton airport at no extra cost.

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