LAWLINK – Can I do anything about missed connecting flights?

Airport departures timetable showing Delta and Alaska Airlines flights on time and boarding
Photo: Matthew Smith/Unsplash.

Q: We recently went on a holiday with our extended family. Some of the family travelled from Ireland, others from the UK, and some from Spain. We were all travelling to Greece. I arranged the flights and logistics, but unfortunately some of the family missed connecting flights – no fault of their own – and we had to rebook. This was expensive and some of them ended up missing one or two days of the hotel. Is there anything we can do?

Dear Reader,

There is an EU wide regulation regarding delayed or cancelled flights, known as EU regulation 261/04. Given the distance between Ireland or Spain and Greece, the protection under this regulation kicks in if you have been delayed for five hours or more.

In those circumstances, the airline is obliged to provide you with meals and refreshments. They should also offer you an option to cancel and refund your ticket.

Your entitlement would depend greatly on whether you booked a ‘through ticket’ or multiple tickets. If you had booked your flights on a ‘through ticket’ (one ticket from Dublin or Spain to Greece, a stop off in London, and no need to collect baggage and re-check in in London), the airline is obliged to get you onto a connecting flight, and to ensure that the full level of compensation for delay is paid.

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As the total distance you would be travelling is over 3,500 kilometres, each passenger should be entitled up to €600.

However, if you booked two sets of tickets in order to keep costs down, the airline is not responsible for missed connecting flights.

If the delay occurred on a shorter flight, the people who missed their connection would still be entitled to compensation, depending on the length of the connecting flight.

If the delay was caused by an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ which could not have been avoided, even if all reasonable measures had been taken (such as bad weather, air traffic controller strikes, etc.), the airline can refuse to pay them compensation. It’s worth noting, equipment failure is not regarded as being an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.

Unfortunately, the situation would be different for those people flying from the UK, as they are no longer entitled to claim under EU laws. UK laws do apply, but any people flying from the UK would need to check with their local lawyers.

If you have any trouble obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled, your solicitor can write to the airline and to the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

You or the people who missed the flights should also check with your travel insurance to see if any claim can be made therefrom.