Flight cancellations due to extraordinary circumstances

Natural disasters. Political instability. Or a global pandemic, after all.

When these things happen thousands, if not millions, of people are affected. Flights get delayed, re-routed and cancelled. When the situation is as serious as it is now, in 2020, when the world has been hit by Corona virus, there are a lot of additional uncertainties. Everyone’s worried. No one knows what to do, and what will happen next. However, one thing is clear.If your flight is cancelled because of that, the airline should handle this.

It’s their obligation. And there are very specific rules regarding these mishaps. The same rules apply to most of the situations. The same rules apply to most current flight disruptions due to coronavirus.

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Woman wearing a face mask

Your flight is cancelled. What are your rights?

In Europe the rules are very simple.

According to the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004:

  • if your flight is cancelled,
  • the airline should offer you either a new flight or a full refund.

The refund should be paid within 7 days to your bank account.

Here’s in an excerpt from the Regulation:

Article 5


  1. In case of cancellation of a flight, the passengers concerned shall: (a) be offered assistance by the operating air carrier in accordance with Article 8

Article 8

Right to reimbursement or re-routing

  1. Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall be offered the choice between: (a) - reimbursement within seven days (b) re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity

Re-routing in this case means a new flight (mostly).

And if it's a last-minute cancellation, in Europe you have the right to care.

Even when it isn't the airline's fault.

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Flight information screen at the airports

What if you aren’t offered a refund?

The airline may give you different options.

Change of dates or destination, are among the most popular options.

They may also offer you travel credit or a voucher.

It’s up to you to make a decision. You can agree to a new flight. You can change the dates or destination. You can also take coupons or travel credit. When the times are difficult for the airline or industry, this is how you can support them. But you should also remember, that these aren’t the only options. And it’s okay to ask for a refund.

If you don’t want / need any of these, you can ask for a full refund.

It’s their obligation to offer it to you in these kind of circumstances. No matter the reason of the flight cancellation. The refund should be paid by bank transfer. It should be done within 7 days. The rules are the same for full service airlines like Lufthansa, KLM and British Airways, and also for low cost airlines like easyJet.

The same applies to charter airlines and charter flights.

And it doesn't matter if you're a European or not.

Flight cancellations due to weather conditions

What are your rights in these situations?

What if your flight is cancelled, because it isn’t safe to fly?

The rules are the same.

You should still be offered a choice between a new flight and a refund.

No matter the reason of the cancellation.

Snow storm - Can't get flight compensation

Flight cancellations due to coronavirus

The rules are the same.

No matter the reason of the cancellation. Be it COVID-19 related travel restrictions, bad weather or a strike. If the airline cancels a flight, you should have an option to get a full refund.

Be prepared that it might take longer than usual and be harder to get the refund.

EU and non-EU airlines

There are differences between the two, when it comes to EU rules.

If it’s a EU or UK airline, it applies to all flights to and from Europe.

If it's a non-EU airline - flights from or within Europe.

That's right! In some situations you are under protection of the EU even when flying with non-EU / non-UK airlines like Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways. Learn more about your rights when travelling with non-EU airlines.

And if there are no extraordinary circumstances, if it’s just a regular flight cancellation, don’t forget to claim flight cancellation compensation.

Bon voyage!

By Europe and EU we mean all EU Member States, the United Kingdom (UK), Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion, Mayotte, Saint Martin, the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.