Flight delay due to extraordinary circumstances. What does it mean?

So, your flight has been cancelled or delayed due to extraordinary circumstances. What does that mean and what should you do next? When used correctly this usually means that the reason of the delay or cancellation has been something out of the airline's control, like the weather has gone really bad and it isn’t safe to fly anymore, or, for example, something has paralyzed operations of the airport you are flying from.

What should normally follow afterwards is a message from the airline (in some form) explaining the situation and providing you with solutions or ideas as what to do next.

Extraordinary circumstances & flight delay compensation

What does extraordinary mean in this case?

When it comes to flight cancellation and flight delay compensations these are the exact words used by airlines globally to tell you that this time you aren’t entitled to compensation of any sort. Because it has not been the airlines fault that the delay or cancellation has occurred. What you should know, though, is that not always they are speaking the truth.

Because, hey, do you know what “extraordinary circumstances” means anyway? Are aircraft’s technical problems something extraordinary, something that isn’t airline’s fault? While you may think it is, often it isn’t. Since it’s not something that can’t be avoided. And so sometimes these words are used only to make it sound worse than it actually is and to make you believe that you aren’t entitled to compensation in this case.

Documents on the table next to a laptop

Another reason why it’s happening, is simply because Europe's Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 (EC 261), which is created to protect air passenger rights, does not specify what exactly falls under “extraordinary circumstances”. The explanation it gives:

“As under the Montreal Convention, obligations on operating air carriers should be limited or excluded in cases where an event has been caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Such circumstances may, in particular, occur in cases of political instability, meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, security risks, unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier” (Source: EU Regulation 261/04. Extraordinary circumstances.).

As a result there is a place for interpretation. And as it happens in such situations everyone wants to use it their favor.

List of extraordinary circumstances for flight delays

Unfortunately, but there is no one list list of extraordinary circumstances for flight delays you could refer to when flight disruption happens and you are directly affected by it.

As of August 2018, these are some of the most popular reasons why flights get cancelled or delayed and when you can’t claim compensation:

  • Extreme weather conditions;
  • Security risks;
  • Strikes (not all of them);
  • Political instability.

Are airline staff strikes considered extraordinary circumstances?

As this example with Air France staff strike in 2016 shows, not always staff strikes could be classed as extraordinary circumstances. Even though sometimes they really could be classed as such. Remember about it when something similar happens to you and do not hesitate to search for help if you aren’t sure whether you are being told truth or not.

Are you eligible for flight compensation or not in this particular situation you are right now - whenever you aren’t sure about it - contact us. We'll gladly help you.