Odd reasons for flight delays - what if it happens to you?

Flight delays

We're firmly into flight cancellation and delay season, as storms batter the UK and snow and high winds ground or divert planes. However, while reasons for delays will be fairly predictable this week, that's not always the case. Over the years there have been some truly bizarre reasons for flight cancellations.

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Here are five of the oddest:

1. Last year a flight from Liverpool to Malaga was delayed after a passenger spilt some orange juice after boarding. It somehow caused an electrical fault, which grounded the plane.

2. In 2015, a flight from Rome to Chicago was forced to land in Belfast after a passenger got irate when an air steward refused to serve him cheese and biscuits.

3. In 1982, planes in and out of Los Angeles International Airport were delayed when local man Larry Walters tied 45 helium-filled weather balloons to a patio chair and took flight - drifting into controlled airspace.

4. In 2011, a flight from Minnesota to Los Angeles was forced to land early after a toilet broke and started to smell so unpleasant that the passengers couldn't take it any more.

5. In 2011, a whippet that was being loaded onto a plane in Manchester Airport escaped. Ground staff tried to catch him, but it took so long that a dozen flights had to be delayed.

Your rights

If your flight has been delayed, then you may be entitled to compensation, as long as the delay is not caused by "extraordinary circumstances." Unfortunately this means that issues relating to things like the weather or security threats are not covered.

AirHelp points out that compensation may be due if the flight is delayed by more than three hours; it is cancelled, and you don't arrive at your destination within two hours of your original scheduled arrival time; or if you're denied boarding due to an overbooked flight which results in a delay of three or more hours to your final destination.

All flights from one EU airport to another are protected, anyone flying from any EU airport to a destination outside the EU is covered, and if you are flying back you are still covered - as long as you are with an EU airline.

Every year, despite the fact that 8 million passengers are entitled to this compensation, only 2% of people will file for the cash. However, it's well worth applying, because it can be a significant sum.

If you are flying over 3,500km, for example, then if your plane is cancelled, or you are denied boarding, you could receive up to 600 euros. Even if you are on a short-haul flight of less than 1,500km, your flight is cancelled and you get another one that lands within a few hours of your original arrival time, you could get 125 euros.

It's worth contacting the airline, or checking their website, and following the compensation procedures. It doesn't have to be hugely time-consuming or difficult, so you shouldn't be put off going it alone.

If your claim is initially rejected, or you aren't finding the time to make a claim, you can use a company that does the legwork for you. They may also take your case to court if needs be. However, you will pay a fee for the service (which is only payable if they are successful), so it's important to weigh up the pros and cons carefully.

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If you are a victim of a strike, or any other event beyond the airline's control (including ash clouds!), they must offer you a refund (in which case it's up to you to find a way home) or an alternative flight. While you are waiting for the flight you have the right to food and refreshment and accommodation.

If you are on a package holiday, your tour operator is entirely responsible for looking after you until you get back to the UK.

This is more likely to happen due to the financial crisis, but in some situations you are covered. 

If you pay by credit card and it's over £100, you'll get a refund from the card company. 

Your travel insurance may well cover you too, but check before you go.  

Talk to the airline, and if it is temporarily misplaced they should arrange for it to be sent to your accommodation, and you should be either given cash to cover the essentials in the interim.

If it's completely lost you must wait 21 days and then make a claim for compensation. If you are travelling as part of a package you can claim costs from your operator.

If you are travelling within the EU you need an EHIC card, which gives you access to public healthcare. However, this won't necessarily be free, and if you need extra services such as accommodation for a carer, a helicopter home or a delayed flight, you could end up seriously out of pocket.

The only protection that will guarantee you will be looked after without running up a horrendous debt is by having travel insurance - which often covers up to £10 million of costs.

The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing, followed by theft from a car and bag snatching. Meanwhile, 752,000 of those surveyed had items stolen from their hotel room or villa.

If you have anything stolen, your only protection is insurance. You need to tell the local police immediately and get a crime reference for your travel insurer.


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