The Icelandic volcano has recently been causing trouble again, with flights to the UK affected, so it seems like an appropriate time to review the rights of passangers who have their flights cancelled due to an act of God or ‘force majeure’. The major difference between ‘force majeure’ and other reasons for flight cancellation is that blame is not attributed to the airline and consequently there is no right to receive compensation.
Rights when flight Cancelled
- Airlines are obliged to inform passengers of the cancellation as soon as possible and to advise them of alternative routes on other dates or via other companies
- The passenger has the right to have the price of the ticket returned or be given a seat on an alternative flight
- There is no right to compensation in cases of force majeure such as is the case when flights are cancelled due to volcanic ash
- The airlines are generally liable for expenses such as an overnight stay in a hotel if required due to the placement of the passanger on a later flight
What to do if the airlines don’t comply
Should the airline not comply with it’s obligations in the manner outlined above a complaint can be made directly to the airline.
Also, European Union legislation allows for a request to be made directly to the relevant national organisation for compensation for denied boarding or a large delay (as defined by the legislation). In the case of Spain, the organisation is Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aérea (AESA).
The Civil Airline Authority has issued guidelines for passengers with regard to their rights in this scenario here: Flight Cancellations due to Volcanic Ash
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