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What Happens When Your Flight is Cancelled in the UK?

Flight cancellations can disrupt your plans, whether you’re travelling for business, pleasure, or returning home. In the UK, passengers’ rights in the event of a flight cancellation are protected under the UK261 Regulation, which ensures that travellers are treated fairly by airlines and can claim compensation or receive assistance. Understanding these rights can help you navigate the situation with less stress. Here’s what you need to know if your flight is cancelled in the UK.

Immediate Steps Following Cancellation

When you’re informed that your flight is cancelled, the airline typically offers two options:

  • Refund: You can get a full refund of the ticket price, including other flights from the airline that you won’t use because of this cancellation (such as return or connecting flights).
  • Re-routing: You can choose to be re-routed to your final destination at the earliest opportunity, or a later date convenient to you, subject to seat availability.

These options are mandatory for the airline to provide, regardless of the reason for the cancellation.

Right to Assistance

In addition to a refund or re-routing, you’re entitled to certain types of assistance while waiting for a re-routed flight. This assistance includes:

  • Meals and refreshments, based on the waiting time.
  • Two free telephone calls, emails, or faxes.
  • Accommodation and transport if you need to stay one or more nights or travel between the airport and the place of accommodation.

Compensation for Cancellation

Under the UK261 Regulation, you may also be eligible for compensation if the cancellation occurs less than 14 days before the scheduled departure date, depending on the following conditions:

  1. Timing of notification and the length of delay: The compensation depends on how far in advance you’re informed and the delay in your arrival at your final destination.
  2. Reason for cancellation: You’re entitled to compensation unless the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken (e.g., severe weather conditions, security risks).

Compensation amounts vary based on the distance of the flight:

  • Up to 1,500 km: £220
  • Between 1,500 km and 3,500 km: £320
  • More than 3,500 km: £520

To claim compensation, gather all relevant documents and file a claim through the airline’s official form or send an email. Then you can follow up on their response or seek legal advice as needed.

Tips for Managing Cancellation Situations

  1. Stay informed: Always check your flight status before heading to the airport, especially during adverse weather conditions or other events that could lead to cancellations.
  2. Know your rights: Familiarising yourself with the UK261 Regulation can help you to assert your rights confidently.
  3. Be proactive: Communicating promptly and effectively with the airline can help you manage the situation better.


Flight cancellations are never pleasant, but being prepared and knowledgeable about your rights can make a significant difference in how you handle the situation. In the UK, the UK261 Regulation provides a safety net for passengers, ensuring that they are compensated and assisted during such disruptions.