Over a million air passenger journeys subject to a severe delay

Around 1.3 million air passenger journeys were estimated to be subject to a severe delay last year, according to new Which? analysis.

The consumer champion found that, in the year to June 2018, over 13,000 flights flying to or from UK airports were delayed by at least three hours. That is equivalent to nearly three and a half thousand passenger journeys a day.

Norwegian (2.4%) Thomas Cook (1.8%) and TUI (1.6%) had the highest percentage of severe long-haul delays. Thomas Cook saw the percentage of long-haul flights delayed by three hours increase significantly (from 1.1% in the year to June 2017) – with the latest figures revealing that over 7,500 passenger journeys could be affected.

Thomas Cook (1.2%), TUI (1.1%), and Saudi Arabian Airlines (1.0%) had the highest proportion of delays of at least three hours for medium-haul flights. The figures for TUI and Thomas Cook represent around 38,000 passenger journeys combined.

Icelandair (1.7%), Aurigny (1.6%) and TUI (1.4%) experienced the highest proportion of severely delayed short-haul flights. The Icelandic flag carrier has seen a three and a half-fold increase in proportion of three hour delays in the last year.Which? also found that the bulk of severely delayed flights could be attributed to Easyjet (2,618), Ryanair (1,868) and British Airways (1,668). Although the three hour delay rates of the airlines were close to the industry average, the high volume of passengers they carried still meant that more than 630,000 passenger journeys were severely delayed.

Under current EU regulations, passengers are entitled to compensation if delayed by more than three hours when flying from the UK or with an EU airline to an EU airport.

Passengers are entitled to between £220 and £360 compensation on short-haul flights, and up to £535 for longer flights, depending on the length of delay.

Airlines are only exempt from paying out if they can prove that the delay or cancellation was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’ such as extreme weather conditions or airport strikes. According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), industrial action taken by an airline’s own employees, such as the Ryanair pilot strikes that took place this summer, does not count as an extraordinary circumstance and passengers can claim compensation if a flight is severely delayed or cancelled for this reason.

Which? believes that it is time for airlines to start automatically compensating eligible passengers for delayed and cancelled flights, as the current process can be complicated and time consuming.

This can lead to passengers turning to claims management companies to handle their compensation claim – but previous Which? research has found that these businesses can take up to a 40 per cent of pay-outs.

Until automatic compensation is introduced, passengers can use the Which? guide to make a claim: which.co.uk/flightdelays. This is a free tool, so people who successfully claim compensation won’t have to share any of their pay out.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:

“Severe delays can be a complete nightmare and totally wreck a long awaited trip abroad, especially if it means you’re stuck in an airport terminal for hours on end.

“Passengers are often entitled to compensation when airlines get it wrong. It is vital that automatic compensation is introduced across the industry so that people no longer have to jump through hoops to get what they are owed.”


Notes to Editors

  • These findings follow an analysis of Civil Aviation Authority punctuality data https://www.caa.co.uk/Data-and-analysis/UK-aviation-market/Flight-reliability/Datasets/UK-flight-punctuality-data/. We have included flight operators offering at least 1,825 flights per year, and included both arrivals to, and departures from, UK airports.
  • Figures exclude arrivals to the UK from non-EU based carriers as these passengers will not be covered by EU-261 consumer compensation protections. Note that EU-261 rules apply to delays on arrival at the destination airport, late departures from the UK June not necessarily result in an equivalent delay upon arrival.
  • Throughout this analysis, numbers of passenger journeys have been calculated by multiplying the number of flights by an average number of passengers per flight, which we estimated to be 102. This in turn was calculated by summing together visits abroad by UK residents, visits to the UK by non-UK residents, then doubled to account for departures and arrivals as per the ONS International Passenger Survey 2017, together with an adjustment for domestic passenger journeys, then dividing by the total number of flights from CAA punctuality data.
  • ‘Severe delays’ refers to delays of three hours or more. Some of these delays of three hours or more in June have been caused by “extraordinary circumstances” and therefore would not have been eligible for compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004. The number of flights delayed by “extraordinary circumstances” is not collected centrally.
  • Holidaymakers flying short-haul would potentially be able to claim €250 if they are delayed by more than three hours, while long-haul passengers could claim €300 if their plane landed between three or four hours late, or €600 if their flight was at least four hours behind schedule.

Press Release