Winter travel disruption: what are your rights?

24 December 2013

The blustery winter weather has resulted in trains being disrupted and possibly delays to flights. Here's your complete guide to your rights when your winter travel plans go awry.

Can I claim a refund if my train is delayed?

You can claim compensation for delays – depending on how long you have been delayed for. According to the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, train operating companies (TOCs) must issue refunds at a set minimum to delayed passengers (see below).

How much money will I get back for a delayed train?

According to those Conditions of Carriage rules, train firms only have to pay a part-refund if trains are delayed by over an hour. This minimum refund is: 20% of a single ticket (10% of a return, unless both legs were delayed. However, most TOCs pay more than this, with the standard refund being: a 50% refund for a delay of 30 minutes or more, double that for an hour delay or longer.

Most TOCs have a "delay repay" section or similar, at which you can apply for your refund quickly and easily. The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) lists every train company's website at

I've got a season ticket. Do I get a refund?

Yes, but season ticket-holders do not get the same refund as single ticket-holders. Instead, their refunds are calculated using the proportional daily cost of the price of their annual ticket. So what they get depends on price of their ticket. As an easy rule, season ticket-holders tend to get short-changed on refunds compared to single ticket-holders.

How do I get my refund?

If you can't claim online at your TOC's website (see above), you should be able to pick up a compensation form, at the ticket office. However, you MUST make a claim within 28 days of completing your journey or your claim will be invalid.

How quickly will my refund come?

Refunds can take up to a month to arrive. At the time of claiming, you can ask to receive your refund in the form of cash (only if you are obtaining a full and immediate refund) or in the form of rail vouchers, which can be sued with any train company. These last for a year from the date of issue, but the frustrating thing is that you cannot currently use them when booking journeys online.

I live and work in London. Can I claim for delayed tube travel?

Yes, if your journey is delayed by more than 15 minutes. Tube passengers are entitled to a refund of the fare for the single journey they were making (and applies to season tickets as well as single fares). London Overground passengers get the same refund but not until their journey is delayed by more than 30 minutes.

However, you've got to be quick – you only have 14 days to make a claim. Refunds can take around three weeks to arrive.

My flight is cancelled. What can I expect?

Flight compensation depends on whether or not the airline is at fault for the cancellation. In this case, you would not be entitled to compensation as the cancellations are caused by heavy fog and therefore out of the airline's control - airlines don't have to pay if there have been 'extraordinary circumstances' that were outside their control. However, you should still be offered a refund or another flight to your destination following the cancellation.

What are these extraordinary circumstances?

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, they include: bad weather; political instability; security risks; unexpected flight safety complications; strikes; and air traffic management decisions.

I thought a recent court ruling meant bad weather wasn't 'extraordinary'?

EasyJet lost a county court battle in September 2013, in a case involving a woman whose 2012 flight from Gatwick to Nice landed three hours and 12 minutes late due to bad weather. She was awarded £210 in compensation. However, EasyJet later argued this was not a landmark ruling that would open the floodgates to thousands of similar claims, because it was at county court level and therefore did not set any legal precedent.

My flight is delayed, so can I claim compensation?

Irrespective of the cause of the delays, if your wait is longer than four hours (two hours on some flights) after the original departure time, the airline must look after you. This includes: paying for your meals, drinks, accommodation if the delay is overnight, and keep you informed of what's happening with your flight. If your flight is delay more than five hours you are entitled to a refund.

I missed a connecting flight. Will I be looked after?

If flight delays or cancellations have caused you to miss a connecting flight at another airport, you should be covered by your travel insurance.

I thought an EU rule meant I could get compensation for delays or cancellation?

Under EU regulation 261/2004, passengers are entitled to compensation from the airline if a flight is cancelled or delayed - but, again, it doesn't apply to flights affected by bad weather.

If you were entitled to compensation, according to EU law, you would get:

  • from €250 (£210) for a flight less than 1,500km and delayed by more than three hours
  • €400 for the same delay for a flight between 1,500km and 3,500km
  • €600 for delays longer than four hours for flights further than 3,500km

Add new comment