When Jacqueline Morgan arrived at Birmingham Airport two hours before her flight to Greece, she never thought she would be watching it take off from the departure lounge.
But huge delays at security meant that the office administrator, from Dudley in the West Midlands, and her friend, Shirley Halliday, were stuck in queues for two hours and did not make it to their gate until it was too late.
Jacqueline was one of more than 20 Ryanair passengers due to fly to Rhodes at 7am on May 6 who were left stranded because of disarray at the airport.
She says: ‘The crowds were massive — there were thousands of people in the queue at security. Staff told us no one would miss their flight while blocking us from joining the fast queue.’
Law: Airlines must provide compensation if your flight arrives at its destination more than three hours late
After missing her flight, the 62-year-old was assured by airport staff that she would be reimbursed if she booked a new flight.
But a month later, she is still waiting for a refund of more than £800 for the new flight, train tickets to transfer to another airport and a hotel room.
A Ryanair spokesman said: ‘Due to security delays at Birmingham Airport a small number of passengers missed their flight to Rhodes on May 6. It is a passengers responsibility to ensure they are at the gate before it closes.’
An airport spokesman admitted that it is was the source of the delay, but denied compensation, telling customers to claim on their insurance.
Jacqueline is just one of thousands of passengers caught up in travel turmoil at Britain’s airports. On Monday, around 15,000 passengers were stranded after easyJet cancelled more than 100 flights due to thunderstorms.
As Britain braces for another summer of travel chaos, Money Mail explains your rights if you get caught up in it…
Can I claim due to queues at security?
If you miss your flight because of long queues at security, then it is unlikely you will be able to claim compensation from your airline.
These checks are carried out by the airport, which means your airline is not liable to pay compensation or refund you on this basis.
If you miss your flight because you do not get to the gate in time, then it is deemed to be your fault, according to Gary Rycroft, of law firm Joseph A. Jones & Co.
The airline is not obligated to provide you with a replacement flight and you will have to pay if you still want to travel to your final destination.
Get in touch with your airline if you think you might miss your flight because of a long queue. If enough passengers are caught up in this chaos, then there is a chance the flight will be delayed.
Some airlines will rebook you on to the next available flight for a fee. Ryanair charges customers who arrive at the check-in desk any time between 40 minutes before their flight’s scheduled departure time, to one hour after, a £100 fee per passenger to move to the next available flight.
Stranded: Jacqueline Morgan (right) and her friend Shirley Halliday missed their flight to Rhodes
But beware, this may exceed the cost of booking a new ticket.
At easyJet, you can pay a £110 ‘rescue fee’ to move to the next available flight if you arrive at the airport less than two hours after yours departed.
Virgin Atlantic customers who miss their flight will be booked on to the next available plane with the airline for free. You may be able to make a claim for missing your flight on your travel insurance.
Most policies will pay out if you arrive late to the airport because you were stuck in heavy traffic or your car broke down. Policies will list specific reasons you are covered for, so read the terms and conditions carefully.
Missed flight insurance is not usually included in standard travel policies, and only on offer as an add-on, says Rebecca Goodman, of price comparison site Comparethemarket.
As for the airport, your chances of claiming compensation are very slim, says Jo Rhodes, of consumer group Which?.
She says: ‘No large UK airport currently has a policy to compensate passengers in these circumstances. If you are in a long queue and worried you are in danger of missing your flight, it’s essential you speak up and make a fuss. Most airports will bring you to the front of the queue if your flight is departing imminently.’
What if the flight is late?
Under UK law, airlines must provide compensation if your flight arrives at its destination more than three hours late.
But there are exceptions to this rule. If the delay was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’, such as extreme weather or strike action, then don’t expect to receive any compensation, says the Civil Aviation Authority.
How much compensation you qualify for depends on the distance you were travelling.
Limited cover: Most insurance policies will pay out if you arrive late at the airport because you were stuck in heavy traffic or your car broke down
For short-haul flights of less than 1,500km (for example, London to Split in Croatia) you are entitled to £220 if you are delayed by more than three hours. For distances of 3,500km, such as Greece, it’s £350. Compensation for any further than this is £520.
During your delay your airline must provide food and drink, and accommodation if you are delayed overnight. If you are delayed by more than five hours and no longer want to travel, then you are entitled to a full refund.
But once you accept a refund, or do not move to the first available flight, then your airline is not required to provide you with food, drink or accommodation.
and if i miss my connection?
If you miss your connecting flight because of a delay during the first leg of your journey, then you may be entitled to compensation, but usually only if you booked both flights as a single booking, according to Citizens Advice.
You should contact the airline as soon as possible to reschedule your second flight. If you booked the two flights separately, then you may have to pay for another flight if you miss your connection.
This is because you failed to arrive for your flight within the recommended time, so will not be entitled to compensation from the second airline.
If you were delayed by less than three hours, then you also may not be entitled to compensation from your original airline, even if you missed your connection.
Some insurance providers will cover missed connections if the airline is not obliged to pay compensation, according to Ms Goodman. Check your policy to see if connections are included.
Sean Tipton, of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), says: ‘The best way to protect yourself when booking two flights is to do it through a travel agent. The two flights are then treated legally as one contract, so you can claim directly from the airline.’
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