Did you know airlines are required to provide you with accommodation, food and refreshments when your flight is delayed or cancelled? Most people are not aware of their rights in the case of a flight disruption and end up paying for their hotel and meals out of their own pocket.
But it’s the airline’s obligation to offer you food and drinks and even provide you with a room if you end up stranded on an airport overnight.
We have compiled a detailed guide to assist you in enforcing your passenger rights which will help you minimize the unfortunate consequences of a flight cancellation or delay.
Make sure to check out our guide on how to claim flight delay compensation as well. It will give you great tips and guidance in case of a flight delay!
Flight Delay: Your right to meals and refreshments
The airline is required to inform you of your right to meals and refreshments (also known as right to care) every time your flight is delayed for more than two hours after the original scheduled time of departure.
Unfortunately, airlines often try to avoid accepting their responsibilities to passengers. This is why it is so important to know your rights.
When is the right time to ask for a voucher?
According to your passenger rights, the right to food and refreshments is inherent to passengers who have experienced a flight delay of over two hours or if their cancelled flight has forced them to wait for their alternate flight for longer than two hours. However, it is somewhat more complicated.
It may sound counter-intuitive but the time at which you are allowed to ask for a voucher depends on the length of your flight.
In case your flight spans a distance of 1500 km or less, then you can approach the airline and ask them to offer you food and drinks after the second hour of your flight delay.
It is hard to be exactly sure what the distance between the points of your departure and landing is. While this may be slightly simplifying things, a useful rule of thumb is that flights less than 1500 km would usually be shorter than two hours.
If the flight distance is longer than 1500 km but less than 3500km, then you can approach the carrier’s representative after the third hour. These flights usually take between two and four and a half hours.
Finally, for flight distances greater than 3500km, you can approach the flight attendants after the fourth hour. These are the services that in most cases take more than four and a half hours.
If you would like to be sure what the precise distance between your point of departure and your final destination, you can find out by using this great circle mapper tool.
"Feel free to go over the voucher amount but remember to keep your receipts."
What if the airline does not offer you food vouchers?
As mentioned earlier, even though airlines are required by law to provide you with a voucher, they can sometimes be negligent with their responsibilities.
This is why it is important to remember that even if you are not offered a voucher, you can take things into your own hands and purchase all the food and refreshments you need. The airline will be required to compensate you for your expenses.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you have to keep your receipts in order to prove the amount of your expenditures!
Unfortunately, bank receipts are not accepted.
In addition, you can take advantage of buying additional food and drinks even when the airline has given you a voucher. Feel free to go over the voucher amount but remember to keep your receipts.
And remember— you can also ask the airline for two free telephone calls!
"The airline is required to offer you accommodation for the length of your forced stay."
Accommodation in case of a flight delay or cancellation
If your flight is delayed or cancelled and you have to stay at the place of departure for one or more nights, you are entitled to accommodation and the airline is required to inform you of this right and to offer you a place to stay. In case they don’t, remember to approach them and to request from them to cover the costs of your room.
If the hotel that the airline offers you, is not close to the airport don’t worry about the expenditures to and from the airport. The airline is obliged to pay for transportation from the airport to the place of accommodation and back.
This also includes the cases in which you have to go back home and travel to the airport on the next day.
Remember that if your flight was cancelled for reasons other than bad weather, an airport strike or other extraordinary circumstances, you may be eligible for flight cancellation compensation.
How to persuade the airline that those are your rights?
The airline’s obligation to provide accommodation and refreshments is known in law as the right to care. If you need to make use of it, just make sure to mention Article 9 of Regulation 261/04 on air passenger rights to the airline representatives.
That should be enough to gain their respect!
When can I make use of the right to care?
The airline has to offer you food, drinks, and accommodation practically until you leave the airport on a flight to your final destination. It doesn’t matter whether the reason for the delay or cancellation is the air carrier’s fault or not.
If you feel in doubt, always remember that Ms McDonagh made a bill of more than 1000 EUR while stranded on an airport because Ryanair was unable to operate her flight due to a volcano eruption. Eventually, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Ryanair had to cover these expenses even though the eruption was hardly their fault.
Now that’s a source of inspiration!
You can also take advantage of your right to food, refreshments and accommodation in case of missed connection due to a delay of your inbound flight. If your tickets are on the same booking, then the airlines is required to provide you with meals and drinks for the period until the departure of your alternative flight.
What if I already paid for my meals and hotel?
As we already mentioned, if you have already paid for your accommodation and meals, it might not be too late to get your money back. If you are still in possession of the receipts you can always send them to us at SkyRefund via [email protected].
We will ensure that the airline pays you back for your expenses.