Are you affected by the air traffic control chaos? Here are your rights.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled on Monday when the UK’s air traffic control systems suffered a significant technical failure, stranding thousands of passengers.

And, with fears that the disruption will stretch far into this week, Britons who are currently abroad, as well as those wanting to travel in the coming days, will want to know what their rights are.

There is both good and terrible news. While you are entitled to some assistance, airlines are not required to compensate you for delays and cancellations due to the fact that these technical failures are categorised as “extraordinary circumstances.”

Airlines are required to keep customers comfortable in the case of a “significant delay,” with the Civil Aviation Authority defining what constitutes this level.

If a short-haul flight of less than 932 miles (1,500km) is delayed by two hours, you will be eligible for assistance. This time increases to three hours for trips of up to 2,175 miles (3,500 km).

For longer-distance flights, four hours or more is considered a significant delay.

This applies to all travellers departing from a UK airport, travelling back to the nation on a British or European airline, or flying into the EU on a UK carrier.

What are passengers entitled to?

In the event of a significant delay, airlines must give passengers:

• A reasonable amount of food and drink
• Refunds for the cost of two free phone calls, faxes or emails
• Accommodation for passengers stranded overnight
• Transport to a hotel – or their home

Of course, when hundreds of passengers require assistance, airlines may be unable to provide it in a timely manner.

As a result, the Civil Aviation Authority says impacted passengers have the freedom to make their own “reasonable” arrangements, but they must preserve receipts to be paid.

The word “reasonable” is important here, because if you book a five-star hotel or drink alcohol with your meals, you may not receive full compensation.

Passenger compensation

This is when the terrible news starts.

Normally, airlines are required to offer compensation if their planes arrive three hours late; however, air traffic control issues do not count because they are not their fault.

If you agree to take a later flight, the airline is no longer required to provide food, drink, or lodging while you wait.

If you decide to cancel your trip after five hours of delays, you are entitled to a full refund.

Transfer passengers who miss a connecting flight due to the delay of their first flight are entitled to a service back to their original departure point.

But things get a little more complicated for passengers on package holidays – especially if they decide not to travel on a delayed outbound flight.

The CAA’s guidance says: “You may lose your holiday too, so we recommend you contact your package organiser or the airline for further information.

“If you still want to travel then your airline must get you to your destination. You might have to be patient while they rearrange transport and rebook passengers, but the law says they must get you there.”

Many travellers end up booking their flights, hotels and excursions separately – and if you’re unable to cancel your accommodation or activities, you may be able to claim back on your travel insurance if it’s a comprehensive policy.

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