What you're owed if your flight was cancelled due to UK airspace chaos

Have YOU been caught up in the travel chaos? What to do if your flight is delayed or cancelled due to the UK air traffic control IT failure – and what help airlines MUST give you

  • Thousands of travellers saw their flights grounded or cancelled on Monday 
  • This was due to a ‘technical issue’ that hit Britain’s National Air Traffic Service
  • READ MORE: Should we have 5G on planes? Travel expert talks pros and cons

Britain’s National Air Traffic Service (Nats) faced a serious ‘technical issue’ for several hours on Monday, causing mass disruption to flights in UK airspace.   

Thousands of travellers saw their flights grounded or cancelled on one of the busiest days of the year for air travel to and from the UK – and the shockwaves from the IT failure are still being felt. According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, five per cent of all departures and arrivals for Tuesday have been cancelled – or around 280 flights.

Have you been caught up in the chaos? Here we reveal everything you need to know, from whether you’re owed compensation to the help airlines must give you.


First things first – check the status of your flight.

Britain’s National Air Traffic Service (Nats) faced a ‘technical issue’ for several hours on Monday, causing mass disruption to flights in the UK airspace. Above are disrupted passengers at Belfast International Airport on Monday 

Nicky Kelvin, Editor at Large at The Points Guy, says: ‘There will be significant disruption over the next few days following yesterday’s air traffic control network-wide failure. My advice to travellers is to check your flight – by checking airport arrival and departure boards online and your airline’s website to ensure that your flight is still proceeding as normal.’ 

He continues: ‘Keep an eye on your emails too. Travellers are often given updates on cancellations here before anywhere else.’

Sharing an ‘expert travel hack’, Nicky recommends looking at Flight Radar 24, ‘which allows you to track the exact aircraft that will be flying your route’. 

He explains: ‘You’re then able to see where this plane is and whether it has made it out of its previous destination. Knowing this information will help you to determine whether you will be encountering any delays ahead of your trip.’


As the flight disruption was caused by an air traffic control issue, a scenario classed as an ‘exceptional circumstance’, airlines are not required to give passengers compensation.

What is an extraordinary circumstance? ‘This is when something out of the ordinary and out of the airline’s control causes the delay or cancellation,’ Which? explains. ‘You are not entitled to compensation for a delay or cancellation caused by an extraordinary circumstance.’

People wait near check-in desks at Gatwick Airport on Monday. Airlines are not required to give passengers any compensation for cancelled or delayed flights, as the disruption is due to ‘exceptional circumstances’


Angela Carter, Legal Director for England and Wales at WorkNest, explains: ‘If an employee is stuck in a different location due to flight delays or cancellations and they are unable to work they won’t be entitled to be paid unless for some reason their employment contracts contain provision to be paid if they are unable to attend work due to circumstances outside their control, but this is very rare.

‘If the employer and employee agree, and assuming the employee has not exhausted their holiday entitlement for the year, this could be taken as holiday in order to be paid. If the employee didn’t have any holiday to take or didn’t want to use holiday to cover the absence, then it would be treated as unpaid leave.’ 

She continues: ‘If an employee is able to – and has the equipment to – work productively remotely then this is something which could be agreed with the employer and they would then be paid as normal. However, it would be for the employer to take a view as to whether the employee is properly equipped and able to work remotely from abroad.’

However, if you’re held up for two hours or more, you’re entitled to assistance if you’re flying from the UK or EU or with a UK or EU airline, Which? explains.

Which? Consumer Law expert Lisa Webb says: ‘Although air traffic control issues are classified as “extraordinary circumstances” and passengers will not be entitled to compensation, airlines should be doing all that they can to keep their passengers up to date on the situation, supporting them on the ground with food and accommodation and doing their best to get them to their destination as soon as possible.’ 


Airline passengers delayed by two hours or more could be entitled to assistance such as two free phone calls or emails, free meals and refreshments, free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers, Which? reveals. 

When the right to assistance kicks in depends on how far you fly. 

Short-haul: Passengers flying up to 932 miles (1,500km) with a delay time of at least two hours are entitled to assistance.

Medium-haul: Passengers flying between 932 miles (1,500km) and 2,175 miles (3,500km) with a delay time of at least three hours are entitled to assistance.

Long-haul: Passengers flying more than 2,175 miles (3,500km) with a delay time of at least four hours are entitled to assistance.

Delayed passengers who meet the above criteria can contact their airline or approach staff at the airport for further information.

Passengers whose flight has been delayed by more than five hours are ‘entitled to choose between being rerouted on a different flight or getting a refund’, Which? says.


Nicky Kelvin says: ‘If your flight has been cancelled, the airline should find you a new flight if you elect for that option. You can also request that the airline give you a flight on a rival provider if there’s a flight available that’s earlier than your original airline can offer. You don’t have to travel with the same airline.’ 

He continues: ‘The issue with this situation is that all airlines have been affected by these issues so trying to fly with different airlines may also not be possible.’ 

If flying is not an option, airlines will also cover train fares – such as TGV and Eurostar tickets – purchased as an alternative route to your final destination.  

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says: ‘If your flight is cancelled, many airlines are expected to provide vouchers for consumers to buy food and drink. If they require accommodation, they may book a hotel and arrange transportation for you.

‘Consumers can organise reasonable care and assistance themselves, then claim the cost back later. If you end up paying for things yourself, keep every receipt and do not spend more than is reasonable. Airlines are unlikely to refund you for things like luxury hotels or alcohol. Some will provide guidance on reasonable costs.’

Travellers in Gatwick Airport on Monday. Passengers whose flight has been delayed by more than five hours are ‘entitled to choose between being rerouted on a different flight or getting a refund’, Which? says


A traveller revealed to MailOnline Travel that her easyJet flight from Marseille to London Gatwick was cancelled at short notice today – and that there isn’t another easyJet flight from the city back to London until Sunday.

She said she could take a flight from Nice on Friday, but has opted instead to get back to the UK using high-speed TGV and Eurostar services on Thursday.

She said: ‘All the TGVs today and tomorrow [Wednesday] to Paris from Marseille are fully booked so I’ve booked one for Thursday. I’m supposed to be at work tomorrow, so taking a flight on Friday or Sunday wasn’t an option.’

When we put her situation to easyJet, the airline said that she is entitled to have her train fare reimbursed.

Which? explains that you should be able to claim for your train fare home and for your return train fare to the airport, or to an alternative airport, when flights resume.

It says that if trains have stopped running and ‘you need to get a £120 taxi home, your airline should still reimburse you’. Which? notes: ‘Often, the airline will prefer to organise taxis for you directly, so do try to ask a customer representative for the airline first where possible.’

The watchdog adds: ‘You should also be able to claim for petrol money if you drove, or a friend or family member drove you, home and back again. If this led to additional parking charges you should also be able to claim for these.’

The CAA says that it ‘would expect the airline concerned to respond to a claim for reimbursement in a reasonable time and at the very least provide you with an indication of how long you should expect to wait for a response’. It notes that if you are ‘unhappy with the length of time it is taking or disagree with the airline’s decision regarding your claim’ then you should follow the CAA’s guidance on making a complaint. 


As a knock-on effect of Monday’s disruption, more flights are being cancelled today (Tuesday, August 29). 

Ryanair said: ‘Today… passengers can expect some flight disruptions as we work to get our aircraft and crews back on schedule. We expect some flight cancellations and considerable flight delays today caused by this latest, still unexplained, Nats failure.’ 

And British Airways said: ‘Like other airlines operating in the UK, we are continuing to experience the knock-on effects of yesterday’s Nats Air Traffic Control issue, which includes unavoidable delays and cancellations. Customers travelling today on short-haul services can move their flight to a later date free of charge if they wish, subject to availability.’ 

While Tui said it had been given ‘no choice’ but to cancel ‘a small number of holidays due to the repercussions of the Nats system issues’. 

It continued: ‘Those customers impacted will be contacted by us directly to discuss their options, which include getting a full refund for their holiday. Our priority remains communicating directly with our customers and making sure they are looked after during this unexpected disruption. Customers travelling on Tuesday, 29 August, should travel to the airport as usual, unless contacted directly by Tui and told otherwise.’ 

Easyjet said: ‘While the majority of our flying programme is operating as planned today, the knock-on impact of yesterday’s UK ATC systems failure means that some flights this morning were unfortunately unable to operate. We notified customers in advance, providing them with options to transfer their flight for free or receive a refund to help them rearrange their plans.

‘While this is outside of our control, we apologise for the difficulty this has caused for our customers and we remain focused on doing all possible to assist and repatriate them as soon as possible at this very busy time of year.

‘We recommend that all passengers continue to check their flight status on our flight tracker for real-time information before travelling to the airport.’

Nicky Kelvin says: ‘For those that are able to postpone their travel, I would recommend doing so. Airlines such as British Airways are allowing passengers flying on short-haul flights today to change their flights, whether their flight is cancelled or not. You might therefore want to consider avoiding the chaos altogether if you can.’ 

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