It seems that Brexit has dealt another blow to consumer rights affecting British travellers. The problem stems from a ruling made last year by the European Court of Justice, but just reported by the Independent.
It applies to travelers flying from a non-EU country to the UK on an EU airline and who are ticketed via a transfer in the EU. If that sounds unusual or complicated, it’s actually a fairly common occurrence that potentially applies to millions of passengers each year. Many people book to distant destinations with, for example, KLM, Air France or Lufthansa, take a short trip to Amsterdam, Paris or Frankfurt and transfer to their long-haul flight there. They then return via the same route. It is often one of the cheapest ways to travel to destinations such as South America or the Far East.
If your flight to the European country under EU membership was disrupted, delayed or cancelled, you can claim expenses (hotels and meals) from the airline and you may be entitled to compensation of up to £500. But the court ruling means that passengers destined for the UK will not have the same rights. This is due to our “third country” status that is created as a result of Brexit. (Only the return flight to the EU is affected, outbound flights are still covered as UK law continues to apply to the airline as the first flight is operated from a UK airport).
The relevant part of the ruling says that the Regulation establishing compensation rights “does not apply to a connecting flight booked under a single booking but consisting of two flights, both operated by a Community air carrier, if both the the airport of departure of the first flight and the airport of arrival of the second flight are in the territory of a third country [this includes the UK] and only the airport where the stopover takes place is located in the territory of a Member State.” In such cases, your claim against an EU airline will therefore not succeed in the European Court.
The good news is that compensation rules still apply to all international airlines operating direct point-to-point flights to and from Great Britain. To make a successful claim, the delay or cancellation must have been the fault of the airline and caused a delay of three hours or more beyond the scheduled arrival time. You are not normally entitled to compensation for delays caused by bad or extreme weather or air traffic control problems. However, you may be entitled to reimbursement of the costs of meals and accommodation if your flight is delayed one night.
The rules are a bit complicated, so check out our detailed guide here.
Expand your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US exclusive offer.