British Airways (BA) suffered another serious systems failure when a technical fault caused flight delays and the BA online check-in system malfunctioned causing chaos, delays and long queues for customers at Heathrow, Gatwick and London City.

This poses the question, what can you do as a casualty of a serious travel delay? Is the airline obligated to cover the cost of your flight and when does your travel insurance kick-in?

Fiona Macrae of Travel Insurance Explained gives advice on what compensation consumers are entitled to and how to claim:

What should you do if your flight is cancelled?

The first thing you should do is contact the airline you are flying with, as they should provide you with an alternative flight to take you to your destination.

What can you do if you have incurred additional costs due to the flight cancellation or delay?

Unfortunately, if you have to pay for additional expenses, such as missed excursions or accommodation that was not used, you may not be compensated by your travel insurance policy. This is because most policies do not provide the policy holder with compensation for pre-paid expenses. It is best that you check before purchasing a policy to see what you would and won’t be covered for.

Am I covered under my travel insurance policy if I miss my flight due to long queues at passport control/check-in?

Very few travel insurance policies actually cover missed departure and even less would cover missing a flight due to queues at passport control or check-in on your return journey.

Before purchasing a travel insurance policy it is important that you check if you would be covered for missed flights due to queues on both your outward and return journey.

When is a flight legally classified as delayed?

Usually if take-off happens two hours or more after the scheduled departure time.

What if the delay is longer than two hours?

If the delay lasts five hours or more, then the passenger can ask for the reimbursement of their full ticket price (provided they do this within seven days), regardless of the flight distance.

The thing to bear in mind here is that Regulation 261/2004 (which emanated from Brussels and is designed to provide compensation to passengers for delayed and cancelled flights in certain circumstances) only applies if you are flying with an EU company or departing from an EU airport.

If you are travelling to a non-EU country the airline must refund your ticket or try to provide an alternative flight, it does not have to provide refreshments but in this instance travel insurance would step in.

What happens if the airline cancels the flight?

Airlines have to offer a choice of either a refund of the ticket or an alternative flight. They will also have to pay some compensation.

What compensation is available to BA customers?

Regulation 261/2004 sets out the rules for compensation, which depends on the flight distance and the length of delay. All compensation is calculated in Euros.

  • 250 EUR for flights of up to 1,500km
  • 400 EUR for flights within the EU of between 1,500km and 3,500km
  • 600 EUR for all other flights

These amounts are reduced by 50% if BA can offer an alternative flight route to your final destination with a new scheduled arrival time that doesn’t exceed the original scheduled arrival time by:

  • Two hours for flights of up to 1,500km
  • Three hours for all flights within the EU of more than 1,500kmm and 3,500km
  • Four hours for all other flights.

If BA is unable to replace your flight, this is what you can claim for:

  • Up to 1,500km: 250 Euros
  • 1,500km to 3,500km: 400 Euros
  • Over 1,500Km and between two EU States: 400 Euros
  • Over 3,500km: 600 Euros

One way you can find out if your particular British Airways flight qualifies for compensation is by using a free tool such as refundme’s flight compensation calculator.