The UK was hit with record-breaking temperatures yesterday causing travel chaos for rail and air passengers. Warnings were given to rail passengers on Wednesday to not travel if they can avoid it as speed restrictions on many lines and cancellations were imminent. National Rail were concerned that the extreme heat would cause the lines, particularly those that were recently laid, to buckle but it was the overhead cables that were an issue yesterday.

Damage to overhead cables, caused by the heat, meant passengers were stranded in London yesterday. Others were stuck on trains whilst workers attempted to repair the damage.

Delays are expected to continue today despite temperature dropping to a more bearable 23C.

Rail companies have said that passengers due to travel today can use their tickets tomorrow, and compensation is being offered to season ticket holders who have not been able to travel. Some annual pass holders will only receive compensation if they attempted to travel yesterday but were delayed. Terms will differ between companies so passengers are advised to speak to their specific rail company directly.

From scorching heat to severe thunderstorms. Yesterday evening saw a sudden change in weather conditions affecting passengers travelling by air. London’s airports were most affected with many flights being delayed or cancelled yesterday evening and in the early hours this morning.

Despite disruption to travel, airlines do not have to pay compensation. Adverse weather is classed, by the Civil Aviation Authority, as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ – an event which is outside of the airlines control.

Having said that, passengers are entitled to assistance from the airline. According to the Denied Boarding Regulation, airlines have a duty of care to provide delayed passengers with food and drink, refreshments, phone calls and overnight accommodation is necessary. The assistance available will depend on the length of delay as follows:

  • A two-hour delay for a flight under 932 miles
  • A three-hour delay for a flight over 932 miles, in the EU
  • A three-hour delay for a flight between 932 and 2174 miles, outside of the EU
  • A four-hour delay on any flight

If the flight is cancelled, airlines will need to either offer a full refund of any unused tickets or rebook passengers onto the next available flight – even if this means flying them with another airline. The assistance mentioned above may also be applicable.

Passengers who have taken out travel insurance may be able to submit a claim following delays and cancellations.

Most policies will offer a small amount of compensation to passengers affected by delays. This is usually per set period of time and up to a total amount i.e. £10.00 for every 12-hour period up to £100.00. Some policies will offer compensation for every 6-hour period, and the amount available will differ.

Travel abandonment may also be an option. Passengers who decide to cancel their holiday after a 24-hour or 12-hour delay, depending on the policy, will be covered for cancellation.

Both delay compensation and travel abandonment cover will only be available if the passenger checked-in on time and the airline had not already announced the delay or cancellation.