Expect turbulence if your flight is delayed after Brexit

by Joel Baccas | 09.01.2019

Passengers at Heathrow yesterday will have been filled with dread at the news of drone sightings over the airport, fearful that they were about to enter the same nightmare that hit Gatwick travellers over Christmas.

In the end, flights were only delayed for about an hour. But this new drone worry highlights one of the many benefits of EU membership: better protection if your flight gets delayed or cancelled.

EU Regulation 261/2004 establishes common rules across the bloc for providing compensation and assistance for passengers who are denied boarding, have a cancelled flight or are delayed. It’s a great example of how bringing 28 countries together in a single market can bring real benefits in cross-border situations, like air travel.

These rules apply to any:

  • passengers departing from an airport located in an EU member state;
  • passengers flying from an airport located in a non-EU country to an airport located in an EU members state – but only if they are on an airline licensed in the EU, and unless they were given compensation or assistance by the non-EU country from which they departed.

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These passengers benefit from certain rights under EU law, including:

  • the right to compensation;
  • the right to reimbursement or re-routing;
  • the right to care, with special attention given to people of reduced mobility or unaccompanied children.

What’s more, flight operators cannot “contract out” of the regulation to lessen their obligations if delays or cancellations do occur.

So what happens if we leave?

As far as the EU is concerned, after Brexit the UK will be a “third country”. That means, unless a separate agreement is included in any future trade deal, UK passengers will lose their current rights when flying from a British airport to the EU unless they’re on an EU airline.

However, the EU Withdrawal Act which the government passed this summer means that EU flight rules will be carried over into UK law. But rather than being protected by the EU, these rights will be subject to the whims of any future government. If that government is made up of hard-right Brexiters you might expect this “burden” on UK airlines to be axed in a frenzy of deregulation.

Nobody voted to have their consumer rights eroded by Brexit. Now facts such as these have come to light, the people deserve to have the final say on Brexit in a new vote.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe