Why are Airlines Cancelling Flights? Compensation Possibilities

Flight Delay Extraordinary Circumstances

If you experienced flight disruptions it is natural to wonder why are airlines cancelling flights. Although airlines want to avoid flight problems as much as you do, it is often inevitable. Some flight problem reasons are considered extraordinary circumstances and as such, they exonerate the airlines from compensation obligations towards the passengers. However, many others are under airlines’ control and this is when you might be able to succeed with your claim for compensation. When you’re in doubt, we encourage you to check your eligibility here.

Because we know all this can be a confusing matter to the fellow travelers, today we will discuss the following topics:

  • Why are airlines cancelling flights & what are the most common flight disruption reasons?
  • Which of those reasons are considered extraordinary circumstances?
  • When can you file a claim for compensation?
  • How to file a claim for compensation?

Regulation (EC) 261/2004

Before we start, let’s introduce the Regulation (EC) 261/2004. It is an EU law which protects passengers’ rights in the field of air transportation. Under this regulation there are three flight problems which cause serious inconvenience to the passengers. Those are: flight cancellation, flight delay and denied boarding. This Regulation also discloses potential flight problem reasons and lists those which fall under extraordinary circumstances. We thoroughly discuss these in the next section. However, in order to succeed with a claim for compensation in any of these cases, several preconditions need to be met first.

Firstly, for the Regulation (EC) 261/2004 to be applicable the flight needs to depart from an airport located in one of the EU member states. Further, Regulation also applies to departures from third countries to the EU member states if the flight was operated by an EU carrier.

  • With regards to the flight cancellation, you can hope for compensation if the airline didn’t inform you about it on time.
  • In case of a flight delay at arrival, it must exceed three hours for you to be able to claim for compensation.
  • When you are denied boarding, to succeed with your claim you mustn’t volunteer to be dropped from your flight and there shouldn’t be a valid reason for denying you to board the plane.
  • If you also had a reservation for the flight in question and showed up on time for check-in, congratulations, the Regulation applies to you and you can continue building your case.

For further information about your rights, jump quickly over here.

Why are Airlines Cancelling Flights?

Now when we got that out of the way let’s dive into the 11 most common reasons for airlines cancelling flights. Here we will also explain which of them can be considered extraordinary circumstances and for which you can demand your compensation.

1. Drone Activity – Extraordinary Circumstance?

“Drone activity is out of airlines’ control…”

airplane problem cause by drone

Life is short – eat a dessert first. Or in this case, life is short – start with one of the most peculiar flight cancellation reasons first.

If this is one of the last flight problem reasons you could think of, then we are spot on. However, you might remember the latest hassle with the drone activity around the London Gatwick airport. This particular one resulted in around 1 thousand cancelled flights. In addition, two suspects were arrested and there are some obvious good reasons for it.

Firstly, if you notice a drone flying around an airport, you can expect for the whole airport to be shut to down for several hours or even days. Why? Safety, security, damage prevention, you name it! In such situations it is logical for the authorities to wonder about the “driver’s” intentions.

Secondly, with drones getting more advanced, they are also becoming more able to cause serious damage to aircrafts. Naturally, the greatest risk exists during an aircraft’s takeoff and landing when they are the nearest to the ground.

Sadly, if you find yourself in such a situation, you most likely won’t have any luck with your compensation claim. Drone activity is out of airlines’ control and it has a reserved spot on the list of extraordinary circumstances.

2. Poor Weather Conditions

If you’re wondering about compensation in case of airlines cancelling flights due to bad weather, here’s a poem for you:

Sunny day – no delay. Stormy sky – airline’s alibi.

Flight delay cause by weather

The power of nature is one of the flight problem reasons we can’t influence much and airlines are not an exception. Therefore, if the weather sucks and you notice many flights stranded on your airport, you’re dealing with extraordinary circumstances. However, airlines still need to prove that they could not have avoided such an event by any means. For your own peace of mind, you can study the countries with the worst weather in Europe before your next trip.

In addition, check out here what to do when bad weather leads to cancellation of your flight.

3. Airlines Cancelling Flights due to Waiting for Crew

“…they can’t take on a flight from Barcelona to Rome before they get to Barcelona from London first.”

Flight Delay Extraordinary Circumstances

Pilots are cool. Period. These guys operate 80 tons heavy aircrafts, 10 km above the ground, with an average speed of 700 km/h. Moreover, they are usually responsible for hundreds of lives. They also have a good-looking cabin crew following them around and seeing to passengers’ needs. Yet, they are all just a piece of one big puzzle and most often the very last one.

For instance, they can’t take on a flight from Barcelona to Rome before they get to Barcelona from London first. They also can’t leave the first plane to reach the second one before there are no more passengers on board. Extra waiting time is money out of their pocket too. If this makes you feel compassionate, check out a real pilot’s confession here. More importantly, if you’re wondering about filing a compensation claim in this case – you’re clear for takeoff. Period.

4. Waiting for Passengers

If you slept through your 6 AM alarm and your flight eventually leaves without you, its compensation bye-bye. However, if your airline decides to wait for certain passengers and you arrival is delayed longer than three hours, it’s compensation hi-hi. In this light, for this reason your flight will most likely be delayed rather than cancelled.

Nevertheless, delays that occur on account of this kind of flight problem reason are under airlines’ control and as such cannot make it on the list of extraordinary circumstances that would free them from their obligations towards passengers. Therefore, don’t wait any further, verify your right to compensation now and keep in mind that you can succeed with one even for the flights up to 3 years old.

5. Waiting for Baggage

You might not be aware of it, but your baggage needs to travel through seven kingdoms to arrive from check-in to your airplane. It’s true – check it out below.

Mystery Nine; Published on Aug 20, 2015
“This Is What Happens When You Check Your Bags At The Airport”

Still, if out of all flight problem reasons yours was related the baggage delivery, feel free to file a compensation claim here.

6. Are Airlines Cancelling Flights due to Strike?

“…airlines most likely won’t let this one go easily, which in our minds is never a reason not to fight it out.”

There is no question about it, strike is a legitimate way for workers of any industry to fight for their rights. Although they aim at upgrading their contract conditions, it is the users of the service in question that often endure the consequences of such actions as collateral victims. We already wrote about this in one of our blogs regarding the most recent SAS pilot’s strike.

All you need to know in the event of a strike is that the “airport staff strike” enables the airline to deny your compensation claim, while the “airline staff strike” doesn’t. Yet, airlines most likely won’t let this one go easily, which in our minds is never a reason not to fight it out.

7. What about Problems regarding Airports?

“Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle and Schiphol airport had more than 220 million passengers in 2018 alone.”

flight problem regarding airport

Think about doing the groceries in a crowded supermarket with one or two cash registers up and running. It’s not that bad if you’re not in a rush, but if your family has already set the table for lunch, consider yourself delayed.

It’s similar with airports. Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle and Schiphol airport had more than 220 million passengers in 2018 alone. It’s the 21st century and we travel by air more than ever before, while airports suffer from limited passenger, airline and cargo facilities. Expanding is easier said than done as it requires huge areas of land and funding. Thus, for your own convenience, we advise you to get familiar with Europe’s best and worst airports.

Regarding your right to compensation, the situation will always have to be analyzed in a case-by-case manner. For example, as already explained above, if the airport staff went on strike, it is something that an airline cannot do much about. On the upside, if your flight is delayed due to the slow boarding procedure, you will most likely be able to succeed with your compensation claim.

8. Air Traffic Control

“If there is heavy traffic in the airspace of the country in question, they will delay every aircraft on the ground – no questions asked.”

Flight Delay Extraordinary Circumstances

This is one of the most common reasons for airlines cancelling flights!

You know those big towers situated next to airport runways? Well they might seem silent and spooky but the people inside them have pretty important jobs. They are called air traffic controllers and they monitor and direct aircrafts on ground and in airspace. Why? To prevent collisions, organize the flow of air traffic and provide information and other kind of support for pilots. We like to call them “sky judges” as their word is always final.

If there is heavy traffic in the airspace of the country in question, they will delay every aircraft on the ground – no questions asked. Eventually, your flight might even get cancelleld for it. Some flight problem reasons for it will usually be – congested air traffic or lousy weather conditions. Either way, you will hardly triumph with your compensation claim if “sky judges” decided for your plane not to fly. On the bright side, if you ever wish to spend the night in one of the air traffic control towers, no problem.

9. Technical Issues

This one can appear as a tricky one, but it’s really not. Aircrafts are in essence big machines and machine parts have expiration dates. If it’s your car we are talking about, it’s no biggie, you’re only a few clicks away from your Uber driver anyway. But a technical defect of your aircraft can easily mean that you are about to miss an important business meeting or a long awaited family trip.

Thus, next time this happens keep in mind the two following things.

  1. Technical defect falls under extraordinary circumstances only if it didn’t have anything to do with the usual maintenance activities and if it was absolutely beyond the airlines’ control. Think of acts of sabotage or terrorism. In those cases, airlines are exonerated from any compensation obligations towards passengers.
  2. In cases attributable to the usual maintenance activities – technical defect is not an extraordinary circumstance and there is room for compensation.

10. Catering

If you’re an economy traveler, here’s what you’ve been missing out in the business class food wise. Although Gordon Ramsey strictly avoids eating airplane food, someone still needs to get it on board and serve it to hungry passengers.

Nevertheless, with these systems there is always a chance for mistakes and serious delays. In those situations you can file your compensation claim and spare some room for hope in the positive outcome.

11. Bird Strike – Flight Delay Extraordinary Circumstances?

Flight Delay Extraordinary Circumstances

Finally, in 2017 European Court of Justice has solved the dilemma regarding bird strike as one of the flight problem reasons by making it a part of the list of extraordinary circumstances. The decision was justified by clarifying that airlines would have to go out of their way to avoid these situations. Therefore, don’t count on compensation for it.

How to file a Claim for Compensation?

So far you’ve got more familiar with the possible flight problems, flight delay extraordinary circumstances, and compensation possibilities. In the last section, we will discuss how to actually file a compensation claim for your problematic flight.

For starters, if you are unsure of your position, short with time for exploring the rules, and/or insecure about contacting the airline yourself – you can let Claimdon do it for you. Acquiring a compensation that is rightfully yours can easily turn to a very exhausting battle. Yet, we are equipped with knowledgeable and experienced specialists with many successful cases behind them. Moreover, we have a small army of happy clients to confirm it. If you decide to get in touch with us, we are always open to answer any of your questions. Furthermore, on our website, you can quickly check if you’re eligible for compensation. If our online system gives you an answer like the one below, CONGRATS!

Now you’re only left with submitting your claim and getting back to your life while we fight the airline for you.

Secondly, against all odds, you can decide to do the whole procedure yourself. If you do this, there is a couple of things we would like you to keep in mind. First of all, trying to convince an airline of your rights is most often a matter of negotiation. Thus, it is preferable to brush up your writing and argumentation skills.

Furthermore, get up to date with all the rules and regulations which you can base your arguments on.

Some airlines will comply with the rules and some will do everything to mislead you, hoping that eventually you will give up. There is not much you can do about this, other than doing exactly the opposite – not giving up. Therefore, the advice here is to be persistent. In case that an airline disregards all your efforts, you can always reach out to the competent authority.

In summation, remember that in case of numerous flight problems, your rights are significant. Likewise, on many occasions you’ll be able to file a claim for compensation and most of the times you’ll be able to do it within 3 years of your flight. Therefore, stay tuned for more lessons like these and may the force be with you.


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