Travel writer and consumer expert Adrian Mills has said that anyone affected by the drone sightings at Gatwick airport should keep all their receipts, even if it is being classed as an exceptional circumstance.
The EU law on flight compensation describes 'extraordinary circumstances' as situations where delays or cancellations have been caused by things that are not the responsibility of the airline. This means passengers are not entitled to compensation.
Mr Mills explained the current situation at Gatwick airport and what passengers can do next.
He told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer: “The fact that they are saying it is an extraordinary circumstance – yes, it is an extraordinary circumstance – but it is so annoying that they have this wriggle room to get out of it. What that means is there will be no compensation.
“This is a logistical nightmare – it is like a jigsaw that has only got a few pieces to put it and then someone has shaken it all up and you can’t find anything.
“It is bigger than that as well because if you have booked a holiday and you are going to be picking up a hire car or a hotel booked at a destination, there will be no compensation for that either.”
Mr Mills explained that unless passengers have “top dollar insurance”, the insurance companies will “find a way to get around it”.
He added: “The one thing I would say is that if you are thinking about your insurance and your airline, and they are not doing anything for you – keep every single receipt you have. But, an insurance policy will not pay out if you decided that you cannot fly out of Gatwick so you book into the Savoy and a ten-course meal.”
'A duty of care'
An information board announces flight disruption at London Gatwick Airport after drone sightings.
However, airlines do have a “duty of care”, Mr Mills said, so they are required to look after passengers and provide food, accommodation and alternative flights.
“This is very clear in the European passengers’ rules and regulations that it is actually down to each individual airline to sort out your flight and journey,” he said.
“It may well be that you have decided to continue with the carrier that you have booked with but unfortunately that means you are going to have to wait. They will book you on the earliest possible flight.
“Or, they have a duty of care to put you on another flight – they will look after you, that is what is supposed to be happening. They are there to give you meals, accommodation, and a voucher to use in the airport.”
However, Mr Mills said that currently there are no hotels within a 20-mile radius of Gatwick airport that have any rooms because airlines have booked them out.
He added that if your airline refuses to help you, you can complain to the Civil Aviation Authority about how you were treated.
“If your airline turns around to you and says ‘we are leaving you to your own devices, get on with it’ – then you can complain to the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) but this is going to take weeks and really tarnish your holiday,” he said.