UK passengers unlikely to get compensation after US flights grounded

A computer outage caused thousands of flights to and from the US to be delayed and cancelled.

11 January 2023

UK airline passengers affected by the grounding of flights in the US are unlikely to be entitled to compensation, a consumer group has warned.

Which? said the disruption caused by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) computer outage which prevented pilots being sent hazard alerts would be considered outside airlines’ control.

This issue caused thousands of flights to and from the US to be delayed and cancelled.

Virgin Atlantic flight VS26 from New York JFK to London Heathrow was among those delayed.

Under UK consumer law, airline passengers are entitled to compensation of up to £520 for disruption caused by a problem under the control of the airline, such as a staffing issue or aircraft fault.

Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said: “If your flight to or from the US is cancelled because of the FAA computer outage and you are departing from the UK or EU, or travelling with an airline based there, you will be entitled to a refund or rebooking at the earliest available opportunity, including with other carriers if necessary.

“However, passengers are unlikely to be owed additional compensation as the outage is considered an extraordinary circumstance, outside of the airlines’ control.

“If you are significantly delayed, usually by two hours or more, your airline should also provide assistance including free meals or refreshments, or overnight accommodation if required.

Planes at LaGuardia Airport
Planes at LaGuardia Airport in New York (Seth Wenig/AP)

“If your flight is delayed by more than five hours, you have the same rights as if you had suffered a cancellation, and can request a refund or rebooking.”

A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said: “We’re aware of the FAA’s recent Notice to Air Missions system outage, and the ongoing effort to restore normal US airspace operations.

“We’re working closely with the relevant authorities and following careful assessment, continue to operate our schedule of US flights departing from the UK.

“Due to FAA restrictions, some US departures may be affected by delays and we apologise in advance to affected customers.

“We encourage customers due to travel today to check their flight status in advance at virginatlantic.com.”

British Airways said its flights were “continuing to operate as planned”.

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