Gatwick drone chaos: What are your rights if your flight was affected?

Gatwick drone chaos: What are your rights if your flight was affected?
Copyright REUTERS/Toby Melville
By Emma Beswick
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Passengers travelling to and from Gatwick saw flights delayed and in many cases completely cancelled as the airport was shut for over a day. What are your rights if you were affected by the closure?


Gatwick Airport was brought to a standstill by rogue drones flying over its runway, with 120,000 people caught up in the incident.

Passengers saw flights delayed and in many cases completely cancelled as the airport was shut for over a day.

Euronews finds out what your rights are if you were affected by the closure?

EU Regulation 261/2004

This legislation applies to passengers:

  • Departing from an airport located in an EU member state;
  • Arriving at an airport in a member state from a country outside the EU, but using an EU carrier;
  • Whose flight has been delayed for over two hours or cancelled.

This regulation in EU law establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellations, or long delays of flights.

Airlines must provide refreshments and accommodation where appropriate.

It requires compensation of €250 to €600 depending on the flight distance for delays over two hours, cancellations, or being denied boarding from overbooking. Shorter delays mean a percentage of the full compensation.

However, in this case, compensation usually paid if delays are the fault of the airline will not apply as this is considered an “extraordinary circumstance” beyond the control of any airline, according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

More information for passengers affected by the disruption from the UK's CAA can be found here.

Food and accommodation

Under the EU Regulation 261/2004, airlines must provide delayed passengers with food and drink appropriate to the time of day and a means of communication or a refund of the cost of essential calls.

If delays last overnight, accommodation and transport to reach it, or to travel back home, must be provided by the airline. In cases where staff are unable to make bookings, passengers should make arrangements themselves and claim the money back. However, receipts are required for this and companies are unlikely to refund stays in luxury hotels where other options were available.


For flights that were cancelled outright, passengers are entitled to a refund of the cost of the flight or to be rebooked on another.

Despite this being an extraordinary circumstance, it is the airline's responsibility to get anyone with a ticket to their destination, unless the passenger accepts a refund instead.

For last-minute cancellations of flights from with EU airlines or from EU airports, airlines must provide overnight accommodation if required as well as food and drink — details of conditions and compensation can be found on the CAA website.

An airline's duty of care ends when a passenger accepts a refund for their ticket.

Delayed flights

Passengers with tickets for flights that are set to leave late will initially have to wait rather than be put on an alternative flight.

When delays extend longer than five hours, passengers rights become akin to those for cancelled flights — a refund or an alternative flight.

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