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Dubai airport disruption: Here’s what to do if you’ve been affected

A man carries luggage through floodwater caused by heavy rain while waiting for transportation in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Thursday
A man carries luggage through floodwater caused by heavy rain while waiting for transportation in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Thursday Copyright Christopher Pike/The AP
Copyright Christopher Pike/The AP
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Whether you've been affected by Dubai flight cancellations or a victim of disruption elsewhere, here’s how to make sure you get the compensation you’re entitled to.

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Following days of chaos at Dubai International Airport, the head of Emirates Airline has published an open letter, offering his “most sincere apologies to every customer who has had their travel plans disrupted”.

Severe and unprecedented flooding has caused more than 1,000 flight cancellations, with hundreds of thousands passengers stranded.

Many other arrivals and departures to and from the airport have been hit by diversions and long delays.

Emirates is the largest airline to fly from the hub and its president, Sir Tim Clark, wrote: “We know our response has been far from perfect. We acknowledge and understand the frustration of our customers due to the congestion, lack of information, and confusion in the terminals.”

“We acknowledge that the long queues and wait times have been unacceptable,” he added.

What is the current situation at Dubai International Airport?

On Friday, a 48-hour capacity limit on arrivals was imposed at Dubai Airport in a bid to limit crowding and clear some of the stranded passengers.

While Emirates was forced to temporarily suspend check in and arrivals at its hub, it has opened up most operations as of Monday.

However, many travellers are still stuck thousands of miles from home after 12 flights set to arrive on Saturday were cancelled.

Cancelled inbound flights to Dubai included journeys from Australia, India and South Africa.

Usually, around 250,000 passengers travel through the airport on a daily basis but tracking service Flightradar24 announced that, by 3pm CET on Thursday, some 1,145 flights had been cancelled. That’s one third of the normal schedule.

Dubai authorities say there is still a backlog of passengers’ baggage building at the airport, despite the resumption of many flight routes.

What are your rights if your flight is cancelled?

If you have been affected by the disruption at Dubai airports, there are two avenues to claim compensation as well as a new flight.

No matter which country you are travelling to, from or though, airlines should keep passengers informed and provide food and accommodation (if the delay necessitates an overnight stay).

If you’re coming from or going to an EU destination, passenger rights mean that if your flight is delayed for two hours or more at departure, the airline must offer you care including meals, refreshments and, if necessary, accommodation.

If the delay means that you arrive at your final destination more than three hours late, you may also be entitled to financial compensation. The amount is based on how far you are flying.

If your flight arrives in the EU from Dubai and is operated by an EU airline, or if it departs from the EU to Dubai and is operated by any airline, EU air passenger rights apply.

However, if your flight is not EU-regulated, you won't be covered by the UK/EU flight delay compensation scheme.

However, most airlines have a contractual obligation to offer passengers a choice between a later flight, alternative transport or a refund under the Montreal Convention.

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Check if the Montreal Convention covers your airline, as you might be able to claim for any losses caused by a delay.

Whether or not you are covered by it, it’s worth scanning the Terms and Conditions of your travel insurance policy as it may also offer limited coverage for delays.

Happier times: Emirati men stand in front of an Emirates' Airbus A380 double-decker jumbo jet at the Dubai Air Show in Dubai in November 2023
Happier times: Emirati men stand in front of an Emirates' Airbus A380 double-decker jumbo jet at the Dubai Air Show in Dubai in November 2023Jon Gambrell/The AP

What happens if an airline can’t fly you home the same day?

When a flight delay necessitates an overnight stay, the airline must arrange and cover the accommodation cost for passengers, as well as transportation to and from that accommodation.

If you need to make your own travel and accommodation arrangements in the event of a flight cancellation or long delay, the airline should refund reasonable costs.

It’s crucial that you retain copies of all receipts as well as booking the cheapest alternative ticket and hotel available so that the airline can facilitate your claim.

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What happens if your flight is delayed for two or more hours - but not overnight?

You are entitled to assistance such as food vouchers if your flight is delayed by more than two hours.

If your flight arrives more than three hours late, you're also entitled to compensation if the airline is at fault due to events such as technical difficulties or overbooking.

Flight delays can be stressful - here's how to make them more tolerable
Flight delays can be stressful - here's how to make them more tolerableCHUTTERSNAP via Unsplash

Passengers can also get a full refund if they are delayed by more than five hours and no longer want to travel.

You're unlikely to get compensation if the delay was because of something outside the airline's control, for example, bad weather or a security risk.

However, if the weather is deemed to be ‘extreme’ - as was the case in Dubai - the situation changes and you are able to claim compensation.

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In the event of a flight delay which airlines accept responsibility for, you will be provided with means of communication, such as access to phone calls or emails, to inform passengers about the delay and their rights.

Passengers can also choose between rebooking on an alternative flight or receiving a refund in situations where there are long delays.

For any other payments made by travellers while delayed, the Civil Aviation Authority advises people to keep receipts and only spend what is necessary.

Here’s how to claim compensation the correct way

In case of delay or cancellation of a flight, you should claim compensation directly from the airline rather than using an online flight compensation service.

Third parties are entitled to take a percentage of your claim amount in exchange for their services - meaning you'll get less money.

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Search your airline's website or call their customer services department to get more information on what compensation you're entitled to.

While you can claim cash compensation in some circumstances, this doesn't apply when cancellations or delays are attributed to 'extraordinary circumstances' - things that are beyond the airline's control, like the extreme weather seen in Dubai.

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