by Dean Dunham

The Summer holiday period will soon be here which will see tens of thousands of people jetting off on holiday. For most this will be a pain free enjoyable experience but there are others that will experience a ‘holiday nightmare’ from the moment they arrive at the airport.
It may be that your flight is delayed or cancelled causing you to lose valuable holiday time and in some cases causing you to miss a connecting flight. It is also not uncommon for luggage to be lost, delayed or damaged – how will this affect your holiday?
Alternatively, there could be a mix up with your seats on the airplane – your nominated seats not being available or you could be downgraded due to overbooking.
In any of these situations you will undoubtedly want to make a complaint to the airline and in some cases you will be demanding compensation.
Whilst many of the airlines are now very good when it comes to customer complaints many people are still left with no resolution at the end of their complaint due to the airline simply refusing to remedy the problem or agree that compensation is due.
This used to mean that you had to take your complaint to the Civil Aviation Authority or pay money to go to court, but all has now changed.
The Retail Ombudsman has just launched Airline Dispute Resolution which has been authorised by the Civil Aviation Authority to deal with disputes between passengers and airlines.
The scheme is free to passengers and follows a similar procedure to retail complaints processed by the Retail Ombudsman. It is therefore a quick and efficient route for resolving a complaint about an airline and you can be assured that your complaint will be reviewed on an impartial, fair and independent basis.
If you have cause to complain about an airline, put your complaint in writing to the airline first, via their customer services department. Make sure you provide all the necessary details, such as your flight number, date of travel and precise details of your complaint. You must then give the airline up to 8 weeks to resolve your complaint. If you do not receive a resolution you are happy with, take your complaint to Airline Dispute Resolution by logging on to or calling 0203 540 8063.
One of the most common complaints that the ombudsman will deal with is flight delay and whether compensation is payable.
The applicable law is known as the Denied Boarding Regulation and your claim depends on the length of your delay and the length of your flight.
You’re entitled to meals, refreshments, phone calls and emails if one of the following occurs: 
n a flight under 932 miles (for example, London to Venice) is delayed for at least two hours
n a flight within the EU that is more than 932 miles (for example, London to Athens) is delayed by at least three hours
n a flight that isn’t within the EU but is between 932 and 2,174 miles is delayed for at least three hours
n any other flight delayed for at least three hours
In addition, you are generally entitled to compensation if you’re delayed by more than three hours or your flight’s cancelled, if:
1. Your complaint is in relation to an EU flight (ie: where the flight departed from an EU airport, regardless of the airline OR where an EU airline landed at an EU airport – for the purpose of this rule Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are included).
2. Your flight arrived at its destination more than three hours late
3. The delay was the airlines fault
If the airline can prove the delay was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’, then no compensation is payable.
Extraordinary circumstances are situations beyond the control of the airline, for example, severe weather conditions, air traffic control or other applicable strikes, political instability all fall within this category whilst crew shortages and faults with aircraft are generally not included.
Dean Dunham is the Chief Ombudsman of both the Retail Ombudsman and Airline Dispute Resolution and is a barrister and solicitor-advocate. Both schemes provide free consumer dispute resolution in both the retail and aviation sectors and are approved by government. He is known on twitter as @deandunham.
For more information, go to: