If you’re going on holiday in the coming weeks and months, you’d be forgiven for despairing at the news at the moment.

Both airports and airlines are announcing cancelations of routes and flights as the industry struggles to cope with high demand and staff shortages. While there’s no easy answer to this situation, you do have rights if your flight is cancelled or delayed.

How does flight compensation work?

If your flight has been delayed or cancelled, you are entitled to compensation from the airline, though what you get depends on how long the delay was and the distance you are flying.

The flight must be delayed by more than three hours and the delay is counted from the time the flight is meant to arrive – not when it takes off. ‘Arrival’ counts as the point at which the cabin crew open the doors… not when the plane touches down.

The flight must take off from the UK or European Union or be from an airline based in these areas. Connected flights count, even if you switch to a non-EU airline half way through your trip.

The issue must be ‘within the control of the airline’. So storms and bad weather or airport and air-traffic control strikes don’t usually count. However airlines strikes are considered to be ‘foreseeable’ as are the recent staffing issues and cancelations – so you should be able to claim.

How much can you claim for?

The flight compensation rules have been brought in to UK law, so the only thing that’s really changed after Brexit is the amount you get has switched from Euros to Pounds. However, the compensation can be considerable. Compensation for delayed flights starts at around £220 for flights delayed for three hours or more traveling over 1,500km and goes up to £520 for flights delayed over four hours going long distance (over 3,500km).

If the flight is cancelled, you have a few options. You can either ask for a refund of the ticket or ask to rebooked on a replacement flight (either through your airline or a different one if no flights are available).

Then things get a little complicated! You are entitled to compensation if your flight was cancelled up to 14 days before departure and your replacement flight lands from two to four or more hours later that the original flight was scheduled – with compensation ranging from between £110 and £520 in total. MoneySavingExpert have a full guide here

If the flight is cancelled over 14 days before departure they still have to find you an alternative flight.

What if I’m stuck waiting for a delayed or cancelled plane?

I fully appreciate that finding someone to help you at an airport is something of a mixed bag at the moment. However, if you do find a member of airline staff who can help, here’s what you can ask for;

Food and drink vouchers are most commonly given – but only after a certain amount of time has elapsed. Even if the airline isn’t at fault, they should give you vouchers. Don’t get too excited though, they are rather limited and not for a huge amount. You should get the cost of making calls in relation to the situation too.

If you’re delayed overnight the airline should cover the cost of your hotel and getting there. They usually chose the hotel so don’t get too excited. If you are forced to book your own don’t go five star – think reasonably priced and ask the airline if unsure.

Keep all bills and receipts for the things you are forced to pay for while dealing with the situation. Why not photo them too, just to be sure?

How to claim compensation

You can make a claim to the airlines direct or using Resolver and MSE’s flight complaints tool here

If you still aren’t happy there are a number of dispute resolution schemes that your can go to. Just check with your airline to find out which one they are with.

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

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