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3 types of travel delays you can do pretty much nothing about

AuthorThe AirHelper

Not all travel travails are weighted equally. In some instances, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you could find some sort of compensation if your flight was delayed, canceled, or overbooked.

Yes, you read that right. A little known European law, EC261, states that you could get some cash back from the airline if any of these disruptions can be traced back to negligence on their part. It’s important to note, however, that the law is only applicable within EU member states and to EU air carriers.

The airlines can’t shoulder the blame for every single flight, however. The number of problems that can cause your flight to not run on time are endless and many of them are out of the airline’s control. Here are three instances that can’t be blamed on the airline.


No one has power over the weather. It’s one of the few things in life that there hasn’t been an app created for yet. Many airlines even have what they call an “Act of God” clause explaining why they are not responsible for various weather-related disturbances to their flight schedules.

Weather conditions are often unforeseeable problem that many have to deal with when flying. Minor weather conditions such as rain or sub-zero temperatures are unlikely to affect whether or not your flight will take off (though it may cause some turbulence along the way). However, inclement weather, including hurricanes, blizzards and sandstorms just to name a few, can often be unavoidable and lead to delays throughout the entire airport.

Depending on how bad the weather is, your flight could be delayed for hours or even days. Sometimes the airline will flat out cancel your flight. While frustrating, try to keep in mind that these decisions are not made lightly and are in your own best interest. If you are concerned about how this will change your travel itinerary, make sure to check the airline’s website in the hours and days before your departure to see if any weather warnings are in effect. If so, contact the airline to seek out any potential alternative flights.

Terrorist Attack

In the unlikely and unfortunate event of a terrorist attack, airline and airport staff will implement a crisis management plan that will ground most flights. This is, of course, due to several security procedures that are meant to protect the health and safety of everyone in the airport and the surrounding areas. Protocols during an emergency will cause a series of delays and cancellations.

However unfortunate the situation may be, terrorist threats and attacks are considered “extraordinary circumstances” under the law — meaning the airline has little control over it even if they have the necessary protocols in place. Any event listed as an “extraordinary circumstances” disqualifies any claim against the airline. While there is nothing you can really do in these situations other than to report any suspicious behavior, thankfully terrorist attacks are still very rare occurrences (terrorist attacks are not even listed as a cause for delay on the United States Department of Transportation’s website) and it is unlikely that you will face this on your travels.

Airport strikes

Strikes by airline employees or airport staff are more likely to occur in Europe, but are really possible anywhere. The worst part about airport strikes for travelers is that they can be impossible to predict. While some airport and airline websites might report whether there is a strike during your flight, some might not. If you are concerned about whether or not your flight will be affected by an airport strike, make sure to check in with the airport a few days before you plan to leave. Strikes can last for days depending on the airline and where your departure airport/city. Keep in mind that airport strikes most commonly occur in France and Portugal, though there have recently been some in the United States, as well.

Why you’re not entitled for cash back

It is not always immediately clear whether or not you might be entitled to compensation under the law. However, the above-listed instances are all categorized as “extraordinary circumstances” and are therefore beyond the airline’s control. When this is the case, the only thing you can do is to look into alternate flights, airlines or airports, if possible.

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