It's happened to all of us: we're on our way to an important meeting or vacation and our flight is delayed. In some cases, the delay may be only a few hours, but in other cases, it can mean being stranded for days. What are your rights when this happens? Can you claim compensation from the airline? In this article, we'll explore your options if you find yourself facing a flight delay in South Africa.

Passengers on a delayed flight may suffer emotional distress as well as monetary harm. For example, a passenger's claims rely on the terms and conditions that govern a flight and a country's laws on which a claim can be filed.

Passenger rights in South Africa, typically seen as a consumer-friendly country, are not adequately protected. Passengers have some rights under the Consumer Protection Act, 2009, but these rights are difficult to enforce when flights are overbooked. Each airline's usual terms and conditions govern most claims for reimbursement, compensation, hotels, and meals. However, additional payment for missed connecting flights, business meetings, or vacation bookings is significantly more difficult to recover with most airlines (between one and four hours on average).
Compensation for financial losses resulting from travel disruptions, such as aircraft delays, cancellations, or denied boarding, is available under the Montreal Convention, which provides monetary compensation for travel disruptions. The passenger must show that the disturbance caused them financial harm; the disorder alone does not give rise to a claim.

In other places, things are very different. In the European Union, for example, a passenger may be entitled to compensation even if no financial harm was done due to the delay. By law, travelers who arrive at their ultimate destination more than three hours late in the EU (and a few non-EU nations, including Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland) are entitled to monetary compensation. Connecting flights in the EU with a final destination outside of Europe is also eligible for payment. R4 000 to R10 000 is a normal range for passengers who want to make a claim, depending on how far they fly.

South Africans traveling into or out of the EU may be able to claim compensation, and EU citizens and residents are not the only ones who can do so. Flights departing, arriving from, or transiting through the EU on an EU-registered airline are included.

In some cases, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if a flight is delayed due to "exceptional circumstances," the airline is not accountable. Extreme situations include:

  • Bad weather.

  • Medical emergencies on board.

  • Crew illness with little or no warning.

  • Damage to the aircraft from foreign objects.

  • Security threats.

  • Airport closures.

  • Airspace restriction measures such as bird strikes.

  • Other manufacturing flaws.

The airline is responsible for proving the "exceptional situation" and showing that it took all reasonable steps to minimize the delay or cancellation.

A Passenger Rights Bill is now being drafted by the US Department of Transportation, which will give compensation for delays or cancellations in specific instances, such as overbooked flights or in accordance with international conventions on air passenger carriage. Payment of up to R20 000 may be awarded following the promulgation of the Bill for delays exceeding one hour. An automatic refund, free replacement flight, R20 000 compensation, and food vouchers may be available to passengers who are delayed for more than four hours.

We provide a variety of insurance policies that cover travelers in the event of flight delays, with benefits that can help you get back on track with your journey. You are typically covered for a delay that exceeds six hours, and then for each subsequent period of six hours. This cover will help you to offset the cost of an extra night's lodging and food.

You will only be eligible to claim if the delay equals or exceeds the allocated time. Consider this while planning connecting flights, cruises, and trips. Make sure you have adequate time to get to and from your destination.

A legislative framework similar to the EU or the United States is not expected in South Africa. Airlines are becoming increasingly customer-friendly, and handling passengers after a flight delay or cancellation is a crucial differentiation that may influence consumer purchasing. Passengers should check their tickets to see if there are any conditions or protocols for making a claim and ensure they meet all deadlines and other requirements.

So, what can you do if your flight is delayed or canceled? Make sure you familiarize yourself with your airline's policies and procedures for claiming compensation. Allianz offers a variety of insurance products that can help offset the costs associated with travel delays. And finally, be patient - airlines are becoming increasingly customer-friendly, and they will work to get you back on track as soon as possible.