Extraordinary circmstances in delayed flights explained

Date: 20 Jul 22

If you have had a flight cancelled at short notice or it arrived at its destination over 3 hours after scheduled then under EU261 regulation you have the right to compensation. This is based on the flight either leaving from an EU airport OR being on an EU airline such as EasyJet, RyanAir, British Airways, WizzAir ect

However any potential claim is based on the reason for the delay being the fault of the airline.

Typical airline faults include:

  • Staffing issues
  • Staff strikes
  • Mechanical issues
  • Overbooked flights
  • Denied boarding
  • IT issues
  • Lack of passengers
  • Late incoming flights
  • Missing aircraft

When making a claim for compensation the airline will sometimes cite "extraordinary circumstances" as the reason for rejecting your claim for compensation.

What are extraordinary circumstances?

Extraordinary circumstances are deemed to be issues that are beyond the control of the airline and have contributed to a flight being delayed or cancelled.

Examples of extraordinary circumstances


The recent heatwave is an example of how the weather can affect an airline's ability to fly. At London Luton airport the runway started to melt resulting in a massively reduced service and flights having to be cancelled at short notice. In 2010 a volcano eruption in Iceland caused mass delays across Europe due to the volcanic ash in the smoke posing a threat to an aeroplanes engines.

Other examples of extreme weather are thick fog, heavy rain or snow, thunderstorms, tornadoes and high winds. All are deemed to be circumstances outside of the airline's control.

Strike Action:

If an airline's own staff go on strike then this is NOT an extraordinary circumstance but if the airport's baggage handlers, air traffic control or ground staff go on strike then this is a valid reason for a flight to be delayed or cancelled and no claim can be made.

Political uncertainty:

War, civil unrest or political instability in a country can also lead to airlines cancelling flights at short notice. Ukraine, Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eqypt and even Pakistan have suffered from political instability where the risk of terrorist activity or a threat to security has resulted in cancellations.

Bird strikes:

Many airports have taken measures to keep birds away from the runways as one hitting the engines of an aeroplane can cause damage. If a plane it hit by a bird strike then that plane needs to be inspected before it can take off again and this can result in a delay for takeoff or even a diversion to the closest airport.

Passenger issues:

If a passenger falls ill or becomes unruly resulting in a diversion or having them removed from a flight is another circumstance where you will be unable to claim for your delayed/cancelled flight.

Long queues and security checks:

This has become more of an issue post-pandemic as the airport industry which layed off many of its staff has struggled to recruit sufficient staff to handle the increase in demand for foreign travel. Delays in security, and delays in baggage reclaim have become the norm across the EU resulting in some passengers missing their flights. Unfortunately, this is not the fault of the airline and they have no obligation to either pay you compensation or find you an alternative flight.


The global pandemic was one of the biggest things in 2020 and the after-effects of it are still being felt. Mass layoffs and the threat to passenger health resulted in the majority of commercial flights being cancelled and airports empty.


What are my rights?

If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances the airline still has an obligation to reimburse you for the cost of your flight. Some airlines try to avoid paying compensation by citing an extraordinary circumstance but it is upto them to PROVE that this was the case. If you believe the airline is not being truthful then you can still submit a claim against them.

We at Flight Delay Claim have heard every excuse and encountered every trick that airlines try to avoid paying compensation. We have access to information not publicly available including gate times and weather patterns,

We understand the claims procedures and have methods and systems in place to ensure your claim is successful.


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Have you had a flight delay, missed connection, cancelled flight or have been denied boarding in the last 6 years? If so try our free flight checker to see how much you may be entitled to in compensation for you AND your fellow travellers.

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