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Technical issue causes disruption at Birmingham Airport – your rights

Flights to and from Birmingham Airport were suspended for two hours on Sunday due to an air-traffic control issue – if you were affected, here are you rights.

Airport staff said operations were suspended at around 6pm and this suspension was lifted about two hours later.

The incident came the same week as the Gatwick Airport fiasco, where roughly 140,000 passengers were delayed when drones were apparently spotted around the runway, forcing bosses to ground flights across three days.

What did passengers say?

Passengers flying to or from Birmingham Airport hit out on social media after their flights were delayed, or in some cases cancelled, due to the issue. Here's what some had to say:

Flight cancelled? You can get a refund or alternative flight – but no compensation

If your flight was cancelled, the airline must give you a choice of two options, regardless of the reason for the cancellation and how much notice you're given.

You can choose between:

  • A full refund. This includes money back for both legs of your journey if you have booked a return ticket.

  • An alternative flight. If you still want to travel, your airline must find you an alternative flight. This has to be a) at the earliest opportunity or b) at your leisure, subject to seat availability.

    It's worth noting you may be entitled to ask for a flight on an alternative airline, if the one you're offered by the original airline is inconvenient. If you find a better flight with an alternative airline, you can ask to be booked onto that instead – don't just book it yourself.

    There's no firm rule on when your airline has to agree to put you on an alternative airline, but the regulator the Civil Aviation Authority says you should be re-routed on the same day as your original flight.

In the first instance, contact the airline to see what help it can offer – you shouldn't be charged for switching to an alternative flight.

If you need to fly from a different airport, the airline should arrange your transport, or cover reasonable costs – so ask about this when it is rebooking your flight, before deciding how you'll get to the new airport.

Under EU rules, airlines must often pay additional compensation for delayed or cancelled flights if the cause was something within their control. See our Flight Delays guide for full info. However, air-traffic control issues aren't likely to be classed as something within an airline's control, so you're unlikely to get additional compensation in this case.

I was stuck at the airport – what are my rights?

If you're stuck, or were stuck, at Birmingham Airport because you're waiting for an alternative flight or your flight was delayed, depending on the length of the delay the airline will have to provide:

  • Food and drink. Your airline should provide food and drink (or vouchers to buy them) if you're delayed more than two hours on a short-haul flight, three hours on medium haul (eg, Manchester to Malaga) or four hours for long haul.

    If you weren't offered this on Sunday and bought your own, you can claim back, but make sure you keep receipts – remember only reasonable expenses are covered, it's unlikely you'd be able to claim for alcohol for example. Check if your airline's website has any guidance on what it'll cover.

  • A 'means of communication'. In practice, this just means the airline's likely to reimburse you for the cost of any relevant calls you make.

  • Accommodation if needed. If delayed overnight, you're entitled to a hotel and the airline must also provide transport to and from it.

If you were delayed for five hours you can ask for a full refund, including any unused parts of your journey. If you opt for the refund, however, you will no longer be entitled to the care and assistance above.

What if I've lost out on hotels, car hire etc?

Flight cancellations or delays can have a large number of knock-on costs, and unfortunately the EU rules don't cover what's known as 'consequential loss' – ie, if you've booked non-refundable hotels, car hire or other parts of your holiday and are unable to use them because your flight's delayed.

First, check if you can cancel these bookings and get a refund, as part of the T&Cs or as a goodwill gesture from the provider. As an alternative, it's worth checking if you're covered on your travel insurance.

We've also heard in the past of a small number of cases where a credit card company has paid out for consequential losses after a Section 75 claim – though there's no guarantee this will work for everyone. The Financial Ombudsman Service has said it will depend on each individual case and factors such as whether you still manage to use part of your bookings.

What does Birmingham Airport say?

On Sunday, an airport spokesperson said: "Following the earlier air-traffic control technical fault, Birmingham Airport has now resolved the issue and operations have now resumed.

"We thank passengers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience this has caused."

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