MSE News

Flights to and from the Canary Islands hit by sandstorm disruption – your rights

Thousands of holidaymakers travelling to and from the Canary Islands over the past few days have been hit by severe travel disruption after airports were closed due to a Saharan sandstorm.

As of Monday morning, all but one of the Canary Islands' airports have now reopened following closures – South Tenerife is still shut – but Brits have complained about being stranded over the weekend.

If your flight's been delayed, you're unlikely to be due compensation because the issue is beyond the control of your airline – but you do have rights. We've full info below on what you should expect.

See our Flight Delays and Holiday Rights guides for more info.

Why are flights delayed?

Holidaymakers due to fly to or from airports across the Canary Islands suffered travel disruption due to the sandstorm over the weekend.

Flights from Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, North Tenerife and South Tenerife airports were grounded due to the weather conditions, while flights out to the Canary Islands were also delayed or cancelled.

What are travellers saying?

We've seen many frustrated tweets from passengers over the weekend. Here's what some have been saying:

I'm affected – what are my rights?

While you won't be due compensation due to these delays (because the issue is out of your airline's control), you do have certain entitlements under EU law (which still applies, even though we've left the EU) regardless of the cause of the hold up.

We've full details in our Flight Delays guide, but in brief:

  • You're entitled to food and drink. Your airline must look after you if you're delayed or waiting for an alternative flight if your original was cancelled. It should provide food and drink (or vouchers to buy them) if you're delayed three hours on medium haul, which the Canary Islands will likely fall under.

    If it's unable to, you can buy your own and claim back, but make sure you keep receipts – remember only reasonable expenses are covered. Check if your airline's website has any guidance on what it'll cover.

  • You're entitled to accommodation if needed. If delayed overnight you're entitled to a hotel, and the airline must also provide transport to and from it. Ideally it would book the hotel so always check first, but if it's unable to help, try to find a reasonably priced one and keep all receipts – again it's unlikely to cover a luxury hotel.

  • You're entitled to 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.

  • If you're delayed more than five hours, you can get a refund regardless of cause. If you no longer wish to travel you can ask for a refund after this point, which will include any unused parts of your booking such as a return flight. If you opt for this though, you'll no longer be entitled to any further care and assistance. If your flight is cancelled, you're entitled to a new flight or refund.

If you're booked to travel on a package holiday and your trip is significantly disrupted, also speak to your tour operator. In some cases it's also worth checking if you have cover on your travel insurance, though this will depend on the level of cover your policy provides. 

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