Flight Canceled Due to Weather: Understanding When You’re Not Eligible for Compensation

The EU261 Regulation can help passengers, traveling across the European Union to be compensated up to 600 EUR for a canceled flight or a flight delayed for more than 3 hours. However, even with this regulation, the airlines are not always obligated to pay the compensation. One of the reasons is when a flight gets disrupted due to weather conditions. 


Circumstances beyond control

Indeed there are many cases when flights get cancelled due to bad weather conditions. Unfortunately, there is no entitlement to compensation when a flight gets disrupted due to weather. The airline can be released from the obligation to pay the compensation if the disruption happens because of circumstances beyond its control. In this case, weather conditions are one of those circumstances. 

The phrase “circumstances beyond control” indicates that there is nothing the airline can do to prevent a disruption. Even if the weather forecast displays unfavorable conditions, the airline can delay or cancel a flight. Weather conditions are unpredictable and can change at any time. All the airline can do is wait for weather conditions to get better if they are not good. After all, no one can control the weather.

Aircraft dependency

It is important to note that poor weather conditions do not always indicate heavy rain or snow, it can also mean that the visibility is low, or there is a presence of strong crosswinds. While one flight can operate on time, the other might need to be grounded during the same weather conditions. These evaluations are very individual based on the operating aircraft and its capabilities as aircraft differ one from another. 

For example, heavy clouds or fog can reduce visibility which can make it challenging for pilots to safely operate the plane. A larger, modern aircraft might have the technology to navigate in low visibility, while a smaller, older regional aircraft might need clearer conditions.

Storms along the flight path might force a detour or delay not only to avoid heavy rainfall or snowfall. It also helps to avoid turbulence, wind shear, and potential lightning strikes.

Strong crosswinds can damage the aircraft which can make take-off and landing difficult. Some aircraft that have a higher tolerance for wind speeds due to their design and size, might be able to operate, however, a plane with a lower tolerance might not take off. 

Client’s Concerns

Often when airlines deny a compensation request the clients will say:

Q: But the weather was fine in my departure city!!! It was sunny all day!

A: While the weather may have been good at the departure city, it could be the exact opposite at the arrival city. You may not know it but there could be a huge storm happening in your arrival city. Weather conditions don’t always apply to departure points, what is happening at the arrival location is just as important. On the ground, of course, people normally wouldn’t even notice that, but it might be windy at high altitudes. There is a variety of factors that can impact a flight that aren’t visible to the naked eye.

Q: I saw other planes take off so how come my flight got canceled and not the others?

A: No flight and no aircraft are the same. Each aircraft has its unique equipment. Because of these differences, the aircraft’s operating conditions differ as well. The experience of pilots is also important, each pilot makes different decisions. While one pilot might operate the flight, another will not. Air traffic controllers can reduce the number of incoming and outcoming flights which is why various disruptions can occur as well.

All in all, many different factors need to be taken into consideration when it comes to weather conditions such as strong winds or visibility. When it comes to weather conditions, likely, the outcome for compensation will likely not be favorable. 

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