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Rights when buying flights

When we spend our hard-earned money on a well-deserved holiday we want to know we have suitable protection should the unexpected happen, which is why travel insurance is so important.

However, you have more rights than you may be aware of and thanks to some nifty consumer protection laws you don't have to solely rely on your travel insurance.

For visitors, there’s a lot to take on board; the language isn’t quite like the Spanish we learnt at school and the bright colours, sights and sounds of everyday life are a feast for the senses – let alone their delicious cuisine being a feast for our bellies.

If you’re buying a flight online it’s good to be aware of the rules and regulations, as when things do go wrong some tour operators and airlines might not be too forthcoming about the details. With this in mind the Flexicover team have put together some handy information just in case things don’t go quite to plan.

Delay compensation

Delays can cost airlines a pretty penny with airport penalties so they may not voluntarily offer the compensation to which you’re entitled. The law is a little complicated depending on whether you, your flight or your carrier is within or outside of the EU and the amount of compensation will relate to the distance of the flight combined with the arrival delay, but a good rule of thumb is to check your situation with the operator concerned if your delay exceeds three hours. Also if you’re offered vouchers as an alternative to cash as compensation check for any terms and conditions of use (for example not being able to use them online, ‘valid until’ deadlines…) before accepting them.
More information about air passenger rights.

Know the company’s contact details

EU law states that website companies need to state their identity, geographical address and telephone number on their site. It helps to know where the company is so you know which laws they’re trading under - of course, booking with EU companies means their laws will be the most favourable to you. The telephone number is also handy for queries (an aside: consumer law also says that for basic enquires like complaining, checking or cancelling your booking, retailers can't use premium rate numbers). If you don’t see this information clearly on a website, proceed with caution.


When you buy flights online you’ll be given a booking reference to note down. Rest assured this isn’t the only manner by which you should receive information about your purchase. The law states that you also have to get it in a ‘durable medium’ – like a letter, but most probably as an email. You’re also entitled to a confirmation of your booking when requested, so don’t worry if you don’t manage to catch the booking reference on the screen.

Cooling off period

If you’re anything like us you’ll probably check the details of an online booking a hundred times before confirming. However, mistakes can happen and there’s nothing worse than that ‘heart in the mouth’ moment when you realise you’ve booked a flight for the day after you intend to travel. It’s worth knowing that many online carriers – BA, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair for starters – have a grace period when you buy flights online. As such if you ring up their customer care line and explain your predicament, they’ll amend the mistake. You have 24 hours to flag the error, so check the details before and after you finalise the booking.

Pre-ticked boxes

Gone are the days that you check your booking only to realise that the airline had taken the liberty of sneaking in expensive ‘extras’ such as insurance during the booking process. By law, companies aren’t allowed to charge you for anything they put into your order themselves or items that you’ve bought as a result of a pre-ticked box. Now, all you have to worry about is navigating the Jedi design tricks they play to fool you into ticking the wrong box…

Wherever you plan to fly off to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.

Please note that Flexicover are not linked to, or responsible for any external websites mentioned in this article.