Two thirds of UK airline passengers are unaware of their rights for delays and cancellations under Brussels compensation regulations, a new poll claims.

Flight compensation law firm Bott and Co found that 68% of almost 2,000 travellers were in the dark about action they can take under EU Regulation 261/2004.

The research also revealed that a majority (92%) had been ignored and refused compensation by airlines despite being entitled to receive up to €600 after suffering a flight delay or cancellation.

The study pinpointed easyJet and Tui as the worst airlines for not paying out to disrupted passengers, followed by British Airways, now defunct Thomas Cook Airlines, Ryanair and Jet2.

The majority of passengers sought legal help after being unsuccessful with airlines.

Most respondents suffered a flight delay or cancellation when travelling from Manchester airport, with Gatwick coming second.

The most popular reason given by airlines to not pay compensation was bad weather (40%), followed by technical problems (23%). Others included crew or staff sickness, delay on a previous flight and crew being out of their allocated working hours.

Almost 40% of those surveyed did not receive a response from the airline within a month when they are legally obliged to do so within 28 days, according to flight delay compensation solicitor Coby Benson.

“Shockingly, 80% of passengers had to contact the airline more than once, with 42% spending more than two hours of their time trying to deal with airlines before giving up and seeking solicitor intervention,” he said.

In many of the cases, the Civil Aviation Authority and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) were not helpful and 12% of people never received any kind of response from the airline, according to the study

Benson said: “Airlines do not have a valid defence when flights are affected by everyday factors or where reasonable measures could have been put in place to limit or avoid disruption. But they seem to have a hard time accepting this.

“Passengers are being given excuse after excuse, with nearly 60% of people told they couldn’t claim due to ’extraordinary circumstances’. It’s unacceptable that all of these people were legally entitled to receive monetary compensation from the airline in the first instance but only did so after being forced to seek legal advice.

“The results show that airlines are likely cashing in on the mistaken belief that bad weather is always an ‘extraordinary circumstance’, which would stop them having to pay compensation.

“However, weather is a grey area and delays caused by weather conditions that are not considered ‘freakish’ or ‘wholly exceptional’ are likely to be claimable.

“We would therefore encourage people to look into the nature of the delay and how the airline managed it; even if they are told it is ‘extraordinary circumstances’, they should look further to seek a fair resolution.”

Benson added: “In our experience we’ve found that passengers often lack the confidence to question the airlines. We would wholly recommend that they do this. It’s so important for people to be aware of their rights so that they can push back if they believe they are entitled to compensation.”