New guidelines for airline passenger compensation have been outlined by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The update about when airlines are liable to pay them compensation following cancellations and long delays follows new European Commission guidelines.

Publication of the EC’s list should allow passengers to have a better idea if disruption they face could lead to compensation, and should also speed up the process of assessing and paying claims, according to the CAA.

The guidelines clarify when a delay or cancellation should generally be considered not to be an airline’s fault – so called ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

Airlines have to compensate passengers when flights are cancelled within two weeks of departure or arrive more than three hours late, but only if the issue was within the airline’s control.

Regardless of fault, airlines are obliged to provide assistance to passengers, including refreshments and accommodation where necessary, even where there is no requirement to pay compensation.

Until now, there has not been agreement on which circumstances are considered extraordinary and which are considered to be within an airline’s control.

CAA regulatory policy group director Iain Osborne said: “The vast majority of passengers take flights without any hiccups, but the small proportion who do experience cancellations and delays can find it confusing to work out if they are owed compensation.

“The EC guidelines should help to inform passengers more about their rights.

“We also hope they will assist airlines to assess passenger claims correctly when they are received, reducing the time it takes for passengers to get their money, and the time spent by the CAA checking airlines’ assessments.”

The CAA has seen “significant increases” in the numbers of passengers seeking help when airlines reject their claims since the European Court of Justice ruled last October that passengers suffering delays of more than three hours on arrival should be due compensation as well as those who experience cancellations.

This has led to delays in responding to consumers, the regulator admitted.

Along with publication of the guidelines, the authority is asking airlines to reassess claims they have previously rejected.

“This should speed things up for passengers and allow the CAA to focus resources on other support for consumers,” the regulator said.

“The CAA is also considering other measures to reduce the amount of time passengers are left waiting for a decision on their claims and improve airline compliance with the regulations, including ensuring airlines correctly assess more new cases without them needing to be referred to the CAA.”