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Transport User Voice – February 2019 – Case study

04 February 2019

Can you get compensation if train delays mean you miss a flight?

Mr M planned to travel on 28 April 2018 from Blackpool North via Preston to Manchester Airport, in order to catch a flight at 9.45am. His tickets were booked on 16 March. He knew upgrades were being carried out to the line by Network Rail and that a replacement timetable was in place. He also became aware from press reports that there was significant ongoing disruption, so he checked the revised timetable the night before he was due to travel. At that stage, these showed that his journey was running as planned.

On waking, Mr M checked National Rail information again, which said the Northern service to Preston that he had planned to use was now cancelled, and that there were no other services that would deliver him to Preston in time to catch the 07:05 to Manchester Airport. So, he drove to Thornton, Cleveleys and got a lift to Preston from his mother-in-law. Mr M arrived at Preston at 6.45am, and the information boards said the 07:05 service was on time. Then at 7.06am, the boards suggested this service was delayed until 7.06am; the same again at 7.07am, until at 7,10am the board just said ‘delayed’ without a predicted departure time. At this point, Mr M asked station staff what was happening. He was told the train he wanted to take hadn’t even set off from the source yet.

Had adequate warning, or notice, of this delay been given, then Mr M could have found an alternative way to reach the airport in time to catch his flight. Instead he had to wait for the 7.43am TransPennine Express service and buy new tickets. This delay had other consequences: Mr M missed his flight and subsequently had to pay an extra £300 to catch a different one. The next available flight included a layover, which caused Mr M to lose half a day of his holiday.

Mr M contacted Northern. The train operator was willing only to refund his train tickets – not the additional flight costs. It advised Mr M to claim the extra flight costs on his travel insurance. Mr M felt he had lost over £500 as a result of this saga. His travel insurance has a minimum excess of £195 so this route would not recover his losses. He therefore approached Transport Focus to intervene with Northern, suggesting he would settle for £315 to cover only the additional flights.

Transport Focus approached Northern, arguing Mr M had taken all reasonable steps to check the train times prior to travel and everything possible to catch his flight from Manchester. Transport Focus also explained that under National Rail Conditions of Travel, it can be argued that Mr M should be compensated since this was an exceptional case. Northern agreed that the passenger took every opportunity to check the services. It also agreed to provide a cheque for £315, so long as it could be proved Mr M would not claim on his travel insurance.

Mr M duly wrote to state he would not make a claim, also supplying a copy of his travel insurance policy, which confirmed the excess of £195.

Transport Focus forwarded this material to Northern, which sent a cheque for £315 to Mr M, who was thrilled with the result and thanked Transport Focus for its help.

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