My flight was delayed 28 hours: what are my rights?

Your rights when a flight is delayed

As the pilot announced that our return flight would be taking off for London Gatwick, a cheer echoed around the plane cabin. 

After a 28-hour long delay and ongoing uncertainty about whether we’d be able to fly it came as a welcome relief. 

Having only been delayed by an hour or less in the past, the experience was a huge learning curve. But I picked up some valuable tips along the way which may help if you’re ever in a similar position. 

Here’s what you need to know about your rights if your flight is delayed.

My 28-hour flight delay

My return flight from Ohrid in Macedonia to London Gatwick was scheduled for a 14:30 take-off. And everything seemed to be going smoothly. 

I arrived at the airport with a couple of hours to spare, breezed through check-in and security and even had enough time to pick up some extra souvenirs at Duty-Free. 

All that was left to do was reminisce with my friend about the amazing trip while we waited at the gate for our flight to be called. 

But, when the clock hit 14:15 and we still hadn’t started boarding, the airport grew increasingly restless. There weren’t any airline staff around to ask what was going on. And by this point, I hadn’t received an email from the airline – TUI – with an update. 

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News from the airline

At around 15:00 a member of the flight staff came into the airport and announced that due to a technical issue with the plane, our flight would be delayed. They were aiming to run some tests and have another update within 30 minutes.

I wasn’t too worried at the time since we were only in the first hour of the delay. I made a quick snack run at Duty-Free and made the most of the data on my e-sim before it was due to expire.

By 16:50 there was still no update about the flight from the airline staff, nor from TUI via email and the apprehension started to kick in. 

Eventually, we were given a €5 refreshment voucher each to trade in for a bottle of water and a chocolate-filled croissant. (I thought we’d be able to spend the voucher on any food or beverage that we wanted but that wasn’t the case here.)

Your right to food

Legally airlines must give you a reasonable amount of food and drink (usually provided in the form of vouchers) if your flight is significantly delayed.

Trying to pass the time

For the next couple of hours, and little by way of updates we just had to keep ourselves busy. Ohrid airport is quite modest with a small Duty-Free shop, a drinks kiosk and two flight gates. 

With my e-sim officially expired, and the airport wifi on the fritz, we passed the time taking laps around the seats and reviving travel games like charades and DIY pictionary. 

At 18:15 we got the announcement we’d all been waiting for. The plane seemed to be safe to board and everyone lined up at the gate, ready to leave the 4-hour delay behind. 

The enthusiasm started to wane a bit as another 45 minutes or so passed after we got into our seats. And then – the announcement that we’d rather not have had. 

It turned out that the technical fault was still an issue and it wasn’t possible to fly that evening. And due to the size of the airport, flights only run a couple of times a week. So, we couldn’t arrange to fly out with another airline either.  

Our only choice was to wait to see if the engineers, due to fly out and have a look at the plane overnight, could get it up and running. 

Practical concerns arise

Quite overwhelmed by the experience so far, I gathered my things and joined the queue of disheartened passengers leaving the plane. 

Just as I was about to step off something occurred to me. Albeit not the highest priority considering everything going on but I realised that some of my Duty-Free items wouldn’t make it through security again because they were liquids – and I’d travelled hand luggage only. 

I asked one of the airline staff what my options were, and he was very helpful. He suggested that I pack them in my trolley bag and try to check it into the hold when the flight was rescheduled. But to also be prepared to part ways with them if that wasn’t possible.

Request free baggage check in

If you purchase liquids at duty-free – and only have hand luggage – it’s worth speaking with the airline staff to see if it’s possible to check your bag in so you don’t have to throw them away.

Figuring out our next steps

As I gathered outside of the airport with the other passengers, we all waited for news on what would happen next. 

One of the TUI reps eventually announced that we’d be transported to a hotel to stay overnight, where we’d get dinner and breakfast the next morning. 

Although knowing we had a place to stay was comforting, there was still an element of worry about when we’d actually be able to leave. 

At around 20:30 we were ushered onto coaches and taken to the hotel. 

Accommodation and transport

Your airline should offer you free accommodation if you have to stay overnight due to the flight delay as well as transport to and from the airport from where you’re staying.

Returning to the airport

The next day I received an email from TUI confirming that our flight had been rescheduled for 16:00 that afternoon. And we tried to make the most of our time there before being taken back to the airport at 13:30. 

After successfully getting my bag checked into the hold, all that was left was to wait for security to open so we could get to the gate. 

However, after a couple of hours, it felt like we were in an alternate version of groundhog day. 

The staff announced that our flight was going to be delayed until 17:00 while they tried to fix the technical fault. Once again, we were given a refreshment voucher – €15 this time – which could be traded in for a premade lunch bag. 

After that, it was just a matter of waiting. And it felt like being in limbo. 

Without knowing when – or at that point if – the flight would be going out it was impossible to plan how I’d get home, keep loved ones updated, and confirm if I’d be able to make work or other commitments. 

Keep a record of any receipts

You may need these as part of your compensation claim with the airline or your travel insurance provider. This includes anything from toiletries, and transport (if needed) to topping up your sim card if you need more data.

Homeward bound (finally!)

Finally, an announcement boomed across the airport speakers letting us know that security would be open for our flight, and we’d be able to board the plane. 

Ecstatic – but also very cautious as we’d just been in the exact same position the day before – I settled into my seat. 

Within minutes the pilot explained why we had been delayed and gave the news we’d all be waiting for. The plane was ready for take-off and we’d be heading to London Gatwick soon. 

Once the plane hit the runway for take-off, the reality that we’d be home in a matter of hours and a huge sense of relief sunk in.

An email from TUI popped up on my phone when we touched down in London updating us on the delay details. Turns out that the flight delay clocked in at 28 hours and 4 minutes… 

Claiming compensation 

As with many airlines these days, TUI has an online flight compensation form. You can only fill it out 72 hours after your delay or cancellation. 

I set a reminder and filled it out as soon as my delay became eligible. I also sent off a claim through travel insurance to make the process as smooth as possible. 

As it stands I’m still waiting to hear back about the status of the claims and will keep you updated on any more tips and things to watch out for during the process. 

Your flight delay rights

You have important rights when it comes to flight delays under UK law. To be covered your flight must be one of the following: 

  • departing from an airport in the UK on any airline
  • arriving at an airport in the UK on an EU or UK airline
  • arriving at an airport in the EU on a UK airline

Legally airlines must provide you with care and assistance if your flight is significantly delayed. This means they have to give you:

  • A reasonable amount of food and drink (they’ll usually give you a voucher to spend)
  • Access to calls, emails and data (they’ll usually refund the cost of your calls)
  • Accommodation if you have to stay overnight 
  • Transport to and from the accommodation 

Your flight needs to be delayed for a certain amount of time before the assistance kicks in, as shown in the table below. 

Length of flightWaiting time
Short-haul flight (under 1,500km)Over two hours
Medium-haul flight (1,500km – 3,500km)Over three hours
Long-haul flight (over 3,500km)Over three hours

2 thoughts on “My flight was delayed 28 hours: what are my rights?

  1. Worth saying that if the delay is due to issues outside of airlines fault, eg air traffic strikes(common this year) or weather, they will not help at all, nor will you get compensation.
    Several family members have been left high and dry with no support and no compensation in these circumstances recently.

  2. They either couldn’t find the correct spanner to tighten the wing nuts, or ran out of wet wipes to go with the in-flight meals.


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