Flying away on holiday? Unite Union and Ryanair have already had strikes and BA pilots are striking soon – see the ‘Affected by the BA pilots strike’ article for full details on what to do here. But weather, technical issues and pretty much anything can cause flights to be cancelled or delayed with no notice, leaving thousands of people trying to find out what’s happening and what to do next. You hear horror stories of non present customer services, phoneline’s not being answered and families sleeping in the airports. To be prepared, these are things you need to know.
How can you protect yourself against your flight being cancelled or delayed? Well not a lot, the majority of flights cancellations are ‘unforeseen’ like weather, engine faults, or illness. If strikes are the issue then at least you get some notice (they legally have to give 14 days notice for strike action) so you have a bit of time to plan. But you can BE PREPARED, here’s how.
First things first ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS book your travel with a credit card. This way at least you will get your money back without too much drama if the Airline is being obtuse.
Second, Travel Insurance. As soon as you book any flights or holidays – take out travel insurance – and check the insurance covers you for cancellations due to strike action. Beware though, you will NOT be covered if you book your flight or holiday after the threat of strike action has been announced.
Third, Make sure everything you book is refundable, hotels, transfers, trips etc, yes you may pay a slightly higher rate or have a more limited choice on hotels.com or Expedia, Viator offers free cancellation. So if your flight / holiday is cancelled then at least you’ll get your money back to rebook.
Next, have a credit card for emergencies. Even if you don’t like or use credit cards, having one that you could use will make rebooking flights etc painless, and give you enough time to (hopefully) get your refund before it’s due to be paid.
Also, pack what you may need for an unexpected overnight hotel stay in your carry on luggage. Flights can be cancelled when your cases have already been checked in so have a change of clothes, toothbrush, medicines, etc with you to minimise stress.
Finally, phone numbers and websites. Save your airline customer service number, travel insurance number and any others you may need, with references in your phone. Bookmark websites like laterooms.com, booking.com, skyscanner and expedia and ask yourself, if my flight was cancelled, when is the next one? Find that out and have the information to hand.
So your flight has been cancelled or delayed what do you do?
If you are at the airport waiting for your flight to depart and the cancellation is announced. Right don’t hang around, head straight for the airline desk. Choas is about 10 minutes away, get yourself a head start. If you get to the desk and there’s no queue, you will be given whatever assistance is available for rebooking fights / overnight hotel etc. In theory. Recent BA cancellations due to thunderstorms found no staff at desks and no-one answering the BA phone. Shockingly bad customer service which is unfortunately all too common. So sort it out yourself. Even if there are staff and there’s a queue, GET ON YOUR PHONE, book another flight, you know when the next one is, book it. The price of alternative flights will increase by the minute, and sell out quickly. Yes you will get the cost back but you’re paying out in the first place, so just book it. Next you can sort out where you will be staying in the meantime. Maybe the next flight is only a few hours away, maybe it’s the next day. Again you will be refunded hotel and (some) food costs so just sort it out.
What if your luggage has already been checked in? You have your overnight stuff so don’t worry. Let the madness calm down then you can call the airline and find out when / where you can be reunited with your cases. You can get on twitter and DM the airline, usually works quite well.
Try and keep calm, remember shit happens, there will be thousands of people ranting, shouting, blaming, panicking and (probably) crying. It’s not the end of the world, you have to focus on what you need to do – which is to get where you want to be, as quickly and as comfortably as possible.
What about if my flight is cancelled due to strikes? Well the unions must give 14 days’ notice, so you have a little time to plan, you will be contacted by the Airline (An ‘I’ve got a text’ moment!). Your can either receive a full refund or accept another offered flight – at no additional cost. More on strikes with notice here.
Am I entitled to any compensation for a cancelled flight? If the cancellation is due to strikes and you have had the 14 days notice then NO. If the notice is less than 14 days’ – for example on your way to or at the airport then YES. However no compensation is due if caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’. Have a read about what qualifies here.
How much compensation? You are entitled to compensation if your flight is cancelled or delayed for over 3 hours. Note this though – it is 3 hours late LANDING . It’s entirely possible you take off 3 hours 5 mins late but arrive within the 3 hour window. Airlines will try and make up time wherever possible. The amount of compensation due is measured by flight distance so depends on where you are flying to/from. These are the set compensation amounts PER PERSON. Full details are on the CAA website here.
Less than 1500km and within the EU £231. e.g. London to Stockholm, Budapest, Rome and Palma all just within the 1500km.
Over 1500km within the EU £369. e.g. London to Iceland, Greece and Cyprus
Between 1500km and 3500km outside the EU £369 e.g. Turkey and Moscow
Long haul flights outside the EU £554 e.g. London to New York
How do I claim this compensation? If you can, when your delayed flight has landed, ask for a form from the Airline. Make sure you note down the time it should have landed and the actual time it did, as well as the given reason for the delay. Then you can claim on the Airlines’ website, for example British Airways here, and Ryanair’s is here.
What else can I claim if my flight is delayed? If your flight is delayed for over 2 hours you are entitled to a reasonable amount of food and drink and overnight accommodation if required. The reality is that the airlines will fob you off with a voucher that will barely cover a water and a kit-kat each. If you are reasonable, you will be able to reclaim the cost from the Airline. They won’t accept a 3 course meal with Champagne though. And really, think about if it’s worth the aggravation. You will be doing this after your holiday so be mindful that it could kind of spoil the holiday memories a bit.The rules are complex and depend on many different factors so have a look for your specific situation here .
What if it gets to 5 hours delay and I have had enough? After 5 hours you are entitled to a full refund, and if you have a return booked then a refund for that as well. You can also claim the delayed flights compensation.
What if my flights are part of a package holiday. The same rules apply and you have extra protection from ATOL. The Company that you bought the package from have to sort out your flights and accommodation should your flights be cancelled and need to be rebooked.
What about all the extras I’ve organised and paid for? For things like Airport car parking, transfers and excursions that may need to be rearranged, you can reclaim these from your holiday insurance. Have a read of our booking flights and hotels separately need to knows here as that covers these extras too.
What if I have to cancel my whole trip because my flights were cancelled? This could happen, if the rebook dates aren’t suitable – maybe you have to be back at work or the kids back at school, or you have to be back for a hospital appointment. Or like us you were supposed to be going Bank Holiday weekend break where there’s no point going for 1 night! This is where you need to check your travel insurance is decent, you should be able to claim from them. You can find more information in our booking flights and hotels separately need to knows.
The most important thing to bear in mind is this – be prepared and deal with these delays, cancellations and upset as calmly as possible. The most important thing is to enjoy your holiday, no matter how it starts. Don’t let drama and rage spoil your well earned and much needed break.
Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions we’ve not covered here, we want to make this as comprehensive as possible. Feel free to like and share and follow us on facebook and twitter for more posts as soon as they are published . And do comment below with your tips and experiences of having your flight cancelled. Tx