It has been a hectic fortnight at the UK’s international airports, with flight cancellations and delays affecting thousands of British holidaymakers over the half-term break. And even now, after the children have returned to school, the chaos continues.
Understandably, the public has been browsing the internet to find the answers to their most pressing holiday questions. These are five of the most ‘Googled’ questions since the flight chaos started, and the answers.
If you have your own questions about the flight chaos, leave a comment at the bottom of this article.
Are long haul flights being cancelled?
The majority of cancelled flights are short-haul routes to European destinations and domestic services within the UK. However, passengers on long-haul services could still face long queues at security and possible delays in receiving luggage on arrival in UK airports. According to flight data website FlightRadar24, on Tuesday June 7 there were 64 cancelled flights across the UK’s international airports, and not one was a long-haul flight.
How long will the flight cancellations last?
The flight cancellations and delays have been caused by staffing issues after the pandemic, and the disruption will last until the affected airlines have brought staff numbers up to a manageable level.
Since the pandemic, airlines have cut around 30,000 jobs having employed approximately 74,000 people in 2019. Airports have also cut ground staff. The hold-up on restaffing is down to a number of factors, the most pressing being that the vetting process for airline staff usually takes around 14 weeks but is reportedly taking longer. The final Covid-19 travel restrictions were dropped on March 18, 12 weeks ago.
Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary has suggested Brexit has also added to the delays, as it makes it harder to employ staff from outside the UK.
The flight scheduling problems started in Easter and resurfaced over the May half term, and it is possible that issues could leak into the summer holiday season. However, since families will not be squeezed into travelling over a single week, any disruption in July and August could be slightly less stark.
Which airlines are cancelling flights?
EasyJet has been cancelling dozens of flights daily, primarily from its base at Gatwick. British Airways has also been cancelling services, and today announced it had cancelled a further 122 short-haul flights from Heathrow Airport in the coming weeks. Tui announced last week that it would be cancelling 180 flights from Manchester Airport through June. Other affected airlines include Flybe and Wizz Air. So far, Ryanair and Jet2 have seen fewer cancellations than other airlines.
How do I cancel my flight?
Before answering this we should address the more pressing question: should I cancel my flight? If a flight is delayed or cancelled due to the airline’s fault (ie, staffing shortages), then you will be entitled to a full refund or given rebooking options for the next available flight, plus possible compensation. If you cancel your flight unilaterally, you might not be eligible for a full refund or a seat on a different flight.
If you do decide to cancel your flight booking, you will be able to do so by contacting your airline over the phone or logging into your online account. To take a few specific airline policies:
- British Airways allows you to change your flight or request a voucher equivalent to the sum of your existing ticket up to the close of check-in.
- EasyJet allows passengers to cancel within 24 hours of making a booking. You can change your booking for a fee, and may have to pay the difference if the new ticket is more expensive.
- Ryanair flights are changeable for a fee (after an initial 24 hour grace period, when you can change for free) but they cannot be cancelled for a full refund.
- Virgin Atlantic has a flexible booking policy allowing you to rebook a flight without admin charges, but the terms will change after June 23, 2022.
How do I claim for flight delays?
To claim compensation for a flight, it must have been delayed for more than three hours beyond the scheduled arrival time, and it must have been the airline’s fault. You will not be entitled to compensation if the delays are due to bad weather: your only option in this instance is to wait until the flight departs. In this eventuality you may, however, be entitled to a small amount of compensation to cover “reasonable” food costs, and accommodation if your flight is delayed overnight.
If you miss your flight because you are stuck in queues, you can’t claim from the airline, but if half the passengers are stuck, the airline is likely to have delayed the flight.
If your flight is delayed and it is the airline’s fault, you will be eligible for cash compensation for flights that arrive more than three hours late, depending on the distance of the flight. According to the caa.co.uk, this breaks down as follows:
- Under 1,500km (ie, Glasgow to Amsterdam): £220
- 1,500km – 3,500km (ie, East Midlands to Marrakech): £350
- 3,500km+ (ie, London to New York City): up to £520