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What to do if you are impacted by disruption at UK airports?

Lydia Crispin | Communications Assistant
Last updated 18 July 2022
Why-are-there-chaotic-scenes-at-some-UK-airports

The number of Britons planning an overseas summer holiday has doubled since last year, rising from 34% to 64%1. Unfortunately, some airports have seen quite a bit of disruption recently. While the majority of travellers have got away, sadly, several thousand have missed flights or had flights cancelled at late notice. So, what’s the root cause?

It’s been reported that these issues are mainly due to difficulties in recruitment and post-Covid staff shortages, according to Airport bosses.

Mr Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, said in early June that Industry bosses “must do their bit” before Britons go on their summer holidays.

Which airlines have been most affected?

In the lead-up to Easter, a series of flights were cancelled by British Airways, Tui, and EasyJet.

EasyJet faced further problems between 28 May and 6 June, leading to the airline cancelling more than 200 flights but there continue to be ongoing issues with other airlines too.

What to do if you haven’t yet booked your flights?

Once you’ve decided which destination you wish to fly to, there are a couple of things to consider before booking your flights.

In the current environment booking through Tour agents or bonded travel agents may offer you more protection than booking everything directly.

It is essential that you buy Travel Insurance. However, Travel Insurance is designed, in most cases, to offer cover for specific risks, it doesn’t cover all eventualities. So, it is vital that you read through your policy wording to understand what you are and are not covered for. For example, if an airline cancels your flight, it is their responsibility to offer you a refund or an alternative flight.

Read reviews before choosing an airline. Their process of dealing with cancellations may influence who you choose to fly with. Lastly, before travelling, read carefully through the T&Cs of your end suppliers (such as your accommodation provider or your car-hire company) in case of problems.

Once you’ve booked, what are your rights if your flight has been cancelled?

Cancelled flights result in immense disappointment. However, there is at least some good news. In many cases, you are protected. If an airline cancels your flight – your airline must let you choose between two options: A full refund or an alternative flight.

Please be aware that you are not always entitled to compensation. If your new flight arrives less than two hours after the scheduled time of your original flight, you are not entitled to financial compensation. Click to read information provided by the CAA.

Compensation is on a per-person basis. When you receive notice of cancellation makes a difference to the compensation you may be entitled to

If you receive less than seven days notice of cancellation, based on the timings of your alternative flight, and length of delay, you may be entitled to the following compensation.

Length of delay Length of flight Compensation
2 hours or more under 1,500km £220
3 hours or more between 1,500km – 3,500km £350
4 hours or more Over 3,500km £520

Source: Civil Aviation Authority

If you receive Seven to 14 days notice of cancellation, based on the timings of your alternative flight, and length of delay, you may be entitled to the following compensation.

Length of delay Length of flight Compensation
Less than 2 hours under 1,500km £110
2 hours or more under 1,500km £220
Takes off more than 2 hours before your original flight, and arrives 3 or more hours later at final destination between 1,500km – 3,500km £350
Takes off 2 hours before your original flight, and arrives less than 3 hours later at final destination between 1,500km – 3,500km £175
4 hours or more Over 3,500km £520
Takes off less than 1 hours before your original flight, and arrives less than 4 hours later at final destination Over 3,500km £260

Source: Civil Aviation Authority

What are your rights if your holiday has been cancelled?

Your rights differ depending on the type of holiday you have booked. If you have a package holiday – you are entitled to an alternative flight or refund.

A package holiday includes a combination of two or more travel services from the list below:

  • transport (such as a flight, coach or train but not transfers from an airport)
    accommodation (such as a hotel, villa or apartment)
  • car rental
  • a tourist service (such as a tour guide or a trip to a historical attraction) where this is a significant part of the holiday, either because of its value or because it is an essential part of the trip.

Click here for more information on what counts as a package holiday.

If you have booked your hotel, flights and car hire separately and your flights are cancelled, you may not be able to recover the cost of everything else. Any potential refund for accommodation or car hire will be at the suppliers’ discretion.

If you have a Travel Insurance policy with AllClear, we can reschedule your cover dates if you change your holiday dates.

What are your rights if your flight has been delayed?

If your flight is delayed, you will be entitled to:

  • food and drink
  • access to phone calls and emails
  • accommodation if you’re delayed overnight, as well as journeys between the airport and the hotel

To be entitled for the above will depend on your flight and length of delay – please see below:

Flight distance Length of delay must be
Less than 1,500km 2 hours
Between 1,500km and 3,500km 3 hours
More than 3,500km 4 hours

Source: Citizensadvice

When it comes to flights with a five hour+ delay, you can get a full refund if you do not travel, as well as compensation depending on the reason for the delay.

What are your rights if you are delayed getting to the airport?

If on the way to the airport/port you’re caught up in an unavoidable delay due to, for example; a road accident blocking the road or public transport delays – you’d typically be able to make a claim on your Travel Insurance for missed departure (provided that the policy you purchased includes missed departure).

What are your rights if you are delayed at the airport, which causes you to miss your flight?

If you arrive in plenty of time at the airport (in line with the airline’s recommended time) but are held up by long queues at check-in or security, causing you to miss your flight. In that case, this is likely to be the responsibility of the Airport Authority (not the airline), and compensation would have to be sought from that Authority.

Top tips for travel

  • Make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance policy.
  • Check FCDO advice for the country you are visiting.
  • Check the airline’s website in advance of your travel to find out the current recommendation for arrival time at the airport before departure. Are you flying to a European destination or to Asia? Depending on your destination, your check-in time may vary.
  • Allow plenty of extra time for check-in. Remember to factor in the time taken from your parking choice to your departure point, particularly if you are ‘off site’ from the main terminal. The airline may require you to check-in online and print off your boarding pass.
  • Are you travelling with hand luggage only? If you are, you may be able to check in online for free and print off your boarding pass. This may enable you to go straight through to security.
  • If you need special assistance, make sure you’ve booked mobility assistance through your airline or tour operator. Often they like 72 hours advance notice.
  • Are you travelling in a group? If so, you might consider giving yourself more time to check in.
  • Suppose you arrive with plenty of time at the airport (in-line with the airline’s recommended time) but are held up by long queues at check-in or security, causing you to miss your flight. In that case, this is likely to be the responsibility of the Airport Authority (not the airline), and compensation would have to be sought from that Authority.

Author notes

Written by Lydia Crispin, MA Content Creator at AllClear
Edited by Letitia Smith, M.Sc. Content Manager at AllClear

1 The research was carried out by MaruBlue among a nat rep sample of 2,016 adults in April 2022. The survey was conducted online.




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