Holidaymakers are looking to the weekend’s Easter getaway with a mixture of apprehension and excitement as airport disruption continues. Many flights have been canceled and families have missed vacations despite arriving at airports with plenty of time to spare.
On Wednesday, more than 100 scheduled flights from the UK were canceled. British Airways has canceled at least 78 flights from Heathrow and easyJet has cut at least 30 from Gatwick.
People who hoped to make the most of the relaxed Covid travel rules have seen their trips affected as the airline industry suffers from a surge in coronavirus-related illnesses and a shortage of workers after job cuts jobs during the pandemic. The rate of staff absences at easyJet is around double normal levels.
The situation could worsen this weekend as the airports will be used by travelers returning from trips during the first week of the truce, and those leaving for the second week of the school holidays. Some Easter school holidays also do not start until next Monday.
Manchester Airport was hit hard by the resignation of its chief executive Karen Smart on Tuesday after weeks of disruption to passengers. Passengers also reported long queues at Heathrow and Birmingham airports.
Why so many delays?
Airports are grappling with the combination of staff shortages and increased demand as many families travel abroad for the Easter school holidays, which are the first since Britain’s coronavirus restrictions for international travelers have been discontinued.
What are we doing to reduce the impact on passengers?
To reduce the impact on passengers, most cancellations are made at least one day in advance and on routes with multiple daily flights, so passengers can be offered alternative departures.
British Airways said many of its cancellations include flights cut as part of its decision last month to cut its schedule until the end of May. This was done to increase reliability due to the increase in Covid-19 cases.
Manchester Airport said in a previous statement: “As we continue to recover from the pandemic and passenger numbers increase, security queues can sometimes be longer than normal. If you need to travel in the next few weeks, please arrive at as soon as your airline allows. We apologize to our customers for the disruption.”
What did the people endure?
Travelers faced long delays and chaotic scenes, with queues outside the terminals to reach check-in counters and hordes of people waiting to go through security and collect their luggage .
Piles of suitcases were left in the terminals after travelers gave up waiting to collect their bags and instead left to go home.
What to do if your flight is delayed or canceled during Easter chaos
When can I get compensation?
The good news is that airlines are obligated to pay if your plane is delayed or canceled through their fault; the bad news is that it depends on where you are flying and who owns the aircraft. If disruption is caused departing from the UK, you are covered. But if a problem arises on the way back, you’ll only get help if you’re flying with a UK or EU airline. All of the information below applies to both of these cases.
For travel with a non-EU airline to a destination outside the UK, you will need to check with the individual airline.
What are you entitled to after a few hours?
Most airlines will offer you tokens for food and drink to redeem at the airport, as well as access to phone calls and emails if you’re overseas. For short-haul flights (less than 1500 km), the delay must be more than two hours; for the mid-course (1500km-3500km) it is three hours; for long haul (more than 3500km) it is four hours. But don’t expect to go crazy – the amounts usually only cover the bare minimum.
What are you entitled to after long delays?
For longer flight delays, you may be entitled to a hotel room (if your flight is delayed overnight) and, in some cases, vouchers for future use. Again, the amount will depend on the delay and the distance of the flight.
If your flight is delayed for more than five hours, you can choose to cancel and receive a full refund, as well as reimbursement for any other parts of the trip that you will not be able to complete. Alternatively, you can claim up to £520 in compensation if the airline is to blame.
What happens if the flight is cancelled?
In this case, you can ask for a full refund or ask the airline to book another flight to get you to your destination. Legally, you can also claim compensation if your replacement flight arrives more than two hours later than originally scheduled, or if you were notified less than 14 days before a cancellation. For less than seven days’ notice, you are entitled to between £110 and £520.
How to make a claim
First, contact your airline. If you don’t have an answer, check if the airline is a member of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body. You can also report the case to the Civil Aviation Authority (caa.co.uk). It’s also worth checking with your travel insurance to see if you’re covered. Other useful bodies include Citizens Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk)
Pay attention to the acts of God
Unfortunately, if weather conditions or natural disasters cause delays or cancellations, it will not be possible to file a claim with an airline. Instead, check the terms and conditions of your insurance policy.
If you are taking a multi-hop trip with different airlines for each leg, be sure to include all flights on the same reservation. It will be easier to claim compensation if part of the journey is disrupted.