What should I do if my flight is cancelled or delayed? Your options explained

·4-min read
Passengers queueing to check-in bags in departures at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)
Passengers queueing to check-in bags in departures at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)

Hurray! It’s time for the summer holidays. You know, the time of year we slather on the suncream, get sand in our sandwiches, and return from our vacations resembling over-boiled lobsters.

However, this year, people’s holidays may well be scuppered by delays and cancellations at the airport.

After two years of Covid and pandemics, as well as travel passports, we really thought we’d finally be able to have a nice, relaxing getaway this year with no interruptions.

Alas, we all know that dreams such as these are, for want of a better word, naive.

With the cost of living crisis spiralling, and travel chaos leaving many travellers stuck in airports for what seems like an eternity, as well as a new wave of Covid leaving many housebound, things might get a little hairy.

Due to all of this chaos, around 5,000 Heathrow passengers have had their flights cancelled. Additionally, staff shortages mean that Gatwick is running 50 fewer flights a day; BA also announced the cancellation of 124 short-haul flights from Heathrow, and EasyJet alone cut 11,000 flights.

Furthermore, to compound holiday-makers’ misery further, hundreds of British Airways ground staff working at London Heathrow have voted to strike in a pay dispute. The workers at Terminals 3 and 5 are expected to walk out in July, though no concrete dates have been announced yet.

Glorious! Here are a few tips and tricks on how to combat delayed and cancelled flights.

What should I do if my flight is delayed?

The boss of budget airline Ryanair has warned that flight delays and cancellations will continue throughout the summer (PA) (PA Wire)
The boss of budget airline Ryanair has warned that flight delays and cancellations will continue throughout the summer (PA) (PA Wire)

According to the Citizens’ Advice website, if your flight’s delayed for long enough, your airline has to give you:

  • food and drink

  • access to phone calls and emails

  • accommodation if you’re delayed overnight - and journeys between the airport and the hotel

How long the delay has to be depends on the distance of the flight and the countries it’s flying between. You can check the flight distance on the WebFlyer website.

The airline might give you vouchers to get these things at the airport. Ask someone who works for the airline if you’re not offered any help.

If they don’t give you help at the airport, keep receipts for expenses and try to claim from the airline later. Airlines only pay for ‘reasonable’ expenses - you are unlikely to get money back for alcohol, expensive meals or luxury hotels.

Am I entitled to compensation if my flight is delayed?

Passengers wait at Pisa Airport as an Easyjet flight is eventually cancelled (Neil Rylance)
Passengers wait at Pisa Airport as an Easyjet flight is eventually cancelled (Neil Rylance)

If your flight is delayed by more than three hours and it’s the airline’s fault, you’re entitled to compensation from the airline.

You’re unlikely to get compensation if the delay was caused by something outside of the airline’s control, like bad weather or a security risk.

You’re entitled to a set amount of compensation depending on both:

  • the distance of your flight - check your flight distance on the WebFlyer website

  • the length of the delay - how late you are getting to your destination

What should I do if my flight is cancelled?

Heathrow has asked airlines to cut 10% of flights at two terminals on Monday while easyJet has started cancelling thousands of summer flights (Ben Smith/PA) (PA Wire)
Heathrow has asked airlines to cut 10% of flights at two terminals on Monday while easyJet has started cancelling thousands of summer flights (Ben Smith/PA) (PA Wire)

In the event that your flight is cancelled, the compensation that you’re due is different. Here are your options.

You have the legal right to either:

  • a full refund - including other flights from the airline that you won’t use in the same booking such as onward or return flights

  • a replacement flight to get you to your destination

if you’re part-way through a journey and you don’t want a replacement flight, you also have a right to a flight back to the airport you originally departed from.

Ask for a refund or replacement at the airport if you can. If not, you can claim from the airline later.

You also have a legal right to:

  • help with costs - if the cancellation delays you 2 or more hours

  • compensation - if you’d be delayed 2 or more hours by the replacement flight offered and you were given less than 2 weeks’ notice

If my flight is cancelled can I get compensation?

EasyJet announced it is ‘proactively consolidating a number of flights across affected airports’ (Matt Alexander/PA) (PA Archive)
EasyJet announced it is ‘proactively consolidating a number of flights across affected airports’ (Matt Alexander/PA) (PA Archive)

If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to compensation legally if the cancellation is the airline’s responsibility.

You also qualify if:

  • the replacement flight delays your arrival by 2 or more hours

  • your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before departure

The amount of compensation you’re entitled to depends on:

  • when the flight was cancelled

  • the distance of the flight - check the flight distance on the Web Flyer website

  • the departure and arrival times of the rescheduled flight

For your full rights, visit the Citizens’ Advice Website

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