Manchester airport power outage – what are your rights if you were disrupted?

Power cut: Passengers at Manchester airport Terminal 2 on Sunday morning  (Derek Flint)
Power cut: Passengers at Manchester airport Terminal 2 on Sunday morning (Derek Flint)

Around 20,000 airline passengers are waking up where they did not intend to be this morning, after being caught up in the travel chaos at Manchester airport following a voltage surge and power cut early on Sunday.

Airlines were ordered to cancel some of their flights yesterday to try to deal with the backlog of passengers.

What are these passengers’ prospects for reaching their destinations today – and will they be able to claim any compensation?

These are the key questions and answers.

How many flights were cancelled?

To and from Manchester airport – the third-busiest in the UK – I calculate that 140 departing and arriving flights were cancelled, which represents around 20,000 passengers. They include some long-haul flights – to New York, Singapore, Houston and Dubai – which have many hundreds of passengers booked.

In addition, some were diverted on Sunday morning and a dozen flights to and from Amsterdam were grounded during the day.

How are things now at Manchester airport?

The airport posted last night that Monday’s schedule “is expected to run as usual with no further disruption”.

This is not strictly true. Some flights are operating with delays of an hour or two as airlines cope with residual delays, and easyJet has cancelled a round-trip to Amsterdam.

EasyJet is telling passengers this morning: “Please be advised due to the airport system failure at Manchester airport the bag drops is running slow, our ground handling agents are doing Manual check-in which might take more time than usual.”

But the airport says it is unaware of any problems with the baggage system.

The airport says: “Passengers should plan to travel to the airport as normal, checking-in two hours ahead of their flight for short-haul, and three hours for long-haul. It is always advisable to check the status of your flight before you travel to the airport.

“Airlines will be in touch with passengers to rearrange cancelled flights as we work with airlines, their baggage handling agents and other partners to make sure passengers whose bags did not make it onto their flights are reunited with their belongings as soon as possible.”

What happens to stranded passengers today?

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, they are entitled to be flown to their destination as soon as possible. The trouble is – there’s real pressure on airlines at the moment, and finding spare planes, pilots and cabin crew to launch “rescue” flights is going to be tricky. As is finding empty seats on other flights. But Tui and Jet2 will be running extra flights today.

What are passengers entitled to? If they’re abroad, they are due hotels and meals until they can be flown home. Beyond that, the airline will not be paying any cash compensation. The closure of a big international airport counts as an “extraordinary circumstance” and therefore airlines are not liable to pay out for cancellations and delays. Someone could, in theory, claim for additional losses from Manchester airport under the Consumer Rights Act, if they contends that the operator failed to act with “reasonable care and skill”.

But this would only be a possibility if they can demonstrate financial harm as a result of having the plane cancelled. Since out-of-pocket expenses are met by airlines, that seems unlikely.

Do people who miss part of their holiday get anything back?

If you’re on a package holiday, you can expect a pro-rata refund of the price of the trip – so if you were booked for a week but will now only get six days, you should get one-seventh back.

The other avenue is travel insurance: some policies pay a modest amount if you’re stuck for 12 hours or more.

Lots of people who did get away don’t have their baggage. What are they due?

Those who got away on Sunday typically checked in early, then spent hours at the airport. They flew – unfortunately without their baggage. I reckon somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people are in that position. The airport says they are working with the airlines to get cases to them as soon as possible. That will likely take a few days, although Jet2 has been trucking bags to other airports to be flown out, which should accelerate the process.

If you’re stuck without essentials – toiletries and clothing – you can buy what you need, keep the receipts and reclaim. But don’t go mad. And if you’re on a cruise – well, you may need to start borrowing stuff from fellow passengers.

How common is power failure at a major airport?

It does happen – including at Gatwick in 2013 – but normally the effects are not so dramatic. Manchester airport will have some investigating to do.