Simon Calder issues advice on flight cancellations and compensation as air traffic chaos continues

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

At the height of holiday season travellers are still facing disruption following a failure of the main air-traffic control system across the UK.

As a result of the system failure on bank holiday Monday, almost 1,600 flights were cancelled – grounding around 250,000 holidaymakers.

On Tuesday, around 300 departures were cancelled as airlines struggled with aircraft and crew being out of position.

Wednesday has seen further disruption for holidaymakers, with more than 2,000 flights grounded in total.

Many stranded travellers have been left wondering whether they can claim compensation and what airlines are required to do to help them. Others are concerned about future holidays and how long before things will return to normal.

During an “Ask Me Anything” session for The Independent, travel correspondent Simon Calder tackled a wide range of questions from readers worried about their holiday plans and how they would be impacted by the outage.

The last week of August is a time of high demand for air travel, especially from returning holidaymakers, so many people have been affected.

Here are seven questions answered by Simon.

Q: We had our flights with Ryanair from France to Manchester cancelled on Monday. Rebooked new flights with them as soon as we heard but weren’t any available until Saturday. Will we be entitled to compensation for the additional five days accommodation, car parking charges at Manchester airport or loss of earnings at work?


A: Will we be entitled to compensation for the additional five days accommodation? Yes, as well as meals, but keep the receipts and make sure they are itemised.

Car parking charges at Manchester airport? Possibly, but some car parking firms are letting people off if their flights are delayed.

Loss of earnings at work? No.

Q: Should I be worried about a holiday booked for September with easyJet? How long will it take for things to return to normal? Thank you


A: Have no worries about travel plans in September.

From all points of view you have made a good decision – anyone who does not have to holiday in August should not do so, to reduce the stress on themselves (and everyone else who has no choice).

September is a perfect month in many parts of Europe, particularly the Mediterranean.

Q: We were informed that our Jet2 flight out to Gran Canaria and subsequent holiday were cancelled not because of the NATS issue, but because the knock on delay meant although the fresh crew could fly their first sector (and us) out, they would be out of hours to complete the return and be stuck away from Bristol. As the company has apparently decided not to fly our flight, can compensation be claimed for this as it was a Jet2 scheduling decision not as a direct cause of the NATS problem?


A: An interesting question, but I am afraid that the airline can mount the reasonable explanation as follows: that the extreme disarray caused by Monday’s air-traffic control collapse, and in the process of trying to recover the schedule it is not feasible to night stop the crew and aircraft in Gran Canaria.

Q: Can we claim compensation under EU regulations or is this situation exempt because it is considered ‘extraordinary’? Our flight from Amsterdam was cancelled at very short notice on Monday night. Next earliest EasyJet flight available is Thursday evening. Has caused us stress and expense. I will claim for accommodation and food costs from easyJet and hope they pay up without any quibbling. Can we also claim compensation under EU rules?


A: Sorry to hear about your situation and stress. Sadly, European air passengers’ rights rules on compensation (which would be £220 for a short hop from Amsterdam to the UK) do not apply when the airline is not responsible.

But I am concerned to read: “Earliest easyJet flight available is Thursday evening.” That is entirely irrelevant. Plenty of other planes as well as ferries and trains are going from Amsterdam to the UK, and easyJet must cover the cost of getting you home as soon as possible.

Whatever the cause of a cancellation, and regardless of the amount of notice that is given, you can insist upon replacement transport: the airline must get you to your destination as soon as possible if that is what you want.

If you are flown to a different arrival airport, the airline must also meet reasonable onward travel costs.

More information here.

Q: Why not advise people to holiday in their own country? England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are great.


A: I couldn’t agree more: this has been an absolutely awful summer for many airline passengers, and many holidays have been spoilt by stress and upset due to the repeated problems for UK travellers.

Holidaying in the UK and Ireland is an excellent idea, with minimal travel problems (so long as you are not relying on rail and caught up in the current series of rail strikes).

Q: Our BA flight for our family of 4 out of Gothenburg was cancelled on Monday (just before boarding) and the earliest re-booking we could get is on Friday. We had a separate weekend trip booked with another airline to depart on Friday morning, a flight which we will now miss. Will BA be obliged to cover the (£400!) fee for changing our Friday flights with the other airline? Also, will BA cover our hotel costs till Friday in Gothenburg? What else are we entitled to?


A: British Airways is responsible for covering your hotel and meal costs (no alcohol). More importantly, you are entitled to get home on any airline that can take you. I am seeing lots of options via Copenhagen, Helsinki and Amsterdam. BA should be rebooking you.

Q: We had our flight cancelled from Antalya to Manchester with Sun Express on Monday afternoon after sitting in the airport for eight hours. It was rescheduled for Wednesday 30 at 9.50am but we have just been told it has been cancelled again until tomorrow 31 August. How long can we be left here? As a family of four we will have at least three days loss of earnings, can we claim this in any way?


A: Sorry to hear it. There are many ways of getting back from Antalya to the UK, for example with connecting flights via Istanbul or a Continental European city. Whatever the cost, the airline must meet it if they are unable to get you back direct before Thursday.

You may ultimately be able to claim from Nats, the air-traffic control service, but that looks only a slim possibility at present.

These questions and answers were part of an ‘Ask Me Anything’ hosted by Simon Calder at 9am BST on Wednesday 30 August Some of the questions and answers have been edited for this article. You can read the full discussion in the comments section of the original article.

During times of travel chaos, The Independent’s travel correspondant Simon Calder is here to provide unparalleled advice to holidaymakers. You can sign up to Simon’s newsletter by clicking here.

Simon also sends a weekly Ask Me Anything newsletter exclusive to Independent Premium subscribers, where he answers your ravel questions. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, head here to find out more.