As holiday makers and travellers attempt to jet off for the half-term break, reports of ‘chaos’ at airports have been rife. Flight delays, cancellations and huge queues have all added to the woe.
Nottinghamshire Live reported figures of 24 flights a day being cancelled from London’s Gatwick airport so it is no wonder passengers are concerned. But what if the worst happens. What should you do if your flight is cancelled?
If you have booked with a travel agent or airline that is ATOL or ABTA protected like Tui, Jet2, easyJet and British Airways, then you have a level of protection.
To explain, ATOL (the Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing) is specifically designed to cover people who fly. It sits alongside ABTA which covers rail, road, or sea travel holidays. Many ABTA tour operators also provide bonds to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) under the ATOL scheme.
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For guidance, the CAA says that “Under UK law, you have important legal rights on many flights to, from or within the UK. To be covered, your flight must be either departing from an airport in the UK on any airline, or arriving at an airport in the UK on an EU or UK airline; or arriving at an airport in the EU on a UK airline.”
So, what does that mean for the traveller? The ABTA website sets out exactly what rights a passenger has if their flight is cancelled. It says that your airline must let you choose between either receiving a refund or accepting an alternative flight.
Can I get ALL my money back?
According to ABTA, if you choose a refund, you can get your money back for all parts of the ticket you haven’t used. For instance, if you’ve booked a return flight and the outbound leg is cancelled, you can get the full cost of the return ticket back from your airline. However, if you still want to travel, your airline must find you an alternative flight.
The organisation says that, “sometimes airlines may advise you to make alternative travel arrangements, and then claim back the cost later. If you do this, try to keep costs down as much as you can, keep receipts and record the name of the person giving this advice.”
Can I get compensation?
This depends on what caused the cancellation – if it wasn’t the airline’s fault, you won’t be entitled to receive any compensation. Delays caused by things like extreme weather, airport or air traffic control strikes or other ‘extraordinary circumstances’ are not eligible for compensation.
If the airline gave you more than 14 days’ notice of the cancellation they are not obliged to pay you compensation. However, if you received less than 14 days’ notice of the cancellation, you may be able to claim compensation based on the timings of the alternative flight.
ABTA goes on to advise via its website that when it comes to package holidays, the operator will normally contact you in advance and re-arrange your flights. However, if you’re at the airport when the flight is cancelled you should contact your tour operator to see what they intend to do.
If the new arrangements result in a significant change to your holiday then the tour operator must offer an alternative if they can, or a refund. Where the flight is cancelled and it isn’t clear whether a significant change will result, the tour operator doesn’t have to offer an alternative or a refund – until they’re constrained or forced to make a significant change. This would happen when there’s no prospect that the new arrangements will only lead to a minor change. A significant change is generally taken to be 12 hours on a 14-night holiday.