Widespread disruptions to flights over the last few weeks have seen hundreds cancelled but there are ways you can be prepared.
Staff shortages, an increase in covid cases and technical difficulties have led to massive disruption at airports in the last few weeks.
Amid the chaos, searches for flight cancellations from companies including EasyJet and Jet2 have soared by up to 400 per cent over the last few days.
Now industry experts have warned that the disruption could continue throughout the Easter holidays and even into summer.
But Naveen Dittakavi, founder and CEO of flight alert programme Next Vacay, says passengers shouldn’t worry.
“The huge cost of disruptions tends to incentivise airline companies to find a solution quickly, as they don’t want to be blamed for the thousands of flight cancellations as the travel industry attempts to get back on its feet.”
What should you do if your flight is cancelled?
Dittakavi has some advice for anyone worried about delays and cancellations in the near future.
“If you are flying this week, keep an eye on your flight status as you don't want to get stuck at the airport with no flight.”
He adds that if your airline does cancel your flight, try to rebook it as early in the morning as possible. Delays tend to stack up as the day goes on.
“That said, if you’re already at the airport once the flight is cancelled, the best thing you can do is stay calm. There are plenty of options that can make a big difference in approaching a cancelled flight - from preparing alternative options when waiting to speak to staff, to calling up your carrier.”
Dittakavi recommends calling the airline’s helpline rather than waiting to speak to airport staff in person. They are often more flexible with what they can offer and may be able to give you credit, a voucher or the ability to change the dates of your flight quickly.
You do, however, need to be prepared to explain what you want in detail in order to get the best experience so do your own research about new arrangements before you speak to staff.
If you do manage to book a flight for the next day, Dittakavi says you shouldn’t be shy about asking for a hotel voucher or compensation for an overnight stay.
“Airlines aren't obliged to do this, however, there is no harm in asking - but remember to be nice and appreciative.”
Here are his recommendations for the airlines with the best and worst flexibility.
Which airlines have the most flexible cancellation policy?
British Airways offers a ‘book with confidence’ policy that makes it good for flexibility. You can rebook, cancel or request a voucher right up until your flight check-in closes for no extra charge.
Currently, this policy applies to flights until 30 September 2022. If you choose a voucher, it can be used as payment or part payment for a future booking but the entire trip must be completed before this date.
With Virgin Atlantic, dates and destinations for tickets booked after 16 February for travel before 31 August can be changed up until check-in closes. You can also make one name change in case you want someone else to benefit from your ticket instead.
Rebooked flights have to be completed by 31 December 2023 or you can choose a voucher that is valid until 21 December 2023.
Whether you become ill or simply decide you no longer want to travel, you don’t need to have a compelling reason to make changes.
What are the least flexible airlines for cancellations?
If you need to alter your booking, TUI charges an ‘Amendment Fee’ for each detail that they allow you to change. Removing a passenger from your booking might mean that the cost of your holiday actually goes up.
Deposits are non-refundable, so you won’t get this money back even if the usual cancellation charge is less than the deposit. The cost of cancelling also increases the closer to the flight it gets.
If you decide you don’t want your booking less than 14 days before the date you were going to fly, then you won’t get any money back at all.
If you cancel your flight more than 24 hours after booking it then EasyJet will not refund any of your fare. They’ll likely suggest you change your flight instead but it will have to be another service from EasyJet.
You’ll also have to pay a flight change fee plus any fare difference between your old booking and your new one.
You are able to cancel your flight but all Jet2 bookings are non-refundable, meaning you won’t get a penny back. Despite being non-refundable and non-transferable, you can still change the dates of your flight.
For each date change, you’ll have to pay a £35 (€42) administration fee plus the difference between your old booking and your new one - including any increase in taxes, fees and other charges.
If the price of the flight has dropped since you booked it, you won’t get a refund on that amount.
For flights booked from 31 January, Ryanair’s ‘zero change fee policy’ no longer applies meaning you’ll now have to pay to change the details of your flight. The company doesn’t offer refunds if a flight is operational and has been delayed less than five hours.
If you do make changes to your flight online, then you’ll have to pay a €45 charge, per passenger per one-way flight. Contacting Ryanair’s reservation centre or waiting to ask for the change at the ticket desk at the airport will increase this fee to €60.