What is causing travel chaos at some UK airports and what are your rights? | Travel & leisure
Holidaymakers took the opportunity of mid-term school holidays and Queen’s Platinum Jubilee bank holidays to take long-awaited trips abroad, but many encountered long queues at airports and canceled flights. So what is happening and what can those whose plans have been disrupted do?
Why are airports so busy?
The mid-season holidays are traditionally the springboard for the summer tourist season. However, this year many passengers are traveling overseas for the first time in two years due to the Covid pandemic. This week marks the first school holidays in England and Wales since all UK Covid travel restrictions were lifted and coronavirus testing requirements relaxed for many EU countries. Many consumers saved money when they weren’t able to go on vacation during the lockdown, leading to pent-up demand for overseas travel.
The big getaway also caused traffic jams on the roads. Large queues built up over the weekend at the Port of Dover for travelers waiting to cross the Channel. The port has warned passengers that it will be a “very busy week”.
Why are some airports struggling to cope?
Airports say many passengers are using vouchers or credit notes from canceled trips during Covid, fueling demand.
Many of the recent problems can be traced to staff shortages, amid a lack of available workers and record vacancies in the UK economy.
The increase comes as the aviation industry continues to increase workforces, after many workers were laid off or changed jobs during the pandemic.
Thousands of passengers at Manchester Airport missed flights earlier in the spring after waiting hours to clear security. Over the weekend there were delays in check-in and baggage claim. The airport operator said more than 500 people are undergoing background checks and security training, but only 200 are expected to join this month.
Heathrow Airport is hiring 1,000 people, although it believes the current travel boom could be a summer bubble. Flight demand could fade this fall as the cost of living crisis and rising energy prices weigh on consumer spending. The industry fears that a winter slowdown could spell trouble for airlines during the traditionally calmer time of year.
Which airlines have been most affected?
Airlines including British Airways and easyJet announced a series of flight cancellations shortly before Easter as rising coronavirus cases led to high levels of staff absences.
In recent days easyJet has canceled more than 200 flights to and from Gatwick between May 28 and June 6. Tui also made several last-minute cancellations over the weekend at airports including Gatwick, Birmingham and Bristol, due to “operational and supply chain issues”.
My flight has been canceled – what are my rights?
The good news is that you are still protected against many things that could go wrong. If your flight is cancelled, you have the right to choose between a refund or re-routing – this may be a new flight with the same airline or another carrier. The airline is supposed to give you the option of arriving at your destination on the same day.
For cancellations within 14 days of travel, you can claim compensation. The amount depends on the type of flight, whether you choose to take a refund and not travel, or how much later your new departure and arrival are than your original plan.
For example, if you are re-routed by your original airline and the replacement flight arrives more than two hours after the date you had booked, you are entitled to compensation of £220 per passenger for flights up to 1,500 km.
If an airline cancels at the last minute and you are forced to purchase a new flight from a competing carrier, you can claim the cost of the replacement ticket. If your original flight was more expensive, however, you’d better ask for a full refund.
Be aware that airlines often refuse these requests, but you are entitled to the money.
My flight is delayed – what will I get?
The length of the delay and the distance of your flight are essential. For delays of less than two hours, you are not entitled to anything. After that, for a short-haul flight under 1,500 km, you get food and drink (probably in the form of vouchers to use at the airport) and paid phone calls. You are also entitled to accommodation and transportation.
There must be a longer delay before this happens on a longer flight: three hours between 1,500 km and 3,500 km, and four hours beyond that. Compensation applies after three hours and starts at £220. If the delay exceeds five hours, you may get a full refund if you don’t travel, or compensation may be due even if you catch the later flight, depending on the reason for the delay.