6 burning questions about flight delays and cancellations answered by Simon Calder

Holidaymakers have faced chaos since the removal of international travel restrictions for returning to the UK eight weeks ago.

As people battle to get through to customer services over flight delays and cancellations and passport problems, many are turning to The Independent’s trusty travel correspondent Simon Calder, who is working hard to answer as many questions as he can.

During his weekly ‘Ask Me Anything’ event, which took place on Wednesday this week, questions flooded in from a whole range of topics; from vaccinations to solo all-inclusives.

However, the common theme this week is flight delays and cancellations. Here are six questions asked by Independent readers and answered by Simon.

I’m due to go to Mallorca early October. Is it worth booking my flight now, or should I wait until all this chaos dies down?

What a week it has been – or eight weeks, the time since international travel restrictions were removed for returning to the UK.

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled as airlines battle with staff shortage, while Covid infections and labour scarcity have caused problems in the companies that supply the airline operation, from refuelling to replenishing the galleys.

Airline bosses have told MPs that security vetting delays for aviation staff are partly to blame for the scale of flight cancellations. Others blame Brexit. But whatever the cause, the harm to travellers is clear: their holiday plans are torn up as planes are cancelled, sometimes with just a few minutes’ notice.

To make the situation even worse, I’ve seen many examples of carriers failing to offer flights on alternative airlines, and making it difficult for passengers to claim the compensation and other costs that are due to them.

Things are improving. For the first time since the cancellation crisis began, the CAA and DfT have ordered airlines to comply with European air passengers’ rights rules.

The government says they must be told about their rights.

The authorities also instruct airlines who cannot align supply with demand to pro-actively cancel flights for July and August now to “de-risk the summer”. The Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority have written a joint letter to carriers serving the UK saying: “Cancellations at the earliest possibility to deliver a more robust schedule are better for consumers than late-notice on-the-day cancellations.”

So things should improve swiftly, in time for the main summer peak in July and August. We shall see. But in your position, I certainly wouldn’t book a flight to Mallorca in early October right now anyway. By late September, there will still be seats available at reasonable fares. Booking later reduces the risk that an unrelated issue might scupper your plans.

I lost a day of my package holiday after a 21 hour flight delay in half term. What am I entitled to?

I assume that you were given statutory flight delay compensation? Anyway, if you want to pursue a claim for loss of part of your holiday, the sums work like this: On a £700, one-week package, it might be deemed that the flight element is £200. This will be subtracted from any assessment of lost time, because you, er, enjoyed the flight. So there is £500 left, covering your seven days. Which means you could mount a claim for £70.

EasyJet have refused to pay for the flight, hotel etc when they cancelled our flight home from Agadir. Now pursuing them through small claims. They are going to defend the claim. If I lose, what are my options to take it further?

Going to small claims/money claim online is the last resort in a dispute like this. Were you to lose, the only option would be to appeal against the initial ruling – which would prove expensive and complex.

Is BA cancelling flights at short notice? We’re flying to Iceland on Sunday, and they cancelled the return flight a few weeks ago so I rebooked for the flight on the following day

British Airways has cancelled many thousands of flights this summer – the airline says almost 20,000, which works out as about 100 per day. Unlike other carriers, almost all of the cancellations are being announced – as in your case – some weeks ahead. Of course there will always be on-the-day disruption, and in any summer a couple of flights from a big airline like BA may be cancelled, but I would give you good odds that the flight will go ahead without a problem.

Of course if you are unfortunately grounded at short notice, then you can look at alternatives such as the excellent Icelandair to get you to Reykjavík.

Wizz Air have changed the status of my cancelled flight on 31 May to show that it took off and landed. They are directing hundreds of people on social media to their live chat, which doesn’t work, or their helpline, that costs £1.45 per minute and just stays on hold. What do you suggest we do to get these issues sorted?

If any airline is feeling properly to honour its obligations under European air passengers’ rights rules, then I suggest you contact the Civil Aviation Authority. Yesterday the CAA, which is required to look after travellers’ interests, reminded airlines to respond properly after disruption and meet their responsibilities.

BA cancelled my girlfriend’s flight at 10pm last night. By 9am today mine (the same flight but separate bookings) hadn’t been cancelled. She rebooked for free but I had to pay £185 as I hadn’t received a cancellation email. How do I reclaim the cost?

This is an odd question: if the flight has been cancelled, it should show up on ba.com as such, and you can supply that to the airline as proof. I know it’s not always easy to get through to customer service, but in this case I think it is your best bet.

I’m still waiting for a refund from my Thai Airways flight London to Auckland via Bangkok scheduled for November 2019. They cancelled three rescheduled flights. If they have gone bankrupt is my money lost?

Thai Airways has had a dreadful coronavirus pandemic – and so have passengers who handed over cash in good faith.

A number of carriers (as well as online agents) based outside the EU have demonstrated that airlines could basically hang on to money as long as they like.

If you booked direct, then it is worth having a word with your card provider in case they can suggest a solution.

Bankruptcy is certainly possible for some foreign airlines who are still teetering on the brink, but unlike (say) South African Airways, I cannot see any prospect of that happening with Thai.

Simon said: “Thanks for joining me. Great questions, thank you – you will be the judge of the answers.”

Keep an eye out for Simon’s weekly question and answer sessions via our ‘Ask Me Anything’ page.


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