We aren’t out of the woods yet. Flights are still being cancelled and the problem looks set to continue through the summer as airlines go on strike, and staff shortages continue to cause disruptions. Both Ryanair and EasyJet workers in Spain are striking for multiple days this month, which could lead to a last-minute slashing of flight schedules. If it happens to you, the quicker you act, the better the chance of mitigating the consequences.
Here is what to do to get ahead of the pack and minimise the pain. Full details on what to do for each step follow.
Cancellations on the day: outbound
1. Look at alternative flights as soon as possible
Sometimes you can quickly rebook with the same airline – but, to continue your holiday, you may need to make a fresh booking with another. Which? warns that doing this and trying to claim the cost back as an expense “is very risky and may only work if your reason for travel is exceptionally time-sensitive, such as a child’s wedding or job interview, so it's advisable to only take this step once you've exhausted all other options… it's important not to accept a refund or cancel your existing booking, as this will end the airline's obligation to get you home and could make it more difficult to claim back the cost of your alternative flight.”
Whatever your strategy, waste no time in getting online before alternatives sell out. For fresh bookings, skyscanner.net is a good starting point because it includes indirect flights, which may be a useful fall back – but book directly with the airline rather than following a link to an online agent.
2. Check your insurance
Does it cover any losses you may face as a result of the cancellation? Some policies do, some don’t.
3. Sort other arrangements
If you have booked independently, you need to gauge as quickly as possible whether or not you will be able to salvage or abandon your holiday. Then you will need to warn the following that you will be late, or to try to postpone or cancel the arrangements:
It may be tricky to get a refund - that will depend on the terms of your booking. But the sooner you contact the hotel or villa company, the better your chance of rescuing the situation.
Contracts vary, you may be able to cancel for a refund or postpone, you may not. If you are going to arrive late, it is vital to let the company know or the car may be reallocated.
The same applies as to car hire contracts.
4. Contact your operator
If you have booked with a tour operator, all the practical issues should be sorted for you, but do alert the company to the cancellation immediately: it may not know yet.
5. Claim compensation
Airlines are notoriously bad at alerting passengers to their rights. But you may be entitled to compensation for cancellations which occur within 14 days before departure. The rules are complicated and the amounts vary: check our comprehensive guide.
You have similar rights – including to compensation – on the return flight, but you are in a different situation. For rebooking, see point 1, above. Otherwise:
6. Insist on accommodation
If you need to stay extra nights and the airline staff won’t help, then you will have to arrange the accommodation yourself and claim back the cost. The quickest way of finding somewhere is probably through a site like booking.com. Keep things reasonable – three- or four-star, not five – and be sure to keep the receipt for accommodation and any essential spending on meals.
7. Extend airport parking
If your return is delayed you may be charged premium rates for the extra length of your stay when you exit the car park. It will normally be cheaper to call the booking agent and extend the booking that way.
8. Tell your employer
You probably don’t need reminding to do this, but it’s worth putting in a call or email to explain the situation and arrange to work remotely until you can get back or take additional leave.
Cancellations in advance
If your flight is cancelled in advance of the departure day, you are obviously in a less immediately stressful situation. But you would still do well to react as quickly as possible – especially if you want to rebook a flight or holiday. And (as above) check your compensation rights.