Travel chaos: Passenger rights for cancelled flights and how to get compensation

Travel delays addressed by former Transport Minister

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British tourists have faced chaotic scenes at UK airports as airlines have cancelled flights during the busy Bank holiday period. easyJet, TUI, British Airways and Wizz Air have all cancelled flights.

Connor Campbell, personal finance expert at NerdWallet, said: “Often it is difficult to know what to do when a flight is cancelled.

“In those initial moments of stress, it can be easy to forget your rights as a consumer.

“Yet you should be aware that there are a number of regulations that all airlines are obliged to follow that can help you to navigate the fallout of your flight cancellation.”

“Essentially, if your flight is cancelled, your airline must allow you to choose between either receiving a full refund or choosing an alternative flight.

“You are also entitled to get your money back for any part of the ticket you haven’t used.

“This means that if you booked a return flight and the outbound leg is cancelled, you can get the full cost of the return ticket refunded.

“If you want to travel on your planned date, your airline must find you an alternative flight.

“So, if another airline is flying to the destination you were planning to travel to – or another suitable mode of transport is available – then you have a right to be booked onto that alternative transport instead.”

Some passengers have claimed that their airline hasn’t told them their rights for a cancelled flight.

Connor said: “For cancellations, airlines must also provide you with other assistance until you’re able to fly to your destination.

“These include: a reasonable amount of food and drink (often in the form of vouchers), free accommodation (if you have to stay overnight to fly the next day), return transport to and from the accommodation, and a form of communication (covering the cost of phone calls).

“If your flight is cancelled with less than 14 days’ notice, you may be able to claim compensation based on the timings of the alternative flight you’re offered and also how far you were travelling.

“Also, with many last-minute cancellations occurring, compensation may be available if you receive less than 14 days’ notice of cancellation.

“This includes access to a reasonable amount of food and drink (often provided in the form of vouchers) and accommodation until the airline is able to fly you to your destination.”

He added that passengers can check the status of their flight on their airline’s website before travelling to the airport.

Connor advised that passengers who are worried about a potential cancellation should pay with a credit card.

He said: “Apart from paying with a credit card – one of the best ways to protect your money, because if an airline wrongfully denies you a refund, you can initiate a chargeback through your credit card company – you could take out insurance.

“For example, there are several policies that offer cover for the failure of an airline.

“Often this is referred to as Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI). Whilst the level of this protection varies, often providers can offer to cover up to £2,500 for loss on air tickets and the extra cost of replacing flights.

“Unfortunately, if you booked your flight and accommodation separately, the airline won’t be responsible for your hotel booking, which means you’d need to make a travel insurance claim separately. This also includes other bookings, such as car hire.

“Therefore, if you haven’t taken out a package deal with an airline, insurance is essential; it can cover every leg of the journey, from the flight to your accommodation and any pre-planned trips you’ve paid for. ”

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