Why the Easter airport chaos is expected to be even worse this weekend

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Brits who’ve planned a holiday abroad this Easter will be concerned as airports continue to experience disruption. Holidaymakers have ended up missing flights despite arriving at airports early, while many airlines have cancelled services.

Passengers at Manchester Airport have experienced long queues over the past couple of weeks. Arrivals have even abandoned their luggage due to the wait.

More than 100 scheduled flights were cancelled from the UK on Wednesday, WalesOnline reports. British Airways cancelled at least 78 flights from Heathrow and easyJet axed at least 30 from Gatwick.

READ MORE: Friends miss graduation party after they become stranded in Majorca for days due to easyJet flight cancellations

People hoping to make the most of relaxed Covid travel rules have seen their trips affected as the airline industry suffers a surge of coronavirus-related sickness and a shortage of workers after job cuts during the pandemic. The rate of staff absences at easyJet is around double normal levels.

The situation could worsen this weekend as airports will be used by travellers returning from trips during the first week of the break, and those departing for the second week of the school holiday. Some school Easter holidays also only begin next Monday.

Manchester Airport has been badly hit with its managing director Karen Smart resigning on Tuesday after weeks of disruption for passengers. Passengers have also reported long queues at Heathrow and Birmingham airports.

Why so many delays?

Airports are struggling from the combination of staff shortages and a spike in demand as many families head abroad for the school Easter holiday, which is the first since the UK’s coronavirus restrictions for international travellers were dropped.

What’s being done to reduce the impact on passengers?

To reduce the impact on passengers, most cancellations are being made at least a day in advance and on routes with multiple daily flights, so passengers can be offered alternative departures.

British Airways said many of its cancellations include flights cut as part of its decision last month to reduce its schedule until the end of May. This was done to boost reliability due to rising Covid-19 cases.

Manchester Airport has said in a previous statement: “As we continue to recover from the pandemic and passenger numbers grow, security queues may be longer than usual at times. If you’re due to travel in the next few weeks, please arrive at the earliest time your airline allows. We apologise to our customers for the disruption”.

What have people endured?

Travellers have faced long delays and chaotic scenes, with queues trailing outside terminals to reach check-in desks and hordes of people waiting to get through security and to pick up luggage.

Piles of suitcases have been left in terminals after travellers abandoned the wait to reclaim their baggage and instead left for home.

What to do if your flight is delayed or cancelled during Easter chaos

When can I get compensation?

The good news is airlines are obliged to fork out if your plane is delayed or cancelled through their fault; the bad news is it depends on where you’re travelling to or from, and who owns the plane. If disruption is caused on departures from the UK, then you’re covered. But if an issue arises on the return leg, you’ll only get help if you’re travelling with a UK or EU airline. All the information below applies to these two cases.

For any journeys with a non-EU airline to a destination outside the UK, you’ll need to check with the individual airline.

What are you entitled to after a few hours?

Most airlines will offer you tokens for food and drink to be redeemed at the airport, along with access to phone calls and emails if you are overseas. For short haul flights (less than 1500km) the delay will need to be over two hours; for mid-haul (1500km-3500km) it’s three hours; for long haul (more than 3500km) it’s four hours. But don’t expect to go crazy – amounts will only usually cover the bare minimum.

What are you entitled to after long delays?

For longer flight delays, you may be eligible for hotel accommodation (if your flight is rescheduled for the following day) and in some cases, vouchers for future use. Again, the amount will depend on the delay and the distance of the flight.

If your flight is delayed for more than five hours, you can decide to cancel and receive a full refund, along with a refund for any other parts of the journey you won’t be able to complete. Alternatively, you can claim up to £520 compensation if the airline is to blame.

What happens if the flight is cancelled?

In this instance, you can claim a full refund or can request the airline book an alternative flight to get you to your destination. Legally, you can also ask for compensation if your replacement flight arrives more than two hours later than was originally planned, or if you were given less than 14 days’ notice for a cancellation. For less than seven days’ notice, you’re entitled to between £110 and £520.

How to make a claim

First of all, contact your airline. If you don’t hear back, check to see if the airline is a member of an alternative dispute resolution body (ADR). You can also report the case to the Civil Aviation Authority (caa.co.uk). It’s also worth checking with your travel insurance to see if you are covered. Other useful bodies include Citizens Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk)

Watch out for Acts of God

Unfortunately, if weather or natural disasters are to blame for delays or cancellations, it won’t be possible to make a claim from an airline. Instead, check the T&Cs of your insurance policy.

Tip

If you’re on a multi-hop trip using different airlines for each leg, make sure you include all the flights on the same booking. It’ll be easier to claim for compensation if a part of the journey is disrupted.

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