Vacationers took advantage of the half-term school holidays and public holidays of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee to take long-awaited trips abroad, but many faced long lines at airports and flights were canceled. So what is going on, and what can those whose plans have been disrupted do?
Why are airports so busy?
Half-term holidays are traditionally the starting point for the summer tourism season. However, this year many passengers are heading abroad for the first time in two years due to the Covid pandemic. This week marks the first school holiday in England and Wales since all UK Covid travel restrictions were lifted and coronavirus testing requirements eased for many EU countries. Many consumers saved money when they were unable to vacation during the lockdown, which has increased the demand for overseas trips.
The great getaway also resulted in road congestion. Large queues took place over the weekend in the port of Dover for travelers waiting to cross the canal. The port warned travelers that this would be a “very busy week”.
Why are some airports struggling to cope?
Airports say many passengers are using vouchers or credit papers from canceled flights during Covid, fueling demand.
Many of the recent problems can be traced back to staff shortages, amid a shortage of available labor and the registration of job vacancies across the British economy.
The increase comes as the airline industry is still raising staff levels, after many workers have been laid off or changed jobs during the pandemic.
Thousands of passengers at Manchester Airport missed their flights earlier in the spring after waiting for hours to pass through security. On weekends there was a delay in check-in and baggage reclaim. The airport operator said more than 500 people are undergoing background checks and security training, but only 200 are due to join this month.
Heathrow employs 1,000 employees, although it is believed that the current travel boom may be a summer bubble. The demand for flights may fade this fall as the cost of living crisis and rising energy prices put pressure on consumer spending. The industry fears that the winter slowdown could cause problems for airlines in the traditionally quieter period of the year.
What are the airlines most affected?
Airlines including British Airways and easyJet announced a series of flight cancellations shortly before Easter, as a spike in coronavirus cases led to high levels of employee absenteeism.
In recent days, easyJet has canceled more than 200 flights to and from Gatwick between May 28 and June 6. Toei also made several last-minute cancellations over the weekend from airports including Gatwick, Birmingham and Bristol, as a result of “operational and supply chain issues”.
My flight has been canceled – what are my rights?
The good news is that you are still protected from many things that could go wrong. If your flight is cancelled, you have the right to choose between a refund or re-routing – this could be a new flight with the same airline or a different carrier. The airline is supposed to give you the opportunity to reach your destination on the same day.
For cancellation within 14 days of travel, you can claim compensation. The amount depends on the type of flight, if you choose to get a refund and not travel, or how much later your new departure and arrival are than your original plan.
For example, if your route has been changed by the original airline and the alternative flight arrives more than two hours after booking, you are entitled to compensation of £220 per passenger for flights up to 1,500 kilometres.
If an airline cancels at the last minute and you have to buy a new flight with a competing airline, you can claim the cost of a replacement ticket. If your original flight is too expensive, you’d better ask for a full refund.
Know that airlines often refuse these requests, but you are entitled to the money back.
My flight is delayed – what do I get?
The length of the delay and the distance of your flight are key. For delays of less than 2 hours, you are not entitled to anything. Then, for a short flight of less than 1,500 km, you get food and drink (possibly in the form of vouchers to use at the airport) and paid phone calls. You are also entitled to accommodation and transportation.
The delay must be longer before this can begin on a longer journey: three hours between 1,500 km and 3,500 km, and four hours after that. Compensation takes effect after three hours and starts from £220. If the delay exceeds five hours, you can get a full refund if you don’t travel, or you may be compensated even if you get the last flight, depending on the reason for the delay.