Travel tips: Nine flight cancellations questions answered by Simon Calder

The Independent’s travel correspondent takes on readers’ most burning holiday queries

Simon Calder
Tuesday 19 July 2022 18:03 BST
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<p>A BA A320</p>

A BA A320

As the UK baked in a second day of heatwave with record temperatures, The Independent’s travel correspondent Simon Calder answered reader questions on flight cancellations, passports and more.

Here are nine questions on flight cancellations answered by Simon.

What compensation am I entitled to after a cancelled flight?

Q: We were booked on a Eurowings flight from Birmingham to Stockholm on 1 July that was cancelled with about three hours’ notice. After Eurowings refused to book us on anything that wasn’t a EW or Lufthansa flight, we booked ourselves on Ryanair’s Liverpool to Stockholm flight leaving the following day. We filled out a form on EW’s website requesting compensation for the cancelled flights and reimbursement for our Ryanair flight along with reasonable expenses (food, travel to Liverpool). The claim was submitted 16 days ago but, aside from a reply confirming they’d received our email, we haven’t heard anything back. How long do Eurowings have to reply, and how should we escalate if they do not get back to us in time? Also, we had booked to stay in a hotel by Birmingham airport the night before our original flight - are we eligible to claim this back as the cancellation rendered the hotel stay as unnecessary?

A: You are one of hundreds of thousands of people who have had a really tough time with cancellations this summer. If, as you say, Eurowings refused to book you on anything that wasn’t a flight on one of the Lufthansa Group airlines, it appears to have directly contravened the Civil Aviation Authority view that you must be offered a flight on any airline that will get you there on the original day of travel.

You did the right thing to book on Ryanair and then claim. Unfortunately one of the many gaps in the European air passengers’ rights rules is that there is no specified time for when these costs must be met. Give it a few more weeks then write a Letter Before Action saying you will make a legal claim (though since Brexit that has become trickier).

The Birmingham hotel counts as a consequential loss. It is possible, though frankly unlikely, that your travel insurance may cover it.

Q: My family had two return flights cancelled, are we entitled to two claims? The carrier is only offering one and no accommodation/food/transfer costs. Three day gap between offered flights.

A: Yes, you should be able to claim for each cancellation, if it was the airline’s responsibility (eg technical problems or staff shortage)

Q: Applied for compensation and loss of one day of holiday with Jet2. This was late May. How long do they have to reply to my request? Also need reimbursing for the hotel we had to get after flight was cancelled until the next day.

A: As previously mentioned, European air passengers’ rights rules are too flimsy in places. Jet2 has generally been an excellent airline/tour operator and so I hope a polite letter will be sufficient. Interested that you had to pay for the hotel – generally Jet2 would have booked and paid for it.

Will British Airways refund my Covid cancelled flight vouchers?

Q: Like many I had BA vouchers for flight and car hire after Covid cancelled a 2020 holiday. BA Holidays have cash refunded the car hire vouchers. Do you sense any likelihood of the same for the flight vouchers? The current issues with BA don’t encourage rebooking right now particularly with current prices. That said the vouchers were extended to 09/23.

A: This looks a tricky position to be in.

First, if you booked a British Airways Holiday for 2020 that did not go ahead – with flights cancelled as opposed to you deciding not to take them – then the default should be that you get a full refund. I am interested to know the process by which a portion of the package – the car rental – was handed back but not the flights element. Were you not offered a full refund?

Second, if there was a reason for you accepting vouchers – eg you were offered an option to boost the value of your flights – you are very much on the back foot. However, if it was simply that getting a cash refund was very difficult and/or not at all obvious, you may have the opportunity to come back to BA and ask for your money back.

Third, if the trip went ahead but you were unable due to local lockdown rules to avail of it, a full refund may well be available – but only after a test case has gone through the courts.

How do I find out if my British Airways flight is cancelled?

Q: With BA having to cancel flights out of Heathrow this summer, do you know whether passengers affected have now been told? And, secondly, if our BA flight (which is to Rhodes) on a Wednesday 14 September at 1.30pm has people bumped from that day’s earlier flight (which appears to have been removed from BA’s schedule later this summer), would booking our seats in advance be advantageous - is it more likely we will be guaranteed boarding, than if we waited to be allocated them at check-in? Expensive though!

A: British Airways has cancelled around 30,000 flights so far this summer and I believe the vast majority of affected passengers have been told. There may be a few further cancellations in response to Heathrow’s cap on passenger numbers at 100,000 departures a day, but almost certainly not to holiday destinations such as Rhodes. I wouldn’t dream of paying to reserve a seat on British Airways – if there is an overbooking situation, then as BA knows volunteers must be sought. Anyway, you can check-in free from 24 hours ahead.

What are my rights if my flight is cancelled?

Q: I booked a holiday with BA, flying INV to LHR then LHR to BGI. The holiday was booked January 2022 for a (late) October 2022 departure and I have so far only paid the full deposit required by BA, with the balance due Sept 2022. The INV to LHR sector was to be on the early morning red eye flight leaving INV at 7am, however this flight has recently been suspended during July. If this flight is further suspended, as seems likely, through to Oct it will require me to travel down to London the night before. What are my rights here, are BA liable for my additional overnight costs or is it just a case of them rescheduling the INV - LHR flight to the day before at no cost to me?

A: At present all of this is hypothetical. British Airways hopes it can run a full short-haul service by late October – many of the current holiday flights are likely to be ended by then. BA should certainly pay for your Heathrow hotel if it happens.

Q: EasyJet are saying they don’t have to reroute me if they give me more than 14 days’ notice. That is not my reading of their Notice of Rights. I am not asking for compensation, only that they pay for another flight on another airline (they no longer fly to my destination).

A: What??? That is nonsense. I cannot see any grounds that easyJet would have for refusing a claim for your new flight.

Will my flight be cancelled?

Q: What are your thoughts on what will happen regarding further flight cancellations from Heathrow after 24 July? We are scheduled to fly on 28th from terminal 4 on Qatar and don’t know how concerned we should be that we may meet issues. So far Qatar don’t seem to have cancelled any flights and don’t know if that is a comfort or not!

A: Qatar Airways, along with other giant Gulf-based airlines, looks to me unlikely to reduce the number of flights – instead stopping selling seats on its existing departures. I have just tried to make a test booking for a flight tomorrow from Heathrow to Doha. In case I am wrong, then a departure likely to be cancelled is one with a very close alternative. For example QR4 leaves at 3.05pm and QR8 leaves at 4pm. Passengers could also be accommodated on a British Airways flight to Doha – Qatar Airways is a part owner of BA’s parent company, IAG.

Q: Flying to Charlotte NC late Aug with American Airlines. They seem to be flying this route well at the moment. Confident we will be OK?

A: Should be good but don’t be amazed if you are asked to transfer at New York JFK instead of a direct flight.

Simon said: “Thanks for all your questions – back here again soon for more. Enjoy the evening.”

Check back soon for Simon Calder’s next ‘Ask Me Anything’. Make sure you’re signed up to receive his weekly travel newsletter by putting your email in the box above or via our newsletters page.

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