8 questions on flight cancellations answered by Simon Calder

8 questions on flight cancellations answered by Simon Calder
‘Be more optimistic, people!’ says Simon Calder

Summer travel disruption, flight cancellations and strikes were at the forefront of questions asked by readers during travel correspondent Simon Calder’s weekly ‘Ask Me Anything’ on Friday.

The message of the day? Stay positive. Simon urged readers to be optimistic when booking and reminded them of their rights should their flights be cancelled.

Let’s dig in.

It seems easyJet are now cancelling some flights 20 days in advance. Do you have any insight into how end of August is looking ?

Several million people booked on easyJet over the summer we will be wishing, as I am, that the airline could finalise all its cancellations as soon as possible. As you know, the carrier promised more flights than it has the resources to deliver, especially to and from London Gatwick, and is now trimming the schedule by about 10 per cent. That means a significant number of people booked on July and August flights have, or will shortly, learn their original flight is cancelled. But even if it is, those fabulous European air passengers’ rights rules will stand you in good stead by requiring the cancelling airline to provide alternative flights.

I am flying to Malaga by easyJet on the 29th July, how likely is it that my flight will be cancelled if the Spanish strike goes ahead?

Flight is very likely to go ahead, even if it doesn’t there will be multiple other options to get you there.

You’ve been formidable raising awareness that customers should be rebooked OR offered alternative flight/transport to their destination in event of cancellation. Why does easyJet ‘manage booking’ not make this clear? Are customers actually getting through to customer services AND now getting alternative flights?

I don’t believe any airline is doing what it is supposed to do under the air passenger rights rules in terms of rebooking people on the obvious alternative flights. I hope I am wrong about that. I am, of course, keeping records of when carriers have flatly refused to take passengers.

I am due to finally fly to San Diego in mid August (16th) from Manchester via Heathrow on BA. How pessimistic should my hopes be?

Be more optimistic, people! Despite ground staff at BA’s Heathrow hub overwhelmingly backing a walkout in their fight to reverse pay cuts and the prediction from their trade union that “holidaymakers face massive disruption,” as someone holding four British Airways flights to and from Heathrow in July and August I am fairly confident they will take off more or less as normal. But if I am wrong, then European air passengers’ rights rules offer solid consumer protection – in the form of a requirement for the cancelling airline to provide flights on the same day, even if it means buying a ticket on another carrier.

I am intrigued, though, that you are flying from Manchester to Heathrow first to reach San Diego rather than connecting somewhere in North America – such as New York, Atlanta or Toronto – which doesn’t involve any doubling back.

With regard to the potential industrial action by BA ground staff next month, if a flight is cancelled more than 14 days before the scheduled departure date, is the airline still obliged to find passengers an alternative flight on the scheduled day, or just provide a refund?

Yes, the only difference 14 days makes is to avoid having to pay compensation. Duty to find an alternative flight remains.

Any updates on the Ryanair strike across a number of European countries this weekend and the likely impact on flights outside of these countries eg daughter flying back to Stansted tomorrow from Agadir?

By carefully reading the release that Ryanair has put out about its operations today (Friday 24 June), it is possible to identify exactly where the problems are: Brussels (both the main airport and Charleroi, known as “Brussels South”).

Fewer than 150 flights have been cancelled all told.

Three out of five of Ryanair’s scheduled flights to/from Brussels are operating normally.

“There were no flight disruptions in Italy, Spain, Portugal, UK, France or Ireland as the vast majority of Ryanair crews are working normally,” an airline spokesperson said.

The carrier believes that a two-day strike at a French Air Traffic Control centre in Marseille will have more impact.

There are some great deals for travel with Inghams and TUI to the alps in early July. Although very tempted, I experienced the carnage of Manchester airport in mid-May – and a two day delay for TUI to get us home from Kefalonia at the end. It hasn’t encouraged me to head abroad in the near future! But do you sense that Manchester/Birmingham are getting on top of things? Am I being too pessimistic?

Yes, I think you could be more optimistic. At times in May, Manchester airport was horrible in terms of long delays and overstretched ground staff leading to some very short notice cancellations of flights and entire holidays. Birmingham airport had its moments too, but I believe they are now on a sound footing and I would book with confidence.

I watched the recording of the Select Committee you attended and couldn’t believe how the easyJet and BA reps got away with their less than truthful summaries of the refund experience over the past few months. With a minister denying facts on loss of EU workforce and Committee Membership who seem to lack basic understanding of current issues, god help us all. Anyway, do you think the airlines will build up their schedules for July and August or is what we have now, the best we can expect?

Hi, as you mention I was warm-up act for the Business Select Committee on 14 June, when representatives of easyJet and British Airways had plenty to say; the link for the transcript is at the foot. The BA witness said: “For a refund of your flight, that should be done within seven days. We aim to do the EU261 compensation [for delayed or cancelled flights] within 14 days.” The easyJet witness said: “The customers receive the email, which … says, “You are entitled to rebook your flight. Here is a link to do that. You are entitled to a refund. Here are the three clicks it takes to get your refund. You are entitled to a voucher if you prefer.

“Here are your rights for additional compensation.”

Simon Calder holds a weekly ‘Ask Me Anything’ to answer your burning questions. Make sure you’re signed up to his travel newsletter to stay across the latest updates. To receive it, put your email in the box at the top of this article or register via our newsletters page.

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