The Holiday Guru is always on hand to answer your questions.
Here, he addresses the recent travel chaos in European airports, explaining why so many flights have been cancelled by airlines and informing readers on their rights if their own holiday has been disrupted – or called off altogether.
Q. Is my summer holiday going to happen? This recent airport chaos doesn’t bode well.
The Holiday Guru answers readers’ queries about travelling this summer, amidst flight cancellations and enormous queues in airports around the UK
A. You’re right to be concerned. Alarm bells are ringing, with flights being cancelled willy-nilly by BA (in addition to the 16,000 it cancelled between March and October), easyJet and TUI. The last of these is axing 43 flights a week this month from Manchester, affecting up to 37,000 travellers. Meanwhile, airport understaffing is causing dreadful queues. Yet perhaps there are reasons to be hopeful.
Staff are desperately being recruited for the summer — and industry insiders claim that the Easter and Platinum Jubilee bank holidays simply came too soon after travel restrictions ended in March. New background checks and talk of better pay could help. We have our fingers crossed.
Q. That sounds a little iffy — can you offer any further reassurance?
A. Yes, there is the bottom line to consider. Last-minute cancellations cost airlines and tour operators vast amounts of money in compensation and lost revenue. They cannot afford this in the long term and are under huge pressure to deliver.
Flights are ‘being cancelled willy-nilly by BA, easyJet and TUI’, says the Holiday Guru
Q. Why are they cancelling flights, then, if they lose so much money from doing so?
A. Partly because of the sudden unleashing of wanderlust since the lifting of travel restrictions in March. For example, between Thursday and Sunday this week, flights trebled year on year — and that number would have been even greater if airlines and tour operators could have kept up. Letting go of so many employees during Covid has badly backfired — many have since found jobs in other industries.
Q. When can we expect the situation to improve for travellers?
A. Hopefully by July — but it won’t be anything like pre-pandemic levels. Airlines and tour operators see little point in pushing ahead with services only to have to cancel at the last minute.
According to the Holiday Guru, the situation for travellers will hopefully improve by July
Q. Does that mean these companies are likely to continue cancelling holidays in advance?
A. Possibly. What TUI is doing with its package holidays from Manchester this month is a bad sign. BA and easyJet are also making many advance cancellations.
Q. What are my rights if my holiday is eventually cancelled?
A. With package holidays you are due a full refund paid within 14 days of the announcement of the cancellation. With airline cancellations announced more than two weeks before your flight, the carrier is required by law to find an alternative flight as close to the original one as possible — potentially with another airline.
Q. What if my flight is cancelled just before we go?
A. Your airline has a duty to get you on the next flight to your destination. You are also due compensation when a flight is cancelled within 14 days of travel. If your flight is less than 1,500 km, this is £220, rising to £520 for long haul. So you should get to your destination and receive cash back.
The Guru says that if your flight is cancelled just before you travel, your airline has a duty to get you on the next flight to your destination
Q. If the next available flight isn’t until the following day, will accommodation be provided?
A. Yes, the airline must provide accommodation of a three-star standard and food. Keep your receipts.
Q. Are airports really recruiting enough people to cope with the surge in demand over the summer?
A. Not currently. Major airports have 80 per cent to 90 per cent of staff required for the summer, and at smaller airports it’s more like 70 per cent. Recruitment drives are on and only time will tell if they work.
The Guru recommends arriving at the airport three hours in advance of your flight
Q. Does this mean we need to allow for more time at airports before flights?
A. Arrive three hours in advance of your flight, but not earlier as this can just make things worse.
Q. What happens if we end up missing a flight because of all the airport delays?
A. You will struggle to get a refund from your airline, the airport or travel insurance. So don’t cut it fine.
‘Expect plenty of bumps along the way this summer,’ the Guru warns, adding that travellers should manage their expectations when it comes to holidays abroad
Q. Any other travel advice that might help travellers this summer?
A. Yes: manage your expectations. Travel is simply not back up to speed yet. Long queues formed at Eurostar’s London terminal this week, meanwhile, confidence in P&O Ferries has plummeted after its mass sackings in March. Expect plenty of bumps along the way this summer.
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If you need advice, the Holiday Guru is here to answer your questions. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.