We are not out of the woods yet. Whether it’s weather issues, strikes or technical issues, flights are still being canceled at UK airports. The latest disruption comes from Heathrow, where British Airways cut flights following the ripple effects of a computer glitch. Earlier this month, snow and freezing temperatures halted flights across the country. If this happens to you, the sooner you act, the better your chances of mitigating the consequences.
Here’s what to do to get a head start and minimize the pain. Full details on what to do for each step follow.
Cancellations on the day: one way
1. Look for alternative flights as soon as possible
Sometimes you can quickly rebook with the same airline – but, to continue your holiday, you may need to rebook with another. Which? warns that doing this and trying to claim reimbursement as an expense “is very risky and may only work if the reason for your trip is exceptionally urgent, such as a child’s wedding or a job interview, so it is advised that you only take this action once you have exhausted all other options… it is important not to accept a refund or cancel your existing booking as this will end the airline’s obligation to return you home you and could make it more difficult to reimburse the cost of your alternative flight.
Whatever your strategy, don’t waste time logging in before the alternatives sell out. For new bookings, skyscanner.net is a good place to start as it includes indirect flights, which can be a useful alternative – but book directly with the airline rather than following a link to an online agent.
2. Check your insurance
Does it cover any losses you may incur as a result of cancellation? Some policies do, some don’t.
3. Sort other arrangements
If you have booked independently, you should assess as soon as possible whether or not you can save or abandon your holiday. Then you will need to notify the following people that you will be late, or attempt to reschedule or cancel the arrangements:
It may be difficult to get a refund – this will depend on the terms of your booking. But the sooner you contact the hotel or villa company, the better your chances of saving the day.
Contracts vary, you may be able to cancel for a refund or reschedule, you may not. If you expect to arrive late, it is essential to let the company know otherwise the car may be reassigned.
The same goes for car rental contracts.
4. Contact your operator
If you booked through a tour operator, all the practical issues should be sorted out for you, but let the company know about the cancellation right away: they may not know it yet.
5. Ask for compensation
Airlines are notoriously bad at alerting passengers to their rights. But you may be entitled to compensation for cancellations that occur within 14 days of departure. The rules are complicated and the amounts vary: consult our complete guide.
You have similar rights – including compensation – on the return flight, but you are in a different situation. For a new reservation, see point 1 above. Otherwise:
6. Insist on hosting
If you need to stay extra nights and the airline staff does not help you, you will have to arrange accommodation yourself and claim reimbursement of the cost. The fastest way to find a place is probably through a site like booking.com. Keep things reasonable – three or four stars, not five – and be sure to keep the receipt for accommodation and all essential expenses for meals.
7. Extend airport parking
If your return is delayed, you may be charged an additional fee for the extra length of your stay when you leave the car park. It will normally be cheaper to call the booking agent and extend the booking that way.
8. Inform your employer
You probably don’t need a reminder to do this, but it’s worth making a call or email to explain the situation and arrange remote work until you can come back or take some extra time off .
Cancellations in advance
If your flight is canceled before the day of departure, you are obviously in a less stressful situation in the immediate future. But you would still do well to react as quickly as possible, especially if you want to book a flight or a holiday. And (as above) check your rights to compensation.
Reader Service: It is more important than ever to have holiday cancellation insurance. Learn how to get right travel blanket before you leave.