With the snow-heavy ‘Beast from the East’ storm hitting the UK this week, many of my friends were caught up in the swathe of flight cancellations. Some managed to hop on another flight, but others weren’t so lucky, sadly forfeiting their well-earned holidays.
Travelling can be a stressful experience at the best of times – particularly if you’re going on a trip with small children or elderly adults. However, when things go wrong thanks to cancellations and unexpected delays, even the trip of your dreams can turn into a nightmare.
It’s important to remember that even if you can’t get compensation when your flight is cancelled, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have rights as a passenger. The key to success is knowing what you can claim.
When Flight Cancellations Go Bad
We’re all familiar with the media fiasco that happened with United Airlines last year, in which a passenger ended up being pulled away from his seat, so it could be given to a United employee instead. Tales like this one are probably enough to fill countless adventurers with a sense of dread when it comes to making the most of their next big trip.
Since the United Airlines issues, airlines have increased the amount of compensation they generally give to passengers who are unexpectedly bumped off a flight. While you might not get the same level of compensation if you give up your seat voluntarily, you should have access to some kind of refund if you are removed against your will.
Additionally, many airlines have changed their precautions around flight over-booking to reduce the risk of overbooking in the first place.
What to Do When Your Flight Is Cancelled
Flights are cancelled more often than you might think. Recent disputes with pilots have prompted countless airlines to cancel hundreds of flights in a single week (remember Ryanair this Christmas?), disrupting plans for thousands of people. The question is, what can you do if your trip is delayed or cancelled for reasons that are beyond your control?
If you’re from the USA or Canada, tThe first thing you need to know is that there are currently no laws which require airlines to compensate their passengers who have flights cancelled or delayed. However, since it’s not a good idea to upset customers, most airlines try to minimise inconveniences or costs when travel plans are disrupted.
If you live in the European Union, under EU law, airlines are required to pay compensation to passengers when their flights are delayed or cancelled, although they are sometimes slow to offer this.
Usually, if your flight is suddenly cancelled, your airline will rebook you on the next departure available. Additionally, some airlines will allow you to request a refund for your ticket so that you can rebook yourself on an alternative flight from a different carrier as quickly as possible.
Getting Onto another Flight
The main focus for an airline when cancelling a flight is making sure that they keep their customers happy by booking them onto another flight as quickly as possible. In some situations, the airline that disrupts your travel will be able to book you another seat with a different carrier to get you to your destination. Although they’re not required to do this, most will take the initiative if you’re polite enough.
If a cancelled or delayed flight forces you to stay in a specific place overnight awaiting a departure, then the airline will attempt to put you up in a hotel at the expense of the carrier. However, these offers extend exclusively to non-local passengers, which means that you won’t necessarily get a free stay somewhere fancy if you already live in the area.
Each airline comes with its own distinct set of policies, but the exclusions and rules followed by most companies can be found on a terms and conditions page, or the company’s website.
How to Manage your Flight Cancellation
Ultimately, no matter what you do, it’s impossible to make certain that you’ll never suffer from a canceled or delayed flight. Eventually, the more you travel, the more likely it is that you’ll end up suffering from a problem caused by a malfunction in the plane, or a problem with the staff. However, knowing your rights should mean that you’re ready to respond as efficiently and effectively as possible to the problem at hand when something goes wrong.
Just remember, above all else, when your flight is canceled, you should try to speak to an airline representative as quickly as possible. When having your conversation, make sure that you’re as polite as you can be about the situation in question, and that you never shout at the staff. Although it’s okay to express your frustrations about the problem, remember that it’s not the employee’s fault that your flight was cancelled.
Usually, the more polite you can be, the more likely it is that you’ll be placed on an alternative flight as quickly as possible.