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Air Passenger Rights Following Cancellations & Delays

Holidaymakers are facing flight cancellations and lengthy delays as airlines and airports struggle to meet demand. If your flight is affected, you are entitled to support and financial redress. But the rules are complex, taking into account the length of delay and the journey distance. For a comprehensive look at your rights, please visit our dedicated page.

16 September: Spain Extends Covid Entry Requirements To November

UK travellers to Spain will still have to meet strict Covid-19 entry requirements until at least 15 November after the Spanish authorities extended their current regime for non-EU countries.

This means that, if you are travelling to Spain, you must:

  • be fully vaccinated
  • present a negative COVID-19 test (either a PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to departure)
  • have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months, with a medical certificate or recovery record to that effect.

These rules apply to those aged 12 and over.

The announcement means the rules will be in place for the October half-term break. You can find out more here about entry requirements for Spain.

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UPDATE 15 September: How Travel Emerged From Covid Shutdown In 2022

Families and travellers aged 35 and older opted for long haul trips to far-flung destinations in the first half of 2022, despite the expense, while empty nesters stuck to trips closer to home.

The findings come from travel insurance sister brands CoverForYou and Cedar Tree.

A third brand from the same group, Outbacker, found that backpackers, gap year students, and those able to carry out their jobs remotely have swapped traditionally popular destinations such as the USA, Mexico and Dominican Republic for South Asia, and are taking shorter trips, writes Candiece Cyrus.

Far-flung destinations 

The cost of living crisis and flight cancellations and operational chaos at UK airports, caused by airport and airline staff cuts during the pandemic, did not deter families and travellers aged 35 and older from travelling to long haul destinations.

CoverForYou’s target group is families and travellers aged 35 and above. It says destinations such as the USA, Mexico, Jamaica, Canada and the Dominican Republic leapt in popularity by 45% from January to June this year, compared to the same period in 2019.

Spain and the Canary Islands, Greece and Cyprus remained the most popular with the firm’s customers, but only saw a 5% increase in travel insurance purchases in the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2019. 

Generally, there seems to have been a rise in consumer confidence from travellers aged 26 and above this year, according to CoverForYou. Insurance policy sales peaked for this age group during the typical busy booking season of January despite pandemic border restrictions still in place in the UK at the time.

Greek islands 

For the typical Cedar Tree customer – an empty nester, aged in their late 40s to 65 – destinations such as the USA, Mexico, Jamaica and Canada and Dominican Republic dropped in popularity by 89% between January and June, with the Greek Islands proving popular.

Countries such as Italy, France and Portugal that used to be the mainstays of holidays for both CoverForYou and CedarTree customers have seen an 18% dip in popularity for CoverForYou customers in the first six months of this year compared to 2019. This rises to 39% for Cedar Tree customers during the same period.

South Asia

Outbacker says demand for travel insurance purchases is on the rise among backpackers, students taking gap years and remote workers carrying out their jobs from abroad.

In particular, they increased by 72% for 17 to 21-year-olds in the first six months of this year compared to 2019 and spiked at 248% in June, compared to May. 

Neil Wright, Outbacker’s managing director, said: “Traditionally, younger backpackers would take off in January when they’d had a good six-months, once school finished, to save money to fund their trip. What we’re now seeing is these travel norms disappearing. Instead, people are taking immediate advantage of the world having opened up.

“But with this adventurer mentality comes unprecedented levels of caution. Gone are the days of travel insurance being a last-minute purchase, these days all breeds of traveller are adding insurance as a necessary, well-researched item on their travel checklist.” 

Travel insurance purchases also rose by 96% for 22-25-year-olds and 23% for travellers aged 26 and above, perhaps suggesting that remote working, which was necessary for many companies during the pandemic, continues, and is allowing workers to carry out their jobs while abroad.

Whatever the age and purpose for travel, these travellers seem to be more keen to go to South East Asia over the traditionally popular destinations of the USA, Canada, Mexico and Europe. 

Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia saw the biggest leap in insurance purchases across all Outbacker travellers, at 200%, with 69% of Outbacker travellers favouring these destinations the most from January to June this year, compared to only 47% the same time in 2019. 

These travellers also seemed to be more cautious about how long they booked away. Pre-pandemic, between January and June 2019, Outbacker found travellers took trips for over 200 days on average. From January to June this year the average number of days dropped to 126.

UPDATE 23 August: BA Slashes Winter Services

British Airways will cancel around 5,000 return-trip short-haul journeys in the months from October to March 2023, mainly from Heathrow, with Gatwick and London City also affected. The figure represents about 8% of its normal schedule.

Thousands of flights by BA and other airlines have already been cancelled in recent months.

Heathrow has separately imposed a 100,000 limit on the number of passengers it will handle per day until 29 October (see below).

BA says flights are being reduced because of lack of staff to handle passenger numbers. This is a legacy of lay-offs during pandemic shut-downs, and difficulties in recruiting staff and processing their security clearances and training requirements.

The airline says announcing cancellations in advance reduces short-notice cuts to services and reduces disruption and delays. It is giving passengers advance notice so that alternative arrangements can be made.

Customers affected by a cancellation will be offered (as is their legal right) an alternative flight, either with BA or another airline, or provided with a full refund if they prefer.

UPDATE 16 August: Heathrow Extends Cap On Passenger Numbers

Heathrow is extending its 100,000-per-day cap on passengers using the airport to 29 October. The limit was originally scheduled to end on 11 September, but will now run until the end of the summer season, which includes the autumn half-term school holiday.

It says the move will provide passengers with confidence ahead of their half-term getaways because it reduces the likelihood of services being cancelled at short notice. Earlier in the summer, Heathrow was overstretched by 104,000 customers using it daily, with disruption and cancellations causing passenger misery.

Heathrow’s argument is that, by better balancing passenger demand with available resources, it is able to operate a “safe airport ecosystem” that prioritises passenger needs. It says the cap has resulted in fewer last-minute cancellations, better punctuality and shorter waits for bags.

Several other airports, including Gatwick, Frankfurt and Schiphol, have also put in place equivalent capacity limits. Schiphol has also extended its cap through to the end of October.

The decision to extend the Heathrow cap was taken after consultation with airlines. The capacity limits will be kept under regular review and could be lifted earlier should there be an improvement in capacity, notably through increased recruitment at airline ground handlers.

Ross Baker, Heathrow’s chief commercial officer, said: “Our primary concern is ensuring we give our passengers a reliable service when they travel. That’s why we introduced temporary capacity limits in July which have already improved journeys during the summer getaway.

“We want to remove the cap as soon as possible, but we can only do so when we are confident that everyone operating at the airport has the resources to deliver the service our passengers deserve.”

UPDATE 3 August: British Airways Suspends Ticket Sales For Short-Haul Flight Out Of Heathrow 

British Airways has suspended the sale of tickets for short-haul and domestic flights from Heathrow until 15 August, writes Candiece Cyrus

The move comes after Heathrow imposed a 100,000 daily cap on the number of passengers that could leave the west London airport between 12 July and 11 September, requesting that airlines curb ticket sales during this period to combat long queue times, delays and last-minute cancellations.

British Airways said the latest suspension of short-haul ticket sales would free up extra seats, so that existing customers who experience operational disruption have a better chance of rebooking.

The airline said the decision was part of, “pre-emptive action to reduce our schedule this summer to give customers certainty about their travel plans and to build more resilience into our operation given the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.”

A spokesperson said: “We’ll continue to manage bookings to be within the Heathrow imposed cap so we can get our customers away as planned this summer.”

Airports and airlines have struggled with increasing demand for travel since the Easter period when Covid-related travel restrictions were lifted in the UK.

Last month, Emirates paused the sale of new tickets for flights out of Heathrow until mid-August, having initially rejected the airport’s demand to reduce capacity over the summer.

1 August: France Lifts All Covid Border Restrictions

From today, travellers visiting France can do so free from any Covid-related restrictions, writes Candiece Cyrus.

Travellers arriving in France will no longer be required to present proof of vaccination status or fill out any ‘justification for travel’ forms. Nor will they be required to present proof of a negative PCR or antigen test upon arrival.

The removal of all restrictions also applies to those visiting French overseas territories, such as the island of Martinique and the archipelago of Guadeloupe in the West Indies, from France.

The French Embassy tweeted: “From today (1 August), you can enter France without undergoing border health checks.

“You no longer have to take a test before going to France if you are unvaccinated.”

France joins Portugal, Malta and Greece on the growing list of popular holiday destinations that have dropped all Covid-related travel restrictions.

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23 July: Dover Disruption May Trigger Insurance Claims

Europe-bound ferry passengers suffering long delays at the Channel port of Dover this weekend may be able to claim on their travel insurance if they miss their booking.

Some policies include provision for claiming back the cost of rebooking onto another service, as well as the cost of emergency accommodation, up to a stated limit. Policies may also pay out a cash sum to anyone delayed for more than 12 hours.

The huge queues of traffic outside the port have led to reported delays of up to seven hours for car passengers, while lorries have been parked up overnight on roads leading to the area. This has exacerbated the situation, with those heading to the port for bookings this weekend having to negotiate lengthy diversions.

Travellers heading to the Eurotunnel facility at Folkestone are also experiencing delays and disruption due to traffic bottlenecks and diversions, particularly on the M20.

The cause of the disruption at Dover is disputed, with the UK government claiming French passport booths at the port are under-staffed. The French authorities say their personnel have themselves been caught up in the travel chaos and have been delayed in reaching their posts.

There are also claims that added bureaucracy created by Brexit has slowed the flow of traffic through the port and onto ferries.

The two governments say they are working urgently to ease the gridlock, which is also a consequence in a surge of holidaymakers heading to Europe at the start of the school summer holidays.

Insurance claims

Anyone stuck in traffic trying to get a cross-channel ferry may be able to claim on their travel insurance – the relevant sections are ‘Missed departure’ and ‘Travel delay’.

If you miss your booked ferry slot and the ferry provider won’t move your booking to a later departure gratis, you may be able to claim for the cost of re-booking it yourself. Policies provide a fixed maximum amount you can claim for missed departure – say, £500 – but you can only claim back what you spend.

If you need to pay for accommodation because of the delay, that can be added to the amount, but again, there’ll be a ceiling on the amount you can claim.

It is important to keep receipts to support any claim you make.

The travel delay section of a policy kicks in if you are delayed by a certain amount of time – usually 12 hours. You’ll then be able to claim a cash amount – say, £25 – and then additional amounts depending on how long the delays endure, up to a maximum of perhaps £100. Hopefully nobody will be in the jams for that long.

Policies also include provision for abandoning a holiday if the delay to departure lasts for 24 hours. That might mean you could reclaim the cost of any accommodation you have booked in Europe if you decide, after a lengthy delay, to turn around and head back home.

The exact provision of cover varies from policy to policy, so it’s important to check your policy details to see where you stand.

22 July: BA Heathrow Staff Accept Pay Offer, Call Off Strike

Check-in staff employed by British Airways at Heathrow airport have called off the threat of strike action after accepting a ‘significant’ pay offer worth a total of 13%.

Staff voted for industrial action when British Airways refused to reinstate a 10% pay cut imposed during the pandemic. But BA’s latest offer has now been accepted.

Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union representing 500 staff, said: “This is a great result for our check-in members at British Airways. By standing together, they have forced a corporate giant like BA to do the right thing and restore levels of pay slashed in the pandemic.”

The offer will be paid in several stages. In addition to the increase in pay rates, shift pay reductions that were introduced in 2020 will be reversed from October 2022.

A spokesperson for the airline was reported by the BBC as saying British Airways is delighted with the outcome of the negotiations.

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21 July: Heathrow Refuelling Staff Call Off Pay Strike

Refuelling staff at Heathrow airport have called off a strike that was due to start today following an improved pay offer from their employer.

The move will save disruption to hundreds of flights from airlines including  Air France, American Airlines, Delta, Emirates, KLM, Singapore, United and Virgin Atlantic, writes Candiece Cyrus.

Staff at Aviation Fuel Services (AFS) were due to strike from 5am today (Thursday 21 July) to 4.59am on Sunday 24 July.

Kevin Hall, regional officer at Unite, the union representing the workers, said: “Unite has consistently said that AFS was capable of making an offer more likely to meet members’ expectations. Following the assistance of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, an improved offer was made.”

Unite says AFS workers will receive a 12.5% rise, increase in weekend overtime rates plus £2,500 bonus 

AFS refuels 50% of the non-British Airways traffic at Heathrow airport, according to Unite. The union says its AFS members have not received a pay rise in three years. During this time it says staff have seen their incomes fall by 15.5% in real terms. 

The Union said that AFS had previously offered a 10% pay increase but this was rejected by workers as inadequate.

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17 July: Govt Publishes Charter To Codify Air Passenger Rights

The government today published an Aviation Passenger Charter which sets out an individual’s rights in the event of cancellation and delay when flying. 

The charter covers:

  • planning and booking your trip
  • travel to and through the airport
  • taking your flight and returning to the UK
  • what to do if things don’t go as planned.

It also covers what passengers can expect from their airline, travel agent, tour operator and airport, and sets out best practice in terms of how passengers should be treated.

Additionally, it makes clear that passengers have a responsibility to take with them everything they need for their journey, such as passports and travel documentation for their destination (including any Covid tests or certification).

Travellers are also expected to tell their airline and airport in advance of travel if they have special requirements, such as assistance with disability and mobility.

The specifications of the charter include:

  • terms and conditions of any booking must be available at the time of making the booking from the airline, travel agent or tour operator. They must be clear and easy to understand and easy to find. They must provide clear information on what to do in the case of cancellations, date changes and if you need to rebook.
  • airlines must provide a breakdown of all taxes and charges included in a ticket. 
  • airlines and travel agents selling flight tickets should make clear at the time of booking whether there are any additional charges for optional extras, for example, luggage allowance, and seat selection. 
  • no additional charges should be added to your booking for special assistance for disabled and less mobile passengers, or for carrying medical equipment and up to two pieces of mobility equipment per passenger.

The charter recommends that passengers have adequate travel insurance: “You should check what cover is provided, including medical treatment, travel disruption, industrial action, airline failure and planned activities such as adventure sports as appropriate.

“Ideally travel insurance should be taken, at the time of booking or as soon after as possible, to ensure you are covered in the event of any issues ahead of your journey, for example in case you need to cancel.

“You should check the terms and conditions of your insurance cover and ensure you understand what is excluded from the cover. This should be set out clearly in the insurance policy document.”

Passengers are also urged to apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which lets you get state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. You will still need adequate travel insurance in addition to the GHIC.

The charter also includes extensive information on the rights of those with disability, reduced mobility or illness.

It also confirms what is payable in…

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