We’re not out of the woods yet. Flights are still being canceled and the problem looks set to continue through the summer as airline strikes and staff shortages continue to cause disruption. Both Ryanair and EasyJet workers in Spain are on strike for several days this month, which could lead to last-minute flight cuts. If it happens to you, the sooner you act, the greater the chance of mitigating the consequences.
Here’s what to do to get ahead of the pack and reduce the pain. Full information on what to do for each step follows.
Cancellations on the day: outgoing
1. Look at alternative flights as soon as possible
Sometimes you can quickly rebook with the same airline – but to continue your holiday you may have to make a new booking with another airline. Which? warns that doing this and trying to claim the cost back as an expense “is very risky and may only work if the reason for traveling is exceptionally time-sensitive, such as a child’s wedding or a job interview, so it is advisable to only take this step when 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 get you home and may make it more difficult to recover the cost of the alternative flight.”
Whatever your strategy, don’t waste time getting online before options sell out. For new bookings, skyscanner.net is a good starting point because it includes indirect flights, which can be a useful fallback – 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 face as a result of the cancellation? Some guidelines do, others don’t.
3. Sort other arrangements
If you have booked independently, you must assess as soon as possible whether you will be able to save or leave the holiday. Then you must warn the following that you will be late, or try to postpone or cancel the events:
It may be difficult to get a refund – it will depend on the terms of your order. But the sooner you contact the hotel or villa company, the greater the chance of saving the situation.
Contracts vary, you may be able to cancel for a refund or postpone, you may not. If you are going to be late, it is important to let the company know, otherwise the car may be reassigned.
The same applies to rental car contracts.
4. Contact the operator
If you have booked with a tour operator, all practical matters should be taken care of for you, but notify the company of the cancellation immediately: they may not know yet.
5. Demand compensation
Airlines are notoriously bad at notifying passengers of their rights. But you may be entitled to compensation for cancellations that occur within 14 days before departure. The rules are complicated and the amounts vary: check our comprehensive guide.
You have similar rights – including compensation – on the return flight, but you are in a different situation. For rebooking, see point 1 above. Else:
6. Insist on accommodation
If you need to stay extra nights and the airline’s staff do not help, you must arrange the accommodation yourself and claim back the costs. The fastest way to find a place is probably through a site like booking.com. Keep things affordable – three or four star, not five – and make sure to keep the receipt for accommodation and any necessary expenses for meals.
7. Expand airport parking
If your return is delayed, you may be charged premium rates for the extra length of stay when exiting the car park. It will normally be cheaper to call the booking agent and extend the booking that way.
8. Tell your employer
You probably don’t need to be reminded to do this, but it’s worth calling or emailing to explain the situation and arrange to work remotely until you can return or take extra leave.
Cancellations in advance
If your flight is canceled before the day of departure, you are obviously in a less stressful situation immediately. But you would still be wise to react as quickly as possible – especially if you want to rebook a flight or holiday. And (as above) check your compensation rights.
Reader service: It is more important than ever to have holiday cancellation insurance. Learn how to get it right travel cover before you leave.