Flying off for a half-term break with the family or to escape Britain’s winter? You’ll be hoping, after the recent collapse of airline Monarch, Ryanair cancellations and the French air traffic controllers’ strike, that everything goes smoothly at the airport.
Our friends at Cheapflights, the global flight search and travel deals website, has compiled some top tips on how to avoid airport chaos, such as what to do if your flight is delayed or cancelled and how to get on board if you miss your flight.
When booking Booking flights and accommodation separately? It’s always best to use your credit card as most companies offer you some protection against cancellation or travel companies going out of business but only where your items are worth more than £100. The same protection doesn’t apply to debit cards, so whilst some companies currently charge a small surcharge for credit card payments, the protection you receive may be worth it. From January 2018, credit card fees will be banned in the UK, making this even more appealing.
Missed your flight? In August 2017, British travellers found themselves in lengthy queues across European airports as EU rules requiring more stringent checks on travellers entering and leaving the Schengen area were introduced. European countries had six months to implement the checks and that deadline expired on October 7, so ensure you allow extra time when travelling this half-term as all countries will now have these checks in place.
If you miss your outbound flight from a UK airport, be sure to reclaim your Air Passenger Duty. Paid when you book and held by the airlines until you actually fly, if you don’t board your flight the APD doesn’t pass on to the Government. Different airlines have different policies and fees on how you can reclaim the tax; always check before processing your request especially if you were due to travel short-haul as the fees may outstrip the refund you’re due. For families, children under 16 years travelling in the lowest class of travel available aren’t charged APD, but if you’re travelling in a higher class, APD is charged.
Flight delayed? If your ticket doesn’t allow you to use an airport lounge, seek out one that lets you pay for access. Facilities differ lounge by lounge but most include free food, drink, wifi and magazines, with some also offering showers, massage chairs or spa access. Especially for those with young children, it’s worth downloading multiple episodes of their favourite TV shows – and a few of your own should the kids fall asleep whilst you wait for your flight.
Under the EU Denied Boarding Regulations, if you are flying a European airline and departing from Europe and are delayed for more than five hours the airline should offer you a refund of the cost of your flight. Shorter delays may entitle you to meals and refreshments deemed appropriate for the delay, hotel accommodation and transfers if overnight stay is required and two free phone calls or emails; the length of delay to qualify varies depending on how far you are flying and whether your flight is within or outside of the EU.
Flight cancelled? What options you have if your flight is cancelled really depends on how you booked. Don’t assume your travel insurance will cover any additional costs of flight changes or additional accommodation; whilst it’s great for delays, medical assistance and covering your belongings, if your holiday company goes bust, very few travel insurance policies will assist.
If you’re already at the airport, engage with your airline as they’ll make recommendations on how to get you on the move. But ensure you know your rights; airlines must offer a full refund or pay for you to travel on other flights – even if with a rival airline – train, bus or hire car. If they fly you into a different airport, they are also liable for the cost of transporting you to the original airport.
A spokesperson from Cheapflights says: “There are still affordable deals to be had on flights across half term. These include Paris (from £116pp return), Munich (from £187pp return) and Amsterdam (from £96pp return).
“Given the popularity with Brits of the last half term before the long stretch until Christmas, we can reveal that appetite for sunny destinations, to catch the last of the season sun, is as strong as ever.
“Affordable deals are still to be found when booked even now. And travellers can also still get deals on other city destinations to some of the traditionally less sunny spots.”