THOUSANDS of travellers have been left stranded in airports after flights were cancelled out of the UK over the last few days.
Today, British Airways has cancelled at least 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow today.
And amidst today’s chaos, James Andrews, senior personal finance expert at money.co.uk has given his best advice for getting compensation if you are a traveller who has had a flight cancelled or delayed.
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Speak to your airline first
He said: “Your first port of call is the airline itself.
“If you’re flying out of the UK, you’re legally entitled to compensation once your arrival is delayed by two hours or more.”
How much you get under EU compensation rules depends on when the airline told you about the delay.
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James adds: “How much you get depends on when the airline told you about the delay, how long it is and where you’re flying. But the least you’re entitled to £110 while the most you can claim is £520.”
Claim free food and drink for delays
James said if you are trapped at the airport, the airline is required to supply you with food and drink (generally through vouchers), a means for you to communicate (i.e. refunding your calls), accommodation if you are re-routed the next day and transport to and from your accommodation.
“If the airline staff are too stretched thin to organise this for you, you have the right to organise reasonable equivalents yourself, then claim the costs back later – so make sure you keep any receipts,” he said.
“If your flight is cancelled outright, you can choose between a refund for all the parts of the ticket you’ve not used or or an alternate flight.
“Sadly, compensation is not automatic, so you need to contact the airline directly to make your claim.
When it comes to the rest of your holiday, what compensation you get depends on how you booked, James said.
Your rights on a refund to accommodation and activities
“People who bought their accommodation and activities as part of a package deal can claim compensation in the event their flight is cancelled. However, it gets a little murkier if you booked them separately yourself.
“The good news is that travel insurance should pay out if your airline is unable to get you to your destination and you miss out on your holiday as a result.
“People without travel insurance, however, are left at the mercy of the cancellation and refund policies at their destination. “
Rory Boland, editor at Which? Travel, said for people who are planning on heading to the airport in the next couple of days, to avoid taking luggage which needs to be checked in as this can delay you getting through to security, which can be an additional stress.
He added: “If you are checking in bags, make sure you keep valuables in your cabin bags.
“We are hearing from people who are getting to their destinations and those things are getting lost.”
Rory said this was due to a shortage of baggage handlers and general staff across the aviation industry.
Rory’s general advice for customers looking to book holidays later this summer was to book flexible holidays, as even if you receive a refund or compensation for your flight, it might not cover the cost of cancelled accommodation or tours.
“Look at hotels, look for tour operators who allow you to cancel without paying a penalty,” he said.
“Air BnB will tell you about the cancellation policy. I would be looking at places that offer 100% back.
“£220 (compensation) is a lot of money but if you have booked a family holiday, it’s not going to cover you for that 3 or 4* hotel.”
There have been reports of customers turning up extra early for their flights, but Rory said to turn up when the airline tells you to to avoid extra congestion in airports.
But he also said to make sure you turn up on time, so that if your flight is cancelled, it makes claiming for a refund, re-booking or compensation easier.
“In terms of turning up at the airport, I know people are worried about that in normal times.
“Turn up at the time that the airport is advising you to, that gives you some protection if something goes wrong.”
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“If you turn up on time it gives you the ability to contact the airline to say, can you help me out,” he said.
For further information on your rights, you can visit the Which? website.
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