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What can I do if my flight gets cancelled or delayed?

Thousands of flights have been cancelled in the United States over recent weeks and passengers are demanding solutions to their unexpected fate.

MADRID, SPAIN - JULY 01: Passengers look at the flight displays at Terminal 4 of Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas Airport, on July 1, 2022, in Madrid, Spain. As every year, the start of the summer months means an increase in airport travel. This July 1, 2022 is marked by strikes at several international airlines. Specifically, tourists who choose destinations abroad will be affected by the strike of Ryanair workers, which began on June 24 and will last until tomorrow, July 2. This is in addition to the Easyjet strike, which began today with the cancellation of 7 flights and delays in 12 others. (Photo By Carlos Lujan/Europa Press via Getty Images)
Europa Press NewsGetty

During the Covid-19 pandemic the global aviation industry as a whole lost over two million jobs since the start of the outbreak. But since the skies reopened for business, and frequent flying has become commonplace again, airlines and airport ground staff agencies have embarked on a hiring blitz to counter against the ongoing risk of cancelled flights and long waits for travellers which is expected to continue even beyond the summer peak, analysts and industry officials have said.

Strikes by airline staff around the globe have not helped.

Illustration picture shows a sign showing all flights are cancelled
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Illustration picture shows a sign showing all flights are cancelled JONAS ROOSENSGetty

The summer when air travel was supposed to return to normal after a two-year pandemic vacuum is in danger of becoming the summer when the high-volume, low-cost air travel model is breaking down in a sprawling integrated market.

Labour shortages and strikes have already caused disruption across the world as airlines are forced to cancel hundreds of summer flights.

“There is a lot of mud-slinging but every side is at fault in not coping with the resurgence of demand,” said James Halstead, managing partner at consultancy Aviation Strategy.

The aviation industry says it has lost 2.3 million jobs globally during the pandemic, with ground-handling and security hardest hit, according to Air Transport Action Group which represents the industry.

Many workers are slow to return, lured by the ‘gig’ economy or opting to retire early.

“They clearly have alternatives now and can switch jobs,” said senior ING economist Rico Luman.

While he expects travel pressure will ease after the summer, he says shortages may persist as older workers stay away and critically, there are fewer younger workers willing to replace them.

Passenger rights

Flight cancellation

Passengers are entitled to reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket for the part of the journey not made or re-routing at the earliest opportunity should a flight be cancelled by the airline for international travel. If you are already at the airport and you opt for re-routing, you should be also entitled to meals and refreshments in proportion to your waiting time, and two telephone calls, texts or emails. You are also entitled to overnight accommodation if you are to be re-routed the day after your planned flight and, depending on the circumstances, to monetary compensation.

Flight delays of more than three hours

Should a passenger arrive at your final destination with a delay of 3 hours or more, they may be entitled to financial compensation, as long as the delay was not caused by extraordinary circumstances. If your flight is delayed for two hours or more at departure, the airline must offer you care (meals and refreshments and, if necessary accommodation). If this delay means that, you arrive at your final destination with a delay of more than 3 hours you may also be entitled to financial compensation.

The small print

Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers and every customer should ready the cancellation policy ahead of booking flying as (unlike the EU), there are no federal requirements in the US. If you are delayed, ask the airline staff if it will pay for meals or a phone call. Some airlines, often those charging very low fares, do not provide any amenities to stranded passengers. Others may not offer amenities if the delay is caused by bad weather or something else beyond the airline’s control. Contrary to popular belief, for domestic itineraries in the US, airlines are not required to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled.