Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

8 min read

What to do if your flight gets cancelled

Organising a holiday is no small fete, and from planning your accommodation to getting travel insurance for existing medical conditions to ensure you’re covered, every part needs your time and attention. That’s why, there is nothing more upsetting than being packed up and ready to go, thinking about relaxing with a cocktail in hand, and finding out your flight has been cancelled.

Whether you’re experiencing flight cancellation now or are just doing some research for the future, in this article, we share an extensive guide on what to do when your flight gets cancelled.

Find out why it has been cancelled

The first question you are likely wondering when you find out your flight is cancelled is “why?”. Knowing the reason behind the cancellation will not only help you understand what’s happened but will likely guide your next step too.

Your flight can be cancelled anytime from the moment you book it to the day it’s meant to depart (and even after the scheduled departure time if it’s been delayed first). Before your trip, it’s always worth keeping an eye on your flight and any potential cancellations. You’d hate to have checked into the airport only to find you won’t be flying on that day due to a cancellation.

You can read more in our ultimate guide to a stress-free airport check-in.

Read more

Why are flights cancelled?

There are a range of reasons a flight might be cancelled, these include: 

  • The Weather – this might be the weather around the airport, the weather you’ll need to fly through or the weather at your destination meaning you’ll likely be unable to land safely. It may be clear skies where you are but hurricanes ahead, making flying impossible.
  • Mechanical Problems – you might find that the reason your flight is cancelled is due to a mechanical issue with the plane itself that can’t be fixed swiftly, and another plane can’t be found to take its place.
  • Missing Aircraft – it may be that the reason your flight is cancelled is because a previous flight was due to take place on a plane that was faulty, and so your plane took its place and is now unavailable. It might also be that the flight your plane was taking before was severely delayed or had to be rerouted.
  • Crew Problems – the crew aboard aircrafts are no different to people working anywhere else and sometimes illness happens, family problems come up causing them to not be able to come into work or just a problem with their commute means they are late to work.
  • Too Many Delays – if your flight has been delayed and delayed and is now cancelled, it can feel especially annoying that you’ve been waiting around. The delays may have caused the flight to miss all available runway slots and air traffic control has had to request it be cancelled.
  • Computer Problems – in this day and age everything is done digitally, and although this is usually seamless, a computer glitch might cause flight scheduling systems for whole airlines or airports to be disrupted, causing mass flight cancellations.
  • Lack of Passengers – it’s not common, but sometimes there just simply might not be enough passengers to justify a flight. If the expense of the flight is deemed too big, it can happen that it’s simply cancelled instead of running.
  • Security – sometimes, the reason a flight is cancelled is down to security issues at the airport you are either departing from or flying from. This might happen due to civil unrest or fire risk, so in the case of wildfires local to the airport. Airports take any potential security threat very seriously and will always err on the side of caution.

In the majority of cases, your airline will inform you of why your flight has been cancelled and the next steps to take.

Find out whether your travel has been rearranged for you

If you are departing the UK, your airline MUST offer you a choice of a replacement flight as early as possible or the chance for a refund. This is the case whether the flight is cancelled weeks in advance, or if you’re denied boarding due to overbooking. This is also the case if you’re returning to the UK from either a UK or EU airport.

If you were already at the airport when the cancellation was announced and have been rerouted (put on a different flight) then you can expect care for the time you are delayed. This might be in the form of food and drink or accommodation and transfers there and back if your replacement flight is departing the next day.

For those who are flying from an airport outside of the UK or with a non-UK or EU airline, the policy will depend on the airline you’ve booked with. Although the airline should tell you the next steps to expect if your flight is cancelled and whether travel has been rearranged, it’s worth also checking your booking terms to know what you are entitled to.

Airplane Viewed From Airport Waiting Room

Work out whether the alternative flight works for you

You don’t HAVE to take the alternative flight you’ve been offered if it’s not suitable for your needs. For example, if you can find an option from another airline that matches your travel plans better, you have the right to book that flight instead.

Another option is opting for a refund instead of a replacement. In this instance, you should be able to claim back all the money for the unused travel. This means that, if you are on a return ticket and you’ve already taken the outbound flight, it’ll be the return portion only you are compensated for.

Find out whether you are entitled to compensation

As well as a refund, you might also be entitled to compensation. This will depend on whether the reason for the cancellation (something you hopefully already know!) was down to the airline or other circumstances.

ABTA explain: “If you received less than 14 days’ notice of the cancellation, you are generally due compensation, awarded in pounds or euros depending on where your flight was due to depart from, according to the following scale:

  • £220 / €250 for all flights of 1,500km or less (e.g. Glasgow to Amsterdam);
  • £350 / €400 for all flights between 1,500km and 3,500km (e.g. East Midlands to Marrakech);
  • £520 / €600 for all other flights (e.g. London to New York)."

“Compensation will be reduced by 50% if the arrival time of the replacement flight doesn’t exceed the arrival time of the original flight by:

  • two hours for flights of 1,500km or less;
  • three hours for flights between 1,500km and 3,500km;
  • four hours for all other flights.”

If you aren’t able to get compensation from the airline, you might also be able to recuperate some money with your holiday cancellation insurance cover. If the cancellation has had a financial impact due to disruptions and delays, it’s worth checking your cancellation policy as you might be able to get compensation.

Enjoy your trip

A cancelled flight doesn’t need to mean a trip ruined, and there are measures in place to make sure that your trip can still go ahead as planned. Although a cancelled flight can feel stressful in the moment, you’ll be able to arrange an alternative or access a refund allowing you to make other plans and continue with your trip and have a wonderful time.

What to do if your flight gets cancelled

  • Find out why your flight has been cancelled
  • Find out whether you have been added to another flight
  • Find out whether you are entitled to compensation
  • Enjoy your trip

Preparing for a trip and looking for more travel tips and guides? Our travel blog is filled with useful articles, be sure to check it out today.

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