Eight things you need to do now if your flight is cancelled

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We’re not out of the woods yet. Be it weather issues, strikes or technical issues, flights are still being canceled at UK airports. The latest disruption comes from Heathrow, where British Airways has cut flights following the knock-on effects of a computer problem. Earlier this month, snow and freezing temperatures disrupted flights nationwide. If this happens to you, the sooner you act, the better chance you have of mitigating the consequences.

Here’s what to do to get ahead of the pack and minimize the pain. Full details on what to do for each step follow.

Cancellations on the day: outgoing

1. Look for alternative flights as soon as possible

Sometimes you can quickly rebook with the same airline, but you may need to rebook with another airline to continue your holiday. Which? warns that doing this and trying to claim the cost back as an expense “is very risky and can only work if the reason for travel is exceptionally time-sensitive, such as a child’s wedding or a job interview, so it is advisable to only do this step once 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 fly you home and may make it more difficult to claim a refund the cost of your alternative flight.

Whatever your strategy, don’t waste time getting online before the alternatives run out. For new bookings, skyscanner.net is a good place to start 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 suffer as a result of cancellation? Some policies do, some don’t.

3. Order more arrangements

If you have booked independently, you need to assess as quickly as possible whether or not you will be able to save or abandon your holiday. Then you will have to notify the following that you will be late, or try to postpone or cancel the agreements:


It may be difficult to get a refund, which will depend on the terms of your booking. But the sooner you contact the hotel or villa company, the better your chances of saving the day.

Car rental

Contracts vary, you may be able to cancel for a refund or postpone, you may not. If you intend to arrive late, it is essential to inform the company or the car may be reallocated.


The same goes for car rental agreements.

4. Contact your carrier

If you’ve booked with a tour operator, all practical matters should be sorted out for you, but notify the company immediately of the cancellation – they may not know yet.

5. Claim compensation

Airlines are notoriously bad at advising passengers of their rights. But you may be entitled to compensation for cancellations that occur within 14 days of departure. The rules are complicated and the amounts vary – check out our full guide.

Returns cancellations

You have similar rights, including compensation, on the return flight, but you’re in a different situation. For rebooking, see point 1 above. Otherwise:

6. Insist on housing

If you need to stay extra nights and the airline staff won’t help you, you’ll need to arrange the accommodation yourself and claim the cost back. The quickest way to find a place is probably through a site like booking.com. Keep things reasonable – three or four stars, not five – and be sure to keep your receipt for lodging and any essential meal expenses.

7. Extend airport parking

If your return is delayed, you may be charged premium rates for the extra length of your stay when you exit the car park. It will normally be cheaper to call the booking agent and extend your booking this way.

8. Tell your employer

You probably don’t need to be reminded to do this, but it’s worth making a call or email to explain the situation and arrange to work remotely until you can return or take additional leave.

Early cancellations

If your flight is canceled before the day of departure, you are obviously in an immediately less stressful situation. However, you would still do well to react as quickly as possible, especially if you want to rebook a flight or holiday. And (as above) check your rights to compensation.

Reader Service: It’s more important than ever to have holiday cancellation insurance. Find out how to get it right travel cover before you go.

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