Lonely Planet Writer

Here’s some expert advice on dealing with flight disruptions in 2019

According to a new study, 2019 is on track to become a record-breaking year for flight disruptions, with an estimated two billion passengers likely to suffer globally. Now, flight compensation website AirHelp has offered expert advice on how travellers can deal with it.

Young woman at the airport in Barcelona checking for the flight schedule
Passengers in 2019 are set to face a record-breaking number of flight disruptions. Image by martin-dm

Last year, issues that led to flight disruptions included crew strikes, airline insolvencies, drone sightings and turbulent weather. According to AirHelp, passengers in 2019 will continue to face some of these issues, while other factors such as an international shortage of pilots and overloaded airport flight schedules will add to the problem. In fact, the company has predicted there will be up to 33,000 daily flight disruptions this year.

Analysis of 2018 flight data revealed that the UK was the unintentional host of the most disruptive air passenger events in Europe. On 20 December, more than 300  (over 90%) of flights from London Gatwick Airport were disrupted as the airport was forced to abort standard procedure due to a drone sighting. In February, London City Airport was closed following the discovery of an unexploded WWII bomb in the nearby River Thames, disrupting almost all 98% of flights. The wave of cold weather known as the ‘Beast from the East’ sent almost all UK airports into disarray at the start of 2018. Glasgow Airport suffered the most, as 97% of its flights were disrupted over a 24-hour period, leaving thousands of travellers stranded.

What to do in the event of a flight disruption

The US is set to experience the highest volume of Thanksgiving travellers since 2005.
AirHelp has offered expert advice on what to do in the event of a flight disruption Image by izusek

If you’ve just found out your flight is delayed or cancelled, follow these steps to ensure your claim for compensation is as straightforward as possible.

1. Hold onto your boarding pass and all other travel documents

Any documents a traveller can provide will make it quicker and simpler to prove they had purchased a ticket and checked in prior to any disruption.

2. Ask why the flight was delayed

Finding out information as early as possible is a big help in the process. Be persistent when questioning an airline. If the circumstances that caused the delay or cancellation are the responsibility of the company, then a passenger is entitled to compensation, provided they arrive at their destination over three hours after the expected landing time.

3. Gather proof of the delay

Taking photos of the departure board or communications from the airline confirming the disruption is advised. These will help in processing any claim. The more evidence a passenger has, the more accurate the claim can be. It is advised to take pictures of the landing time and the airline doors opening to mark official arrival time.

4. Don’t settle for less than you are entitled to

According to AirHelp, 86% of UK air travellers are unaware of their air passenger’s rights. Persistence could be the difference between a €50 euro compensation voucher and up to €600 in cash.

5. Ask the airline to pay for your meals and refreshments.

This is a basic requirement when a flight is delayed and passengers have to wait more than two hours. Customers can speak to a member of staff form the airline to ensure meals and refreshments will be paid for until they are able to fly.

6. Don’t sign anything or accept any offers that may waive your rights.

If asked to sign anything from your airline, customers should read it thoroughly to ensure their compensation rights are not affected.

7. Choose to wait it out or call it off if your delay is more than five hours.

Once a delay has happened and it has been over five hours, it is up to the customer whether they wait for the next available flight or leave the airport.

8. If needed, get the airline to provide you with a hotel room.

If there are no flights until the following day, the airline can provide accommodation for the night and pay for transportation to and from the hotel. Customers should speak to a member of staff to avoid sleeping on the airport floor.

9. Keep your receipts

If your delayed flight ends up costing you extra money. For example, if a customer ends up paying for accommodation, additional meals or internet access (or anything they would not have needed if you were on the plane) they can often be reimbursed. Keeping receipts safe helps this process.

10. Most importantly, you need to make sure you know your rights.

In Europe, airlines are required to provide information on European passenger law EC261 at check-in desks. Customers can take note when they check in on exactly what they are entitled to if their journey is delayed.