Here's How To Navigate The Air Travel Chaos Right Now

Caught in half term travel hell? Planning a Jubilee trip away? Here's what's going on.
Expect delays.
JEROEN JUMELET via Getty Images
Expect delays.

So you’re trying to travel right now. If you’ve been on social media and seen the news then you’ll know that it’s in chaos right now.

Long queues, flight delays and luggage problems have been plaguing the UK’s airports lately as half term and Platinum Jubilee bank holidays have increased the number of people hoping to head abroad.

There’s also ongoing passport delays that are leaving plans in disarray.

So here’s what to know about travel right now, including how to get flight compensation if you’ve been delayed or your flight has been cancelled.

What’s happening at airports?

Tui has just announced that it will cancel six flights a day until the end of June, due to ongoing staff shortages at Manchester Airport.

EasyJet cancelled 240 flights over the weekend and with further cancellations expected, you can imagine the chaos that it’s causing. Those travelling from Gatwick to Belfast were told at 4am on Tuesday morning their trip wouldn’t be leaving. The 5am flight from Bristol to Amsterdam was axed at 2am.

British Airways has also cancelled some flights.

What’s behind delays and cancellations?

During school and public holiday periods, the number of flights taken do surge, but with Covid restrictions lifted at many destinations, and people’s fervour for travel, the demand has been too high for post-lockdown systems to cope.

Airlines don’t have enough staff and have struggled to recruit more.

In some cases, such as a recent TUI flight from Manchester to Heraklion, there haven’t been enough staff to load baggage. Despite the flight being close to take off, bags hadn’t been loaded quickly enough. One flight attendant even decided to disembark to help load suitcases.

Demand is also fuelled by people using coupons and credit saved up from previously cancelled trips. Additionally, this is the first half term holiday since the lifting of all restrictions in England and Wales.

What’s going on with passports?

There’s an ongoing passport crisis, caused by a huge demand in applications for renewal, after five million people delayed getting theirs during the pandemic.

Now, since Covid restrictions have lifted, millions are rushing to get their documents renewed, but facing lengthy waiting times to get them back.

Where it would previously take three weeks for a new passport to arrive, the wait time has increased to 10 weeks. However, not everyone is receiving theirs within this timeframe – with some report waiting months for theirs to arrive.

Post-Brexit travel rules that say Brits need to have at least three months remaining before their passport expires also complicate the process.

So if you’re planning to go away in the next few months make sure your passport is up to date – in rare cases, applications can be expedited.

How to claim money if your flight is delayed

According to Citizen’s Advice, if your flight is delayed for long enough, your airline has to give you:

  • food and drink

  • access to phone calls and emails

  • accommodation if you’re delayed overnight – and journeys between the airport and the hotel

But there are restrictions on how long a delay has to be for you to be able to claim compensation.

This depends on the distance of the flight and the countries it’s flying between. You can check the flight distance of your jouney on the WebFlyer website. You will receive more compensation if your flight is delayed between three to five hours or more.

As Citizen’s Advice explains, you can claim up to £520 in compensation if the delay is the airline’s fault, depending on the distance and destination of your flight, and how late it arrived. It might have been your airline’s fault if there was a technical problem, or they overbooked.

You’re unlikely to get compensation if the delay was because of something outside the airline’s control, like bad weather or a security risk.

If your flight is cancelled you should get a full refund and a replacement flight to get you to your destination. Speak to airport staff about your options.

Make sure you also take out travel insurance with a built in Covid policy in case you do catch it while you are away on your trip.

What’s the latest on Covid testing for travel?

While the UK has lifted travel restrictions, other countries have their own Covid-19 rules. Before you travel you should check the ‘entry requirements’ section of foreign travel advice for all countries you will visit or travel through.

Don’t forget some countries, such as Italy, only accept certains mask on airlines and public transport, for instance N95s.