Passengers expecting to fly on Tuesday have been forced to give up their seats for customers delayed by Monday’s air traffic control IT meltdown which triggered widespread delays and cancellations at UK airports, i has learned.
Hundreds of flights have been cancelled or delayed due to the knock-on effect of the fault with the UK’s air traffic control (ATC) system on Monday.
Although the glitch, which the Government has said may have been caused by an error made by a French airline, was fixed on Monday afternoon, it has left airlines struggling to resume normal service with some staff and planes in the wrong place.
Around 75 flights at both Gatwick and Heathrow were cancelled as well as around 60 at Manchester Airport and more than 20 each at London and Stansted..
Mark Nolan, 61, and wife Julie, 56, travelled from Bingley, West Yorkshire, to Manchester Airport early on Tuesday morning ahead of their 2.30pm flight to Tenerife with Jet2.
Despite the overnight disruption, Jet2 sent Mr Nolan a text message saying their flight was expected to go ahead as planned.
But when he arrived, a member of staff at the Jet2 departures desk told him the 2.30pm flight will be taking passengers who had their flight cancelled yesterday and the Nolans will have to fly tomorrow instead.
At the time of writing, Jet2 has yet to confirm what time the new flight will be.
Mr Nolan told i he was “gutted” and “annoyed”, particularly because Jet2 staff said they were not able to help him book accommodation to stay overnight.
In an an email, Jet2 said passengers can spend up to £250 a night on a hotel and £20 on meals and then submit a claim for a refund online which should arrive within14 days.
“They didn’t really want to help us,” Mr Nolan said.
“He [a member of staff] just said ‘go to the Ibis hotel and see if they have anything’.
“I said can’t you ring for us? He said they can’t do that until 8pm tonight.
“It[the cost] will have to come out our spending money.
“I’ve already tried the Radisson hotel and it was fully booked.
“The airline should do more – what if there’s people can’t afford it? You wouldn’t want to sleep on the floor all night.
“I know it’s not the airport’s fault it’s just one of those things.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper has said the IT fault was the worst incident of its kind in “nearly a decade” and announced an “independent review” will be carried out.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Mr Harper is in “constant dialogue” with the aviation industry and that he would be talking to airlines to make sure they are supporting passengers with regards to accommodation and alternative flights.
A group of friends from Hyde, Greater Manchester, told i how their Ryanair flight from Manchester to Ibiza was cancelled on Monday at the last minute.
Denel Dowling, 27, described their experience with Ryanair as “shit”.
“There was no staff anywhere,” he said.
“This was about 5 or 6pm, they had been cancelling flights all day, they had enough time to get a member of staff down there.
“We’ve spent a lot of money with them, you would hope they would take some responsibility.”
Mr Dowling said Ryanair passengers were left to queue up to make use of the landline phones at their desk to call customer services.
The airline had also left pieces of paper outlining compensation entitlements.
“The information has been terrible,” Mr Dowling added.
“We got told [by customer services] to go to a hotel but all the hotels were fully booked.
“We had to go all the way to Manchester to get an apartment, we don’t know whether we will get that reimbursed.”
Mr Dowling’s group returned to Manchester Airport on Tuesday in the hope of getting a different flight to Ibiza but without any success.
As they were being interviewed by i, the group celebrated as they booked a new flight to Ibiza from Stansted on Wednesday instead.
“We’re not giving up,” said Mr Dowling.
“We’re just thinking about how good it will be when we get there.”
Jet2 and Ryanair have been contacted for comment.
What are your rights if your flight is cancelled or delayed?
Consumer rights relating to flights from the UK and EU airports are set by rules known as EC261, which provide important safeguards to passengers that are applicable at all times.
Broadly, airlines should do everything they can to keep their passengers up to date on the situation, providing them with food and accommodation while waiting and doing their best to get them to their destination as quickly as possible.
I’ve heard the current problems are classified as ‘extraordinary circumstances’. What does this mean for me?
While EC261 does provide for cash compensation in some circumstances, this does not apply when cancellations or long delays are due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ – or those beyond the airline’s control.
So what can I expect?
Airlines have a duty of care to passengers who are delayed or face cancellation regardless of the reason.
This means airlines must provide information to their passengers on their rights as well as care and assistance, such as providing meals, allowing for travellers to communicate messages, and providing hotel accommodation – including transfers to and from the hotel – for overnight delays.
My flight has been delayed by hours and I’m sitting at the airport. What should the airline be doing to help me?
Regardless of the cause, passengers are entitled to meals and, if necessary, accommodation until the flight departs.
The point at which airlines must step in with help depends on the length of the journey: this should be after a two-hour delay on short flights up to 1,500km, after three hours for flights of between 1,500km and 3,500km, and four hours on longer flights.
What are my flight options?
Whether or not the disruption is caused by “extraordinary circumstances”, the airline must get passengers to their destination as quickly as possible.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) advises that when a flight is cancelled, passengers must be offered the choice of a refund, alternative flights at the earliest opportunity, or re-routing at a later date, subject to availability.
This means rerouting on any airline, not just the one you originally booked with.
For example, if your booking is with Ryanair, but a BA, easyJet or Wizz flight gets you back earlier, then Ryanair should put you on it.
Airlines must help passengers by clearly setting out these options to them.
It is also open to airlines to offer incentives to passengers to encourage them to fly at a later date, for example through providing vouchers of a higher value.
If you are flown to a different arrival airport, the airline must also meet reasonable onward travel costs.
My airline has told me it cannot fly me home today. What should I do?
If you need to make your own arrangements, the airline should refund reasonable costs. You should retain copies of all receipts.
This means booking the cheapest alternative ticket and hotel possible – attempting to take advantage of the situation by booking business class seats and a luxury hotel would be unwise as you would need to show evidence that they were the only remaining options.
My delay means I have to miss work. Am I entitled to be paid if I can’t turn up due to the disruption?
Employees should talk to their employer about working from where they are (if possible), taking leave or making time up later if they cannot get to work because of travel disruption.
Rights about travel disruption can be outlined in the employment contract – employees should check this first.