Which airlines are most likely to cancel flights this week?

·6 min read
cancelled flights airlines ryanair easyjet jet2 wizz air British Airways BA - Getty
cancelled flights airlines ryanair easyjet jet2 wizz air British Airways BA - Getty

This week will be a critical one for millions of us who have booked holidays abroad over the rest of the summer. The Government has given airlines a special amnesty over the usual arrangements for take-off and landing slots at UK airports. These slots are valuable assets and if airlines don’t retain them then they risk losing them for good. The amnesty allows them to temporarily release the slots to rival airlines and then claim them back next season. It effectively incentivises airlines to make peak-time cancellations now, rather than at the last minute.

Airlines have been given a deadline of this Friday to make the cancellations and though this latest round will be bad news for many travellers, it should bring more certainty to those flights which remain on the schedule. This is both because airlines will be less stretched over the summer, and because the unused slots can be used by airlines – such as Ryanair – which seem to have fewer staffing problems.

Here is our guide to some of the consequences faced by travellers unlucky enough to suffer in the latest round of cutbacks.

When will I know if my flight has been cancelled?

Airlines will want to tell passengers as quickly as possible about cancelled flights because of the compensation rules (see below). So, with Friday acting as a deadline, you are likely to have heard any bad news by this weekend at the latest.

Which airlines are most likely to cancel?

The only airline to announced so far is British Airways, which is expected to cancel up to 650 flights through July affecting as many as 105,000 holidaymakers. EasyJet (whose chief operating operator resigned on Monday) also sits among the airlines with the poorest records on cancellations so far this year. By contrast, Ryanair and Jet2 have maintained an impressive record, making just a tiny handful each. Our full guide to the worst pinch points and cancellation records is here. And there is more advice on holiday routes best served by airlines, meaning more alternatives if your flight is cancelled, here.

What should I do when I get the bad news?

Much depends on your personal circumstances, how late and at what stage in your plans the cancellation happens. But the key thing is to react swiftly. Our step-by-step guide is here.

Am I entitled to compensation?

If the cancellation comes more than 14 days before departure you are only entitled to a refund of the full fare paid. But the airline may offer you an alternative flight should you wish to take that instead.

If the cancellation comes later than that and it is the airline’s fault (i.e. not caused by bad weather, for example) you are normally entitled to compensation of between £110-£520 depending on the length of the flight and any delay in getting you to your final destination. Even if it is not the airline’s fault, it is legally required to get you home, or to your destination on the next available flight. The rules are quite complicated, but there is a useful guide here.

It’s too expensive to book new flights, what can I do?

If the cancellation affects your outbound flight on a return ticket and is one which only entitles you to a refund of the original fare, you may be in a bind. It is highly likely that you will have to pay more to buy replacement flights – all these cancellations will only put upwards pressure on fares as people scramble to buy new ones.

You may even struggle to find a way of getting to the destination on the planned date. This could be a big problem if you have booked, say, a villa or a hotel independently. Depending on the booking conditions, you are likely to be liable for a cancellation charge or even the whole amount of the rental. It is unlikely that this will be covered by insurance (see below), so if you don’t travel, you will have to do your best to negotiate with the hotelier or villa owner.

Those who have booked a package holiday with a tour operator will be in a different position. If the operator cancels the flight, it is normally cancelling the whole holiday and must give you a refund of the total price paid. However, you may still struggle to book an affordable alternative holiday at short notice.

What will my insurance cover?

Most travel insurance has some provision for cancellation, though it usually only covers the short-term inconveniences and costs which result. A handful of the best policies do cover what is known as “consequential loss” – such as the cost of a villa which you can’t use because you can’t travel. However, most policies do not and whether or not your situation is covered will depend on the small print of the policy.

Should I hold off booking until after Friday?

If you are planning to travel this summer, that might be wise. But you would also be running the risk of having to compete against a flood of bookings from people responding to the cancellation of their own flights. As already explained, flights with Ryanair and Jet2 look like a pretty good bet at the moment, so you can probably book them with confidence now.

Should I take the initiative and cancel myself?

That’s an interesting question. As someone who has just suffered not a cancellation but a 19-hour delay on a flight returning from Athens to Heathrow on Saturday, I spent quite a few hours wondering whether it is sensible to try to travel at all this summer.

In practice the risk of your flight being cancelled is relatively low, but if you do travel you will be lucky to get away without some delays at some point in your journey during the summer peak. And you should never cancel or change a flight or a holiday without confirming the cost implications with your airline or operator first.

If my flight isn’t cancelled, am I safe from disruption?

Unfortunately not. You can’t take anything for granted this summer. There are problems with staff shortages throughout the aviation sector – from air traffic control to cabin crew and baggage handlers and in virtually all countries. While there is a big recruitment drive, the latest wave of Covid means that staff absences are also likely to become more of a problem.

And remember, another cloud hangs over the summer: industrial action. There have been strikes and stoppages on several airlines in several different countries so far this year, but the biggest threat is at British Airways, where staff at Heathrow are threatening to strike during the summer.