UK Flight Cancellations: How to get money back on non-refundable hotel rooms

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few months, you’re likely aware of what’s going on at UK airports. Chaos is probably the best way to describe it, with airports up and down the country struggling to get ‘back on their feet’ post-pandemic.

While many holidaymakers are eager to jet off on their first proper summer holiday since lockdown, their plans have been rocked by flight delays and cancellations.

UK flight cancellation and delays

In the first three months of 2022, there were a total of 3,363 flights cancelled across 26 major UK airports. Moreover, 20% of flights were delayed in the first three months of the year from the same 26 major UK airports. A flight is classed as delayed if it is more than 15 minutes late.

And the situation isn’t looking any better now.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of 14-hour delays, lengthy queues causing missed flights, and flights cancelled just before take-off. We even heard it happened to a group of passengers after they’d boarded the plane!

The UK government has advised airlines to cancel flights sooner rather than later to avoid last-minute misery for travellers. The Civil Aviation Authority echoed the sentiment in its open letter to UK airlines, with Chief Executive Richard Moriarty writing, “Your schedules must be based on the resources you and your contractors expect to have available. (We recommend) cancellations at the earliest possibility to deliver a more robust schedule are better for consumers than late-notice on-the-day cancellations.”

Additionally, the UK government has offered airlines a window of amnesty to hand back any take-off and landing slots ahead of the summer holidays to help them deliver a more realistic schedule. This window closes Friday, so many passengers still fear last-minute cancellations.

Why are there so many flight delays and cancellations?

Many speculate that an increase in passenger numbers has caused the ‘flightmare.’ But, this is only half the story. The problem is that the aviation industry has a significant imbalance in supply and demand.

Before the pandemic, airports and airlines across the UK employed around 140,000 people. However, since the pandemic, thousands of jobs have been cut - 30,000 jobs were cut by UK airlines alone. Now that passenger numbers are increasing due to the lifting of travel restrictions, the aviation industry faces a chronic staff shortage, and it’s showing.

While many airports and airlines are hiring, the trouble is that people are now more wary of another wave of the virus putting them out of work and are instead seeking employment in ‘safer’ sectors. What’s more, even when staff are recruited, it can take months to complete training and security checks because of the nature of the work.

Many blame Brexit, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Strict immigration rules mean that many airline workers from the European Union have not been able to return to the UK. However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has rejected these claims, saying that ‘opening the door to foreign workers isn’t the answer.’ Instead, pointing the finger at industry bosses who had made too many cuts and not correctly forecast the level at which passengers would return to the airport once the government lifted travel restrictions.

And, of course, it doesn’t end there. Industry bosses blame the UK government for not giving enough warning that travel restrictions were to be lifted, meaning they were ill-prepared and inadequately supported.

As we head towards the summer peak, the staffing shortage is not only leaving huge gaps in airline schedules but also forcing existing workers to strike over pay and conditions.

What passengers can do to prepare for their time at the airport

While more cancellations and delays are likely to occur, there are several things passengers can do to prepare for their time at the airport, such as:

  • Make sure you’ve got all of the relevant documentation you’ll need for the country you’re planning to travel to (visa, ESTA, COVID-related documents)
  • Checking the best time to arrive at the airport with your airline and not arriving earlier than this
  • Using online check-in wherever possible to save time
  • Use day-before bag drop and self–service bag drops where possible
  • Only packing essentials in hand luggage & following guidance regarding liquids
  • Preparing for security checks in the queue, i.e. emptying pockets, removing any coats, watches & belts or any other metal items ready to put in the tray

Do I get my money back if my flight is cancelled?

If your flight departs from a UK airport, arrives at a UK airport on a UK or EU airline or arrives at an EU airport on a UK airline, then it is covered by UK law. This means that if your flight is cancelled, the airline must either refund you or book you on an alternative flight, either with their own company or a rival airline.

If your flight is cancelled within 14 days of travel, and you can prove it was the airline’s fault, you will also be entitled to compensation. Unfortunately, extreme weather conditions, strikes and other extraordinary circumstances are not usually covered. However, staff shortages, increased demand and IT problems are likely to be accepted as reasonable grounds for a payout.

How long does a flight have to be delayed to claim compensation?

If your flight is delayed by less than 2 hours, you won’t receive compensation, but you will get to go on holiday! However, for delays over 2 hours, airlines are obliged to offer free food and drink at the airport. Plus, if your flight is rerouted the next day, the airport must provide and pay for nearby hotel accommodation and transport there and back. Alternatively, they must cover the transport cost to your home and back if you can’t get to the hotel.

How can I get money back on my non-refundable hotel room?

While airlines are legally obliged to refund the cost of a cancelled flight, travellers may potentially lose money spent on hotels and other travel products. Package holidays tend to be covered in full if any part of a trip is cancelled. However, if you have organised your flights and hotel separately, you could be in a tricky situation.

One option is to ensure adequate travel insurance when you book. This is something we recommend no matter what holiday you’re going on. Just keep in mind that some travel insurance policies don’t offer protection for air passengers if holidays are cancelled due to strikes.

Another option is to sell your unusable hotel room on the PlansChange marketplace.

If you’ve got a non-refundable hotel booking you cannot use due to a flight delay or cancellation, list it on our website to increase the chance of getting some of your money back. The lower the price, the more likely it is to get snapped up by another holidaymaker, and you won’t be left completely out of pocket!

To find out more about reselling a hotel room with PlansChange, visit our FAQ page. Once you’re clued up, sign up as a seller and get started on your hotel room resale listing.

Not sure you want to risk a holiday abroad this summer?

There are always staycations! The UK has so many beautiful, exciting places to visit, so why not book a last-minute hotel and explore somewhere different without worrying about flight delays and cancellations? Even better, you can score yourself a hotel room at a fantastic price on our resale deals page. It’s updated regularly with new seller listings, so head over there now to see what’s on offer!