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In the wake of the thousands of cancelled flights and the extensive flight delays travellers are facing due to failure of air traffic control systems, Jonathan Merry, CEO of MoneyTransfers.com has put together some of his key recommendations to navigate the upcoming flight delays:
1. Stay informed: Keep track of the latest news and updates regarding the strike action. You can do this by setting up Google alerts for flight or strike related keywords, and you’ll receive an email alert whenever new information is published. Connect with the airline or the relevant airport: check both the news section of the website and their social media channels, which are often the first port of call for updates. Contacting the airline’s customer service desk might seem like a great way to gather information on alternative arrangements or compensation options, though with many customers in the same predicament you should expect to spend a long time on hold if going down this route.
2. Plan ahead: Don’t wait until after you’ve arrived at the airport to monitor the situation. Visit news websites to see a list of upcoming strikes, and if you’re travelling to or from the airport by train, check to see whether any planned rail strikes might also impact your journey. Even if you’re not travelling to France, be aware that if your flight crosses into French airspace you could be affected by the striking French air traffic controllers. Always explore possible contingency plans.
3. Allow extra time: Plan for the worst case scenario and allow time for long queues at check in or heavy traffic on the way to the airport. Even if your airline is not directly affected by strikes, there may be lengthy queues at customs due to the backlog caused by delays associated with other airlines. Arriving early will ensure that you have sufficient time to deal with any unexpected circumstances should they arise.
4. Contact the airline: True, there may be many other customers waiting to speak to a customer services representative, but speaking to the airline directly is the best way to ascertain precisely what all the available options are. The airline might be able to rebook you onto another flight or provide alternative transport. Remember that airline representatives are likely to be speaking with many disgruntled passengers and politeness goes a long way.
5. Explore alternate routes: Heathrow Airport has announced strikes every weekend from June to August, which is likely to result in mass chaos. With this in mind, if you need to travel over the weekend, why not consider Gatwick, City, Stansted, or Luton airports instead? Similarly if the French air traffic control strikes are wreaking havoc with your plans for the Dordogne, you could consider the ferry or Eurostar as alternative options. Study airline route maps, because while some airlines will use French airspace for flights to Spain or the Balearics, others may take alternative routes. Different UK airports also use different routes: those in the north often fly through Spain, while those in the south will almost certainly route through France.
6. Consider accommodation options: If you’re travelling with a young family, sleeping on the airport floor isn’t really a viable option. So keep in mind that if your strike results in a long delay or cancellation, you may need to find accommodation for the night. Check with the airline to see if you’re entitled to assistance or compensation for lodging. Alternatively, look up nearby hotels and make your own arrangements if necessary but be sure to keep receipts for a claim on your travel insurance.
7. Keep essential items with you: It is useful to have a carry-on bag filled with essential items in case you are stuck at the airport for an extended period. This becomes even more of a necessity if you’re travelling with babies or young children. You may wish to fill the bag with toiletries, medication, a change of clothes and enough nappies and baby milk for an extended period. Distractions such as a tablet or colouring books can help alleviate boredom and frustration amongst the younger passengers too.
8. Be aware of your rights: Familiarise yourself with the passenger rights regulations in the relevant country or region. Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation or assistance from the airline, such as meals or accommodations. You can check the Which! website which provides an excellent guide as to what you’re entitled to. If your flight is cancelled because airline staff are striking, then you will be entitled to compensation – unless you’re informed of the cancellation two weeks prior to departure. However, if your flight is cancelled because airport staff, border force or air traffic control staff are striking, this is classified as an “extraordinary circumstance” and while you will be entitled to a refund or rerouting, you will not be entitled to compensation.
9. Stay calm and patient: Remember that the strike is beyond your control and also that of the airline customer representative. Getting upset won’t solve the situation faster and staff members have likely been dealing with fractious customers all day. Instead maintain a calm demeanour and treat airline staff and fellow passengers with respect. Kindness and understanding can go a long way in a challenging situation.
10. Consider travel insurance: Whether you are a frequent traveller or just worried about potential disruptions during your trip it’s worth investing in comprehensive travel insurance before making your booking. Look for policies that cover trip interruptions, cancellations, or delays caused by strikes or labour disputes. Make sure you read the policy carefully to understand the extent of your coverage and any exclusions. When booking package holidays, make sure that your holiday is ATOL protected so that your flights are covered in the event of an emergency. Always keep in mind that strike-related flight delays can be unpredictable, and that the resolution may take time. Stay flexible, keep a positive attitude, and make the best of the situation while prioritising your safety and well-being.
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