Faced with airline delays and cancellations? What are your rights?
First SAA, now British Airways. Airline strikes have been rife these past few months.
British Airways has announced the airline is facing an unprecedented 16-day strike by some of its cabin crew. The strike will run from Saturday 1 July to Sunday 16 July inclusive.
Although British Airways has said in a statement that it is the airline’s priority to fly all customers to their destinations, the looming strike has once again put the spotlight on passenger rights in the event of airline delays and cancellations.
Chantal Kliche, Thompsons Travel Retail Manager for the Cape Region, says that unfortunately there is no “uniform” consensus on what passengers’ rights are globally. “Each airline and continent is different,” she says. “The EU law for example is different to the SA law and carriers have different policies and procedures.”
Kliche adds that the best advice in the event of a strike is for passengers to check the status of their flights prior to departure directly with the airline. They can make use of the CheckMyTrip application with gives them updated schedule information on their departure flights directly to their mobile.
ASATA member Rachael Penaluna, Business Manager of Sure Maritime Travel, agrees and explains that it is key for travellers to move quickly when faced with delays. “If your flight is delayed or cancelled, go straight to the airline counter and report it – they must re-issue the ticket at no additional cost or arrange a hotel, or give you vouchers for the flight delay.”
Penaluna says the only time the travel consultant gets involved is when cancellations have been announced due to for example a strike. “Then, we reserve seats on another airline. However, it is important to remember under these kind of circumstances, that if the agent changes the booking, it is ‘voluntary’, which means change fees apply. If the airline re-issues the ticket, those costs are avoided.”
Kliche adds that if the client has booked accommodation packages, inevitably flight delays carry some sort of financial implication. “That is why we highly recommend that passengers purchase a travel insurance policy which includes cancellation and curtailment as well as delays cover,” she says.
Here are some great tips on what to expect when a flight is delayed or cancelled:
If it's the airline's fault, and your connecting flight is with that same airline . . .
“If your first flight is delayed because of issues with the airline, the airline should rebook you on the next outbound flight to your destination,” says Penaluna. “If the next outbound flight with the airline is the next day, the airline should provide accommodations and meal vouchers. If the issue that caused the delay is weather, however, then it is unlikely the airline will compensate you; they will just help you rebook.”
Kliche agrees and says: “The airline needs to transport the traveller from departure point to arrival point whether it be on a later connection or alternative carrier. Should this not be an immediate option, various forms of compensation are given either via: accommodation, meal and travel vouchers. Should the passenger not accept the alternate offering it would be at the airline’s discretion to offer refunds.”
If it's the airline's fault, and your connecting flight is NOT with that airline . . .
“If you have two separate airline tickets with two different airlines for each leg, then the first airline that caused you to miss your connection is not required to help you rebook and will not compensate you,” says Penaluna.
However, ASATA travel agencies like Sure Maritime travel will consider this when making the traveller’s booking. Says Penaluna: “Even if it is slightly more expensive, it can sometimes benefit you to fly through multiple connections on one airline and book your ticket through that airline rather than multiple airlines on different tickets to ensure you get compensated in case of a delay or missed connection.”
If you miss your connection, and it's your own fault . . .
While some airlines may help you rebook your flight, they are not required to do so, and you will be charged for the cost of the new flight, warns Penaluna. “Furthermore, they will not compensate you monetarily or for any accommodation you may need.”
She adds that if you miss a connection because of a long security lines, the airport/airline will not claim responsibility for this, so always give yourself (more than enough) time to get checked in and proceed through security.
Pre- check in is important because it allows you more time to get to the counter.