/ Travel & Leisure

How the Dreamliner delayed my dream holiday

Man sleeping in airport

I’m just back from Nice in the south of France. It was a great getaway, but the closure of Heathrow airport brought me back down to earth… over an hour later than I should have been.

Dragging heels, screaming babies, dusty airports and the obligatory struggle to stuff as many boxes of Turkish delight and vacuum-packed olives into your hold luggage as humanly possible. What am I talking about? Flying home from your summer holidays.

And the last thing anyone needs is to hear the following announcement mid-air: ‘I’m afraid we’ve got an announcement to make…’

Flight delays and diversions

My friend and I were two of the thousands of travellers affected by Friday’s temporary closure of Heathrow airport. A fire in an Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner forced Heathrow airport to close for about 90 minutes, causing delays and cancellations.

We were due to land in Gatwick but, in order to allow for the diversion of Heathrow-bound long-haul flights to other London airports, our short-haul flight was forced to land in Paris.

With foresight almost prophetic, we’d caught the food trolley before the announcement and had spent our remaining euros on plastic bottles of wine and mini tubs of Pringles. We were pretty well equipped for a Friday night sat on the runway at Charles de Gaulle. Which is more than can be said for the poor family across the aisle with three small children.

To the airline’s credit, we were kept up-to-date and we were back in the air within the hour. However, the knock-on effect meant longer queues at Gatwick’s passport control and missed trains. And for those unfortunate long-haul passengers who had missed connecting flights? Well, they had long night to look forward to.

Your flight rights to compensation

If your flight is departing from an EU airport and you’re delayed, you may be entitled to some assistance (food, accommodation etc) under the Denied Boarding Regulations, depending on the length of the flight and the length of delay.

Unfortunately for me, my flight was delayed by less than two hours, meaning that I’m not entitled to compensation. You can read the ins and outs of when you’re entitled to compensation for flights delays in our guide. And if think you’re entitled to compensation for a delayed flight, you can use this letter template to seek redress from an airline.

Have you been hit by a flight delay? Did you successfully claim compensation and assistance?


Two hours late! Oh my! And no compensation. Do I detect misplaced sense of entitlement here? Sh*t happens, get over it.


Two hours’ delay, when the scheduled flight time is less than two hours, is unacceptable. You have to put this into perspective. If my 15-minute train journey is delayed by 15 minutes, then this 100% delay is equally unacceptable. In this case, two hours is disproportionately long compared to the scheduled flight time.

It was clear that rerouting was mismanaged. Rather than allowing some flights to be delayed by 100% or more but other flights (e.g. long haul) to be delayed by only 5% or 10%, air traffic control (or whoever was responsible), should have ensured that most flights were delayed by only 20% of their scheduled flight time. To achieve this, long haul flights should have been diverted to further afield and short haul flights should have been given priority at other London airports.


The logic for equating percentage time delay as a decider to who lands first seems rather dubious and I wonder if NFH is having a joke.

My supposition is that long-haul flights are probably shorter of fuel whereas short-haul tend to do many quick flights and fuel more rarely as a ratio to landings. Also not all airports can necessarily take all airliners so without going into advanced research I think we can assume that the landing priority is based on safety aswell as practicality.

From Paris Miss Brunwin had three other methods to return to the UK so if the incident had escalated and closed Heathrow returning would not have been impossible.


Fuel doesn’t come into it. They could have landed many incoming long haul flights in Manchester and Birmingham so that short haul flights could land at other London airports. To land a LHR-bound short haul flight in Paris is absurd. Again using percentages, allowing all flights to fly 95% of the distance to their destination would have been preferable to allowing some (e.g. NCE-LHR) to reach only 65% and others (e.g. JFK-LHR) to reach 99%.


I’m not sure of the gist of this conversation. Is it to remind people of their rights when flights are significantly delayed? I hope it is not to whinge about a 2 hour delay. There was an unforseen problem at Heathrow, so an effect on incoming flights. What should have happened differently? We get delays on trains, on the roads because of accidents, it’s all part of life. Why do we always expect to be compensated for relatively minor inconvenience? Just remember that your compensation comes out of other peoples fares.


” It was a great getaway”

We were just treated to a BBC news item on the importance of a third runway at Heathrow for business travellers coming to the UK so perhaps putting tourists to Stanstead and/or a third Gatwick might solve the problem. However given peak oil perhaps flying will start to become more expensive and reduce demand.

Not that I am picking on Which? staff particularly just there seems to be a divine right feeling about flying and pollution by noise not in some way being important.

I notice from the Accounts on the Which? website that six of the upper echelons earn in the 1% of the populations top earning range and someone earns £300,000 which[?] seems wrong.


Hey all,

While flight delays aren’t the worst thing in the world, I wanted to highlight what people are entitled to, should they be significantly delayed.

It wasn’t a big deal for me, it just meant I hung out with my friend while sat on a plane for an extra hour, rather than back at home. However, for some people it probably was a bit more inconvenient, especially those with small children, or taxis waiting for them.

As well as compensation, after a certain point, airlines should provide water and food. As my flight landed less then two hours late, I wasn’t entitled to assistance at all. Again, no biggie for me, but it pays to know your rights, just in case you’re unlucky one day.


I think the point you made was very clearly put.

However the implicit message that air travel is wonderful and that it has no social knock-on effects worth considering is rather grating. Perhaps if politicians and the media spent a year living under the Heathrow flight-path there might be more heed paid to the health effects already reported:

” There are health consequences of elevated sound levels. Elevated workplace or other noise can cause hearing impairment, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, annoyance, sleep disturbance, and decreased school performance. Although some hearing loss occurs naturally with age,[2] in many developed nations the impact of noise is sufficient to impair hearing over the course of a lifetime.[3][4] Elevated noise levels can create stress, increase workplace accident rates, and stimulate aggression and other anti-social behaviors.[5]

A large-scale statistical analysis of the health effects of aircraft noise was undertaken in the late 2000s by Bernhard Greiser for the Umweltbundesamt, Germany’s central environmental office. The health data of over one million residents around the Cologne airport were analysed for health effects correlating with aircraft noise. The results were then corrected for other noise influences in the residential areas, and for socioeconomic factors, to reduce possible skewing of the data. The study concluded that aircraft noise clearly and significantly impairs health, with, for example, a day-time average sound pressure level of 60 decibel increasing coronary heart disease by 61% in men and 80% in women. As another indicator, a night-time average sound pressure level of 55 decibel increased the risk of heart attacks by 66% in men and 139% in women. Statistically significant health effects did however start as early as from an average sound pressure level of 40 decibel.[6]” Wikipedia