/ Travel & Leisure

Airlines shouldn’t leave you out in the cold

Bad weather is not new. Airlines should plan for it and look after their stranded passengers.

Picture winter in Amsterdam; a storm raging and the clock approaching 11.30pm. Most people would want to be in a warm bed. But, a few weeks ago, customers of low-cost airline Flybe were stuck in a long queue at the airport with little prospect of anything but more queuing. One of them was my wife.

Cancelled flights

Her flight from Amsterdam to Exeter – along with many other flights – had been cancelled because of bad weather. Airlines can’t help the weather, but they can help how they respond. Other airlines triggered their contingency plans and staff made alternative arrangements for passengers.

But Flybe staff seemed unable to deal with all the passengers. One of them suggested that my wife should sort out her own accommodation and book her own alternative flight. This is not easy to do at 11.30pm on a Sunday in a foreign country, while hundreds of other people are trying to do the same thing. Fortunately, my wife was able to stay with a relative. But many others faced a long night. A member of staff – either through ignorance or in a bid to save the airline money – incorrectly told my wife that she wouldn’t be refunded for her alternative flight.

Flight delay compensation

The Denied Boarding Regulation states that airlines in these circumstances must offer passengers the choice of being looked after and rerouted by the airline, or having a refund. In this case, it seems that Flybe tried to shift the rerouting responsibility on to its stranded passengers.

Flybe says that it would normally have sorted out everything directly, but with so many passengers waiting, it offered them the option of making their own arrangements to speed things up. It said it would cover any additional costs.

Many of you have told us about poor experiences with a host of airlines – not just low-cost ones – when flights are cancelled. But some no-frills carriers are delighting you – Norwegian’s 78% customer score tops the latest short-haul economy table in January’s Which? Travel. Flybe gets a middling 61%.

The industry has far to go in its handling of delays and cancellations. It doesn’t fill me with confidence that only one airline has so far signed up to the new ombudsman scheme: the surprisingly keen Ryanair.

Useful links

Use our free tool to claim compensation for flight delays


Well Ryanair have plenty of stick in the past could it be they have suddenly realised passengers count. At least well done to them regarding their signing up to the new ombudsman scheme on cancellations and delays. The other point how many so called airline staff actually know the rules and regulations on their responsibility to delayed passengers.

How many of us passengers arm ourselves with the knowledge of what our rights are when flights are cancelled or delayed, we tend to just accept that all will be ok when we arrive at airports. Which free tool will be very handy.

‘Which’ could do with producing a leaflet that people can download and keep, informing them their rights if a flight is delayed or cancelled explaining what the airline has to do to resolve the matter for you, especially if you are stuck somewhere overnight..

There’s plenty of information online. Search the Which? website for ‘flight delays’. The trouble with leaflets is that information can go out of date.

We are flying out from a local airport for a short holiday, middle of next year. I know that the “Well-known” Flying Companies have had flights cancelled or delayed from it in the past. It will be extremely annoying if it happens to us, seeing as it’s a well earned treat to ourselves. Fortunately, being a local airport, we could get back home by taxi for a short stay.
I can understand how absolutely frustrating it could be when happening to others as I’ve loved flying for years now. GOOD LUCK to all of us who have flights arranged.

my wife and i used the which tool to claim against ryan air over a three hour delay sat on the plane and never got a reply will try again in the new year and register the letter

Thank you for sharing Richard. Please do let us know how you get on.

This thread highlights the inadequacy of an arrangement where all the information on failed/delayed flights filed by Which? subscribers is not collated, but Ryanair holds all.

If there is to be a fair field for customers versus big business then we need to harness information technology so that all successes and failures against Ryanair are common domain. Simply recording occasional cases by a subscriber buried somewhere in Conversations is not that powerful a tool in really monitoring and controlling the airlines.

May I suggest that a spreadsheet. List all delayed and cancelled flights and then provided that as a service to the public – with the proviso that they inform how the claim process went. The provision of an on-line letter to be sent via a funded site would be the icing on the cake.

Thanks for your feedback. I’ll share your thoughts on how data could be used with those who are working on the tools here. The beauty of the tools we’re developing is that we get to collect data. For example, our nuisance calls tool, as well as reporting calls direct to the regulators, also reveals the phone numbers and company names of the perpetrators to us. This means we can do things like list the most reported numbers, as we have done here: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts/ We also collect quite a lot of data with our flight delays tool, which produces the right letter based on your individual circumstances, which could also be useful as you say.

It’s also nice to hear the personal stories that are shared here as we can learn from their experiences.

What do you want for £20, 5 star treatment or do you want fares to go up like they have over the last few years due to everyone claiming compensation.