/ Travel & Leisure

More delayed flights, but is it all that bad?

Delayed flights on screen with holidaymakers

Were you lucky enough to jump on a plane this year? I said ‘jump on a plane’ not off it, though you may have wanted to do the latter with all the delays holiday goers endured this year.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has revealed that both charter and scheduled flights suffered more and longer delays this year.

Only 63% of charter flights, the ones that come with your packaged holidays, were on time between July and October 2010. That’s compared to 74% in 2009.

As for scheduled flights, 72% were on time in 2010, compared to 80% last year. Yes, there are a lot of percentages flying around in this Conversation, but there’s one obvious trend – fewer flights were on time this year.

Just how long were flights delayed?

But how late were they? Well, the CAA defines a flight as delayed if it’s behind by just 15 minutes. Now, that’s not too long is it? Plus, the average delay for scheduled flights turned out to be only 16 minutes.

However, as we all know, an average doesn’t tell the whole story – many of those flight delays must have been much longer. And for Which? Conversation commenter Justin, it’s not about how long the delay is, it’s about the lack of information when there is one:

‘It is often the case that after arriving at an airport and checking in etc. information is scarce when there are delays. Staff (if they can be located) are unhelpful – especially at foreign airports,’ he argued.

So what should you do if your holiday flight has been delayed? Sadly you’ll just have to sit it out with a magazine if it’s only 15 minutes, but if it’s much longer, Which? Holiday’s Head of Research, Rochelle Turner, has these words of wisdom:

‘These figures show delays are unfortunately on the increase. But remember your rights if your flight is delayed by three hours or more.

‘If you’re flying with an EU-based airline or from an EU airport, you should be entitled to food, drink and free phone calls once the delay reaches three hours. If your flight is delayed to the point that you require an overnight stay, your airline will have to pay for that as well.’

Were you hit by a delayed flight this year? If so, was it longer than you could bear?

Sophie Gilbert says:
8 December 2010

It wasn’t this year that I was hit by a delayed flight but last year, and it was cancelled, not delayed, but I hope it’s still all right to talk about it here. Apologies if you find it’s irrelevant.

My Ryanair flight from Toulon was diverted to another London airport than Stansted, where it was scheduled to land, because of heavy fog in Stansted. We sat in the plane for quite some time without any information being given to us, except we weren’t allowed to leave the plane for legal/health and safety/security reasons. After a long while, passengers who wanted to were allowed to leave the plane and retrieve their luggage, and those of us who had to go to Stansted airport were asked to identify our own hold luggage for security reasons and we stayed on the plane a while more.

Eventually the plane flew to Stansted airport (the shortest flight I’ve ever taken!), and when I made my way to the easyJet desk, I found out that my flight from Stansted to Edinburgh had been cancelled, the last on of the day. I was given an information sheet to read about what my rights were and instructions on how to make a claim, I was told that I was entitled to stay the night in a hotel at easyJet’s expense and I was booked on the next available flight to Edinburgh, fortunately not fully booked already and reasonably early in the morning so that I didn’t have to face having to spend the whole day at the airport the next day.

Back in Edinburgh I wrote to easyJet as instructed and claimed for my £88 (daylight robbery!!) stay at an airport hotel, including with my letter my original hotel receipt. I received an email in return from a low rank administrator telling me that I would be reimbursed £80. I replied that I thought this was stingy in the extreme, especially in view of the fact that I could have claimed for an evening meal but hadn’t, and after a couple more emails involving the low ranking administrator’s manager easyJet agreed to reimburse me in full, and they did. Talk about trying it on!

Chris says:
14 December 2010

I’ve been lucky enough to be caught by both the volcano earlier in the year & snow in late november. I as delayed around 6 days with the first, and two days with the second. Its not all bad though as i was on company business. First time i saw Strasbourg during a glorious weekend, second time was a bit more problematic & the return flight out of FRA to AMS was held due to snow. Theres not much airlines can do with either of these but to rebook. When i’ve been sat in the runway during delays, sometimes they let you off, other times the level of uncertainty means its best to stay & wait for a slot. If you can relax & put it down to fate…as i’m increasingly starting to do….then you’re lucky or just experienced. If you cant deal with the uncertainty – stay home & go on holiday in the lakes / cornwall. Oh – theyre not perfect either. True – and neither is short or long haul flying.