I’m due to travel on a British Airways flight in the next few weeks. What are my rights if a strike is called? Rachel, London
Firstly, you should always check with the airline to see whether your flight is affected. Often it’s only some flights that will be delayed or cancelled and airlines often move remaining staff around to cover the shortfall.
Most airlines will also plan for the strike and provide you with some options beforehand – including free cancellation and refund even if you bought a restricted ticket, alternative travel dates or rerouting via a different destination. Make sure you fill in the contact information, such as email address or telephone number when making your booking, so the airline can get in touch if the need to.
Strikes by airline or airport workers are defined as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ – beyond the airline’s control – so if your flight is cancelled, you won’t be entitled to the usual compensation.
However, if the delay or cancellation occurs after the day or days when the strike was actually called, often possible if aircraft or personnel are in the wrong place, then the compensation rules do apply.
If your flight is delayed rather than cancelled, then airlines do have an obligation to provide assistance under what is known as the ‘Denied Boarding Regulations.’ That means you should get help with food and drinks, phone calls and overnight accommodation if required. The type of assistance depends on the length of your original flight and the delay.
So what about your booked hotel accommodation, car hire or the costs of rearranging onward travel from your destination? Well the airline doesn’t have to compensate you for this. Instead, you’ll need to turn to your travel insurance.
Most travel policies will cover you for lost hotel fees, car hire or onward flights, but you’ll need to check the wording carefully as there could be exclusions. For example, some insurance providers will only pay out if you purchased your flight tickets before the strike was announced or even first threatened.
You won’t be covered by your credit card, because the fault lies with the airline, and not the hotel or car hire company that you made the purchase with.