Why Flights Are Still a Mess and What You Can Do To Minimise the Stress

Qantas plane

In case you’re one of the six people not currently sunning yourself on some European beach, you may not have realised just how much of a mess the aviation industry is in.

All those holiday snaps populating your Insta aren’t showing you the reality of going on holiday right now and exclude the 7 hours waiting in an airport for a delayed or even a cancelled flight.

In Sydney, queues at the airport have been reported to be snaking out the door, well over 100m long. Passengers flying from Hamilton Island had to bunker down on gym mats on the floor of a PCYC after their flight was cancelled.

Perth is similar, with daily flight cancellations experienced since the start of the July school holidays. One plane sat on the tarmac for hours before passengers were told it couldn’t take off without putting the pilot at risk of fatigue.

Similar scenes have been sighted at airports across the country, including Adelaide and Melbourne.

In Europe, the top travel destination for Aussie travellers, it’s no better. Heathrow, the biggest airport in the continent, recently asked that all airlines cut their flights by 10% as they attempt to deal with massive baggage backlogs. Tens of thousands of upcoming flights have also been scheduled for cancellation due to other issues as well.

EasyJet, one of the top budget carriers in Europe, and British Airways, one that you’re paying top dollar for, have been cancelling around 100 flights a day as European summer demand overwhelms the system.

If you’re travelling in Europe this summer, or anywhere around the world for that matter, there’s a non-zero chance that you’re going to run into problems eventually. If the absolute worst happens and your flight ends up being cancelled, you should be entitled to compensation, although this largely depends on the airline you were flying with.

Should the worst happen, take a deep breath, and read on.

How to Check the Status of Your Flight

Before you depart, it’s worth checking on the status of your flight just to make sure everything is in order. You can do this in a number of ways.

Each airline will have its own flight status checker which you can easily find by searching. Each airport also has its own flight status update which can also be found on their websites through search.

However, all of that information is also readily available on the website Flight Radar 24. Select your airport and you can see updates on all departures, arrivals, and the status of flights on the tarmac.

It’s worth having a read of this before you set out for the airport to check how many flights have been delayed or cancelled that day and to see the reassuring green status of your own.

Related: Why the Heck Was Your Flight Cancelled?

What Happens If Your Flight Is Cancelled

Australia actually has quite limited protections for customers when it comes to flight cancellations. Flight departure and arrival times are not legally binding under Australian consumer law, meaning that airlines can change, chancel, or reschedule flights without warning or explanation and are not legally entitled to compensate you.

That being said, all Australian airlines have cancellation policies that generally result in you either being compensated or booked onto another flight if the flight is cancelled. You might not, however, be compensated in the manner you think you should for extra costs incurred by delays or cancellations.

Delays or cancellations are categorised into things that are within the airline’s control (mechanical issues, IT problems, staff shortages, baggage delays etc) and things that are not (weather patterns, air traffic control issues, and security risks). The type of help and compensation you get is based on which of these two categories your flight falls into.

If the issue is within the control of Qantas, for example, and your flight is cancelled, the airline will book you onto the next available flight for free. If you’re delayed by two hours, they will provide you with a meal voucher. If you’re delayed by between eight and 12 hours, they will give you $200 towards a hotel, free transport, and $30 towards food. If it’s over 12 hours, they will do the same but you’ll get $50 towards food.

Virgin is similar. Meal vouchers are provided for two-hour delays but they’ll go one better than Qantas and offer $50 for food and $220 for accommodation if you’re delayed overnight.

The above policies are for international and domestic flights but it’s worth noting that if you’re travelling on international airlines, those companies are bound by their local consumer laws which tend to be much more favourable than Australian ones. European airlines have to operate consumer compensation policies in line with European Union regulations and they’re a lot more generous and straightforward than our own. Worth bearing in mind if you’re looking to jet off to Europe any time soon.

If you make a compensation claim, be aware that airlines are currently taking around eight weeks to process issues, so you may not hear back from them for a while.

If you’re not happy with the results of a compensation claim, you can take it up with the Airline Customer Advocate who provide a free and independent complaint resolution process. It’s worth noting however that Choice gave that organisation a ‘Shonky’ award for being less than helpful.

You can read the full details of each airline’s cancellation and delay policy here: Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar.

Related: Why Are Airports Still in Chaos and How Long Will It Take to Settle Down?

Related: Heads Up: Here’s Why Our International Vaccine Passports Might Need to Change

Related: Check These Airline Carry-On Bag Limits Before Boarding

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