By John Flett
Flight Cancellations and Passport Delays Set to Disrupt Summer Travel
The lifting of coronavirus travel restrictions in North America and across Europe has created a sharp increase in the demand for air travel. Though the lifting of restrictions had been foreseen as a positive for an aviation industry hit hard by the pandemic the reality has been something else entirely. Flight cancellations, staff shortages and long lines for security and immigration have become daily headlines in both regions.
The cancellation of flights inconveniences passengers and intangibly damages the brand image of the airline particularly if done on the day of travel. However, in the U.K. and the European Union (EU), airlines also face financial penalties as customers are due compensation under EU regulation 261/2004. Though the UK has now left the European Union the regulation was adopted by the UK after Brexit.
According to Money Savings Expert, a UK consumer website, “if the passengers are on a flight leaving the UK/EU or returning to it (then it must also be an EU/UK airline), and the flight is canceled within 14 days of departure resulting in a two or more hour delay, then – providing the reason for the cancellation is the airline’s fault – you are also likely entitled to fixed cash (not vouchers) compensation of between £105 ($130) to £505 ($625) per person depending on the flight.”
Passenger compensation varies depending on the time period prior to the departure of the flight and the airline’s reason for cancellation. With some airlines struggling to ramp up staff numbers to meet the advertised capacity strategic flight cancellations have been occurring on a regular basis. In the past week, British Airways strategically canceled a number of flights up until the end of June to avoid possible cancellations within the 14-day compensation period.
Additionally, passengers on both sides of the Atlantic are facing additional concerns with regard to the issuance of passports. The delay in passport issuance in the U.K. has been a topic of discussion in parliament as a reported 5 million Brits have applied for new passports in anticipation of the summer holidays. The passport office has extended its issuing time from an average of 3-4 weeks up to 10 weeks.
According to The Independent, a British newspaper publication, citizens in the U.K. are advised that they have ‘10 days left to renew passports for the summer holidays.
The Daily Record reported that one of the UK’s largest travel firms, TUI Airways issued an email warning to customers to ensure they had a compliant passport prior to travel. With the pandemic having affected the last two summers and the UK now out of the EU since the last time, a majority of passengers may have flown TUI Airways issued a reminder for prospective passengers to ensure they could travel.
U.K. passport holders now need to have a minimum of three months validity to enter some EU countries, and their passport must not have an expiry date greater than 10 years.
CTV News in Canada is also reporting that Canadians face a long time in acquiring renewed or new passports. The report states that “Because Canadians were advised to avoid all non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic people were not looking at their passports as often as they had been previously and unknowingly let the documentation expire.”