GROUNDED Thousands of passengers hit by cancelled flights at two of UK’s top airports

THOUSANDS of passengers have been hit by flight cancellations and delays at the UK's two busiest airports between last night and this morning.

EasyJet has grounded 32 flights at London Gatwick so far today, while British Airways has been forced to cancel the same number of flights from London Heathrow.

British Airways has been forced to cancel 32 flights from London Heathrow
British Airways has been forced to cancel 32 flights from London HeathrowCredit: PA
EasyJet has had to cancel 32 flights from London Gatwick
EasyJet has had to cancel 32 flights from London GatwickCredit: Getty
The disruption has affected thousands of passengers across both airports
The disruption has affected thousands of passengers across both airportsCredit: AP

Air Traffic Control (ATC) problems and bad weather have both been blamed for the travel disruption.

Routes to Spain, Italy and Hungary have all been affected, as well as domestic flights.

Passengers affected by the cancellations are unlikely to receive any compensation either, with easyJet informing them that it is an "extraordinary circumstance" which is not in the airline's control.

Messages sent to affected passengers read: “We’re sorry that your flight has been cancelled. This is due to air traffic control restrictions.“The disruption to your flight is outside of our control and is considered to be an extraordinary circumstance.”

Airlines typically aren't obliged to issue a refund if a flight is cancelled due to reasons beyond their control, such as extreme weather.

Flights cancelled due to airport or air traffic control employee strikes, or other "extraordinary circumstances," are also generally not eligible for compensation.

Making matters worse for British Airways is the fact that two of its aircraft had to be removed from service for safety checks after they were struck by lightning yesterday.A spokesperson told Sun Travel: "Due to air traffic control restrictions and adverse weather, like other airlines we’ve had to make a small number of alterations to our schedule.

"We know this will be frustrating for our customers and our teams are working hard to get them onto alternative flights as soon as possible, with the vast majority already booked onto services that will fly later today."An easyJet spokesperson said: "easyJet operated around 1800 flights yesterday and is operating a similar number today however some flights yesterday evening and three flights from London Gatwick this morning have unfortunately been disrupted due to the knock-on impact of adverse weather yesterday and air traffic control delays.

“While this is outside of our control, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused and are providing impacted customers with hotel accommodation and meals as well as a refund or a transfer to an alternative flight.”Frustrated passengers took to X, formerly Twitter, to vent their anger at their cancellations.

One wrote: "So British Airways cancelled my flight back to London from Rome because of ‘bad weather’, but then I realise that the plane flew to Ibiza instead and back to London with exactly the same departure times.

Flight compensation rules

What are my rights if my flight is cancelled or delayed?

Under UK law, airlines have to provide compensation if your flight arrives at its destination more than three hours late.

If you're flying to or from the UK, your airline must let you choose a refund or an alternative flight.

You will be able to get your money back for the part of your ticket that you haven't used yet.

So if you booked a return flight and the outbound leg is cancelled, you can get the full cost of the return ticket refunded.

But if travelling is essential, then your airline has to find you an alternative flight. This could even be with another airline.

When am I not entitled to compensation?

The airline doesn't have to give you a refund if the flight was cancelled due to reasons beyond their control, such as extreme weather.

Disruptions caused by things like extreme weather, airport or air traffic control employee strikes or other ‘extraordinary circumstances’ are not eligible for compensation.

Some airlines may stretch the definition of the "extraordinary circumstances" but you can challenge them through the aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Will my insurance cover me if my flight is cancelled?

If you can't claim compensation directly through the airline, your travel insurance may refund you.

Policies vary so you should check the small print, but a delay of eight to 12 hours will normally mean you qualify for some money from your insurer.

Remember to get written confirmation of your delay from the airport as your insurer will need proof.

If your flight is cancelled entirely, you're unlikely to be covered by your insurance.

"What’s the logic? More expensive passengers that cannot be let down?"

Another reached out to BA, saying: "Lovely that you cancel my flight today from Copenhagen. Especially by sending an email at 2.30am. The only way back now is via Norwegain and costs £500 one way."

A third contacted easyJet, saying: "I’m stuck in Gatwick Airport, I’ve been here for hours, flight cancelled, spent 3 hours trying to deal with you guys."

Another added: "Was flying to London this morning to see family and easyJet cancelled my flight at 5.30am.

"Alternative flights were either too expensive (deliberately) or unsuitable. Never again will I fly with these chancers."

Meanwhile, Ryanair has also apologised to passengers for delays from airports they operate from, with hundreds of other flights across Europe affected.

They claim that ATC staff shortages are creating issues for all European airlines.

In a statement on its website, the airline said: "Ryanair apologises to its passengers for the excessive flight delays caused by European ATC staff shortages today, which are affecting all European airlines.

"ATC services, which have had the benefit of no French ATC strike disruption this summer, continue to underperform with repeated 'staff shortages'.

"We apologise to our passengers for these repeated ATC flight delays which are deeply regrettable but beyond Ryanair’s control."

ATC problems have affected flights already this summer, with more than 60 Ryanair trips cancelled last weekend and more than 150 delayed.

Wizz Air was also forced to cancel several flights for the same reason.

Last week passengers were also told to expect more problems later this month, with ATC strikes in ItalyStrikes on the same dates by workers who provide special assistance services for vulnerable passengers are still set to go ahead.

And this is how to get money back for delayed or cancelled flights.

Affected travellers might not be able to claim compensation

Affected travellers might not be able to claim compensation set to take place.

Staff at Milan Linate and Bergamo Orio al Serio are due to walk out on July 21 between 1 and 5pm.

Meanwhile, in some good news for those who use Gatwick Airport, strikes planned for later this month have been delayed.

Walkouts by Gatwick baggage security screeners have been postponed following an improved pay offer, according to Unite union.

The workers, who are employed by ICTS, have agreed to call all off industrial action scheduled to take place from 12 to 14 July and 19 to 21 July while they ballot on the offer.

If it is rejected, fresh industrial action will be scheduled.

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