James Walker: What you can do when airlines let you down

You might be able to claim a refund if your flight is delayed. Pic: PA.
You might be able to claim a refund if your flight is delayed. Pic: PA.

Flight delays can be caused by lots of problems – anything from sudden snowstorms, foggy mornings or even the occasional disobedient volcano.

But if you’re raring to go on holiday – or you’re ready to go home – flight delays are certainly frustrating.

No one wants to hear the word ‘mechanical problem’ before they get on a plane, but this is one of the more common answers for a delay.

And then there are the things that can’t be avoided, like the couple I spoke to in New York last year who were stranded at JFK airport with three very young children and charity shop clothes after their baggage went missing and their passports and wallets were stolen.

Not all the problems we see are as dramatic as that, but last year we still helped nearly 120,000 people sort out problems with flights and a further 4,500 who’d hit a problem with their travel agent.

Of course, most reasons for flight delays aren’t the fault of the airline at all. But if the delay is as a result of their error, you might be able to claim a refund.

We’ve also been working with the airlines and airports to share your stories so they know more about the things that you find annoying when waiting for the all clear for take-off.

Here are my top tips on how to stay calm should things go wrong when you get airside.

Get insured: A surprisingly large number of people travel without insurance. From missing baggage to delayed flights, it’s cover you can’t afford to travel without. Make sure you start the policy now, not just before you travel. That way you can avoid getting caught out cancellation costs. You can complain to Resolver about insurance problems too.

Be realistic: Most flight delays aren’t the fault of the airline. So you won’t be covered for things the airline can’t control. But if your flight is delayed for over 3 hours then you may be able to make a claim. Check out Resolver’s guide at www.resolver.co.uk

Keeping the kids calm: Keeping the kids occupied if you’re delayed can be stressful. Take some disposable items like colouring books to keep them occupied so you’re not weighed down before you board.

Planning ahead: Make sure you’ve got some flexibility built in with your booking with your hotel too. Call ahead and confirm your booking and write down their contact details, just in case. If you’re not booking a hotel as part of a package, then make sure you’ve checked out the cancelation policy before you book – and book direct from the hotel if you can.

Expect the unexpected: So you look at the baggage carousel desperately after everyone else has gone, but your luggage is missing. What next? Well your insurer should be able to help with an emergency payment but avoid the holiday being ruined by having emergency cash. Take a credit card specifically for holidays (don’t use it the rest of the time – lock it in a drawer!) That way you’ve got access to funds if there’s a problem.

Get the details of the problem: If your flight is delayed, stay calm. Ask for written confirmation of the delay and what you’re entitled to if things don’t improve (like food vouchers, for example). Keep the documents should you need to claim. And if the reason for the delay is ambiguous, ask for more detail or look up the plane by its flight number online.

* If you’ve got a problem with a troublesome transfer, check out our guide at www.resolver.co.uk or tell us about your experiences through our Facebook and Twitter pages. @WalkerResolver, @resolvercouk and facebook.com/resolvercouk