We have all seen pictures and footage of the nightmare that travellers are facing at some of the larger UK airports. In recent months, hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers have been caught up in staggering airport queues, with some travellers missing flights and other departures being significantly delayed or cancelled altogether.

Why are the airport queues so long?

They are being caused by a surge in demand for holidays abroad, following the removal of Covid-19 travel restrictions that have been in place for nearly 2 years. The pandemic is having an impact in two ways. With over 100,000 people testing positive for Covid-19 within the last 7 days, infection rates are still high, meaning staff sickness is higher than normal. Combine this with the tens of thousands of aviation professionals that left the industry during the pandemic to pursue other career paths, taking with them years of experience and important security clearance. Both airlines and airports are finding it difficult to recruit staff in the numbers needed, train them and get them security cleared.

Are you entitled to a refund if you miss your flight because of queues at check-in/bag drop?

Check-in desks and bag drops are the responsibility of individual airlines, even if they have outsourced this service to a third party. If you arrive at the airport at the time you were advised to by the airline and miss your flight because the queue at the check-in desks or bag drop was too long, you may be able to claim against the airline responsible under the Consumer Rights Act. However, pursuing such a claim is unlikely to be straightforward.

If you do want to pursue a claim, it is essential that you are able to provide evidence to show that you arrived at the airport at the time advised by the airline. This could be a date and time stamped car park ticket or a receipt from a shop or restaurant within the terminal, again with the date and time clearly shown.

Are you entitled to a refund if you miss your flight because of airport security queues?

Unfortunately, no. The queues at airport security are the responsibility of the airport, rather than individual airlines. This means that your airline is not liable to pay you compensation or issue you a refund if you miss your flight due to long queues at airport security. No large UK airport has a policy in place whereby they compensate travellers who have missed their flights due to long security queues.

What should you do if you know you are going to miss your flight?

If you can see that you are not going to make your flight, make the airport or airline staff aware. Most airports will try to bring you to the front of the queue if your flight is due to depart imminently. However, at this moment in time, you may find that a lot of people are in that very same situation. Don’t give up too soon, as airlines will sometimes delay a flight to accommodate missing passengers if they are held up in security queues.

If the queues are too long and you know you won’t make your flight, contact the airline as soon as possible. Providing there is space, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will book you on to the next available flight and usually at no extra cost. EasyJet offer what they call ‘rescue fees’. If you miss your flight, you can request a transfer to the next available easyJet flight to the same destination by paying a fee per person at the airport. To take advantage of a rescue fee, you must present yourself with valid travel documents to easyJet airport staff at the bag drop, within 2 hours of your missed flight’s scheduled departure time. Ryanair offer a similar ‘missed departure fee’. This is only available less than 40 minutes before, or up to an hour after the flight’s scheduled departure time.

Can you claim back Air Passenger Duty if you miss your flight?

Yes. However, even though all airlines have an obligation to issue this refund, most also charge an admin fee which is often higher than the refund amount you are claiming back. For example, the refund amount is £13 per standard ticket in Europe. Jet2 charges an admin fee of £25 for every booking that requires a refund. Ryanair charge an admin fee of £17 for each booking. Check with your airline to ensure that the refund amount due outweighs any admin fees they will impose.

Can you claim on your travel insurance if you miss your flight because of long queues?

This very much depends on individual policies. Some policies include cover for missed departures but not all policies will cover you if the missed departure is due to long queues at the airport. To further complicate matters, this is not always clearly defined in the policy wording either. Insurance providers will often cover what they class as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that prevent you from making your departure. For example, a strike or other disruption of public transport, an accident involving the vehicle you are travelling in or the mechanical breakdown of that vehicle. However, they will not cover circumstances within your control, and this may include long queues at the airport. It is important to refer to the specific wording on your travel insurance policy.

If you do want to pursue a claim, it is essential that you are able to provide evidence to show that you arrived at the airport at the time advised by the airline. This could be a date and time stamped car park ticket or a receipt from a shop or restaurant within the terminal, again with the date and time clearly shown.

It is important to take out travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday. This means that you are immediately covered for any unforeseen event that could force you to cancel your booking before your departure, for example, advance flight cancellations.

Tony Buckingham, Managing Director of Buckingham Insurance says, “The disruption that we are all seeing in a stark reminder that travel insurance is a way to protect yourself against a range of risks, whether you are travelling within the UK or overseas. Travel insurance should be taken out as soon as you book your holiday to offer you immediate protection. This will ensure you can claim for circumstances that may arise before you travel, for example, cancellations or delays.

If you would like to discuss your travel insurance needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us or telephone one of our friendly staff on 01246 575 625 (Clowne) or 01773 748 627 (Ripley).”