Q&A: How will Gatwick airport’s summer flight reductions affect me?

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Gatwick airport has announced it will reduce its summer capacity, after dozens of last-minute cancellations wrecked holidaymakers’ half-term travel plans. The announcement means airlines have to review their schedules, and could mean some passengers have their flights cancelled. EasyJet, which operates half of the slots, says it is reviewing the details.

When will easyJet decide on cancellations?

The airline said it was continuing to review its schedules. Many passengers will have already been rebooked to new flights for the summer holidays with easyJet having cut 90 departures from Gatwick in the first week alone.

What will I be offered?

If your flight is cancelled, you have the right to choose between a full refund or being rerouted – this could be a new flight with the same airline or a different carrier. The airline should give you the chance to get to your destination on the same day. According to Gatwick, airlines are confident they will be able to rebook many of those affected.

You can claim compensation if you are told of a cancellation within 14 days of travel. How much depends on the type of flight, if you choose to take a refund and not travel, or on how much later your new departure and arrival are compared with your original plan.

For example, if you are rerouted by your original airline and the replacement flight arrives more than two hours later than you had booked, you are entitled to £220 compensation for each passenger for flights of up to 1,500km.

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If an airline cancels at the last minute and you are forced to buy a new flight with a rival carrier, you can claim the cost of the replacement ticket. If your original flight was more expensive, however, you’d be better off requesting a full refund.

Be aware that airlines often refuse these requests, but you are entitled to the money.

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Should I buy insurance now?

Not if you have already been told your flight is cancelled – insurance will not pay out for events that occurred prior to purchasing the policy. Otherwise, insurance could be a good idea if there are elements of your trip that will not be refunded should the flight be cancelled, but make sure to read the small print before you sign up.

The insurance company LV= says its premium policy offers cover for cancellations or delays, including up to £1,000 for additional transport and accommodation costs if you cannot get alternative transport within 24 hours. Aviva says if your flight is delayed for 24 hours or cancelled by the airline, its policies can cover costs such as prepaid tickets for attractions you can no longer go to, or fees for kennels you will not be using.

However, the rules are pretty clear in stating that airlines should bear most of the costs, and insurers will not pay out for things that should be recovered from them.

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Does this mean delays will be less likely?

That is the point of Gatwick’s decision to limit flights – it says controlling the number of flights and increasing them gradually “will benefit ground handling companies, who are employed by the airlines and are responsible for managing check-in areas, turning aircraft round on the airfield ready for departure, and loading and delivering baggage back to passengers.” Having fewer flights taking off will mean the airport has less traffic to handle, so it should make things smoother for travellers.

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Are other airlines and airports affected?

Any airlines flying out of Gatwick could be affected by the cap on flight numbers – these include British Airways, Wizz Air, TUI and Vueling, alongside easyJet.

Other airports such as Manchester and Stansted said that they would leave decisions on schedules to the carriers.

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