Simon Calder warns Britons about Christmas flights
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Britons flying abroad this Christmas may face delays or cancellations, travel journalist Simon Calder warned, as Heathrow Airport is trying to avoid the summer’s travel chaos. The airport, which introduced a cap of 100,000 passengers this summer, has already told passengers to fly outside peak times in the days running up to Christmas. However, Simon Calder reassured travellers saying the law is on their side and flight operators are required to offer alternative journeys to passengers.
Mr Calder told Times Radio: “The vast majority of your listeners are going to be travelling, absolutely as normal.
“But unfortunately, we’re in a situation where yet more jeopardy has been added into the equation for Christmas.
“It’s always stressful enough trying to get away to see loved ones go away on a winter holiday, whatever you’re planning to do.
“And unfortunately, Heathrow have said, ‘We’re talking to the airlines, we perhaps will be moving some flights around. Perhaps, we’ll be reintroducing a cap’.”
The travel expert suggested Heathrow Airport could see a repeat of the summer’s travel chaos if more than the one million passengers expected were to flock to the airport during the Christmas period.
He said: “And there will be about one million people scheduled to fly out of Heathrow between Thursday 15 December and Christmas eve, and the airport just don’t want any more than that.
“So they’re talking about shuffling things around. In the past couple of hours, I’ve spoken to the chief executive John Holland-Kaye and he – a bit like me – is keen to stress that most people will get exactly where they expected to be at the time they expect to be there.”
However, he warned cancellations are inevitable at that time of the year.
Though passengers are entitled to board on later flights in case of cancellation, flight operators may not always be able to offer a quick alternative, Simon Calder warned.
“And as a result of that, they may have to find alternative flight and they’re entitled to find alternatives but these will be a bit thinner on the ground.
“More likely, though, is that some flight timings could be adjusted.
“But then, if you’re flying from Aberdeen to Heathrow to Singapore to Australia, as soon as one part of that difficult equation gets unsettled, then the whole thing falls apart.
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Mr Calder added it will be “business as usual” with flight companies changing schedules – either postponing or bringing flights forward – to avoid congestion and allow everyone to travel.
“That will perhaps be happening a little more,” he added.
Heathrow Airport, which has lifted the 100,000 passenger cap, is reportedly retiming flights from morning peak time – when most passengers prefer to get away – to quieter afternoon slots in a bid to avoid the summer’s tentacular queues.
The number of passengers is set to drop from 81 million in 2019 to an estimated 60-62 million this year due to a combination of worsening global economic conditions, the war in Ukraine and the impact of Covid-19 on travel habits.
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