Airport slots amnesty: when is summer schedule deadline?

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The flight cancellation plan aims to avoid summer chaos – but could lead to more travel problems for passengers

Airlines have welcomed measures to help prevent last-minute flight cancellations over the summer.

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Government regulations will allow for a one-off “amnesty” of airport slot rules, allowing airlines to plan ahead and deliver a more realistic summer schedule to minimize disruption at airports.

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British Airways and Heathrow Airport have welcomed the plan, although it could result in further disruption for passengers – even if they get more advance warning.

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Here’s everything you need to know:

Travelers have been hit by delays and cancellations at London airports over the past month. Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images

When does the summer timetable close?

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Airlines can cancel flights without being penalized for not using their airport slot but have to finalize their summer schedule by this Friday (July 8).

It is understood that flights canceled or removed from flight schedules after the Friday deadline will not fall under the slot amnesty.

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What is the purpose of slots?

Slots are used to manage capacity at the busiest airports and to give airlines permission to take off or land at a specific airport at a specific time on a specific day.

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Airlines have to use slots a certain number of times each season to keep them, and this “amnesty” gives them the leeway to create a more manageable schedule without risking losing a slot to flight cancellations.

When will I know if my flight will be cancelled?

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Airlines have to finalize their summer flight schedule by Friday, which means cancellations should be announced well in advance.

Rory Boland, editor of which? Travel, said: “An amnesty to slot rules may be good news for passengers as it should encourage airlines facing more flight cancellations to do so now rather than at the last minute and ease the disruption this summer could by allowing better staffed airlines to step in and flight routes.

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“For this to work, airlines have to give up their slots to other airlines if they cannot fill them. This will help reduce cancellations and end the unsustainable practice of airlines flying nearly empty planes to retain slots.”

Can I get a refund if my flight is cancelled?

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If your flight is cancelled, your airline must offer to book you on another alternative route as close to your original arrival time as possible.

You are entitled to a full refund for flights, but you can only accept either a refund or a rebooking, not both. Given the advance warning, no compensation is available to passengers who have to change their plans in this case.

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You can check with your airline on how to claim your refund.

How have airlines reacted to the amnesty?

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A spokeswoman for British Airways said: “We welcome these new measures which will help us give our customers the peace of mind they deserve by making it easier to consolidate some of our quieter daily flights to multi-frequency destinations early and more to protect our holiday flights from it.”

A Heathrow spokesman said the slot amnesty was “good news for passengers”, adding: “This amnesty will allow airlines to make early decisions to consolidate their schedules, strengthen the resilience of summer operations and to give passengers the confidence they deserve before their journey.

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“We encourage airlines to seize this opportunity to reconsider their summer schedules without penalty and to notify passengers of any changes as early as possible.”

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