Manchester airport closure: what are my rights if my flight is disrupted?

For the second time in two months, Manchester airport temporarily closed because of wintry weather.

Both runways at the UK’s third-busiest airport were closed due to what was described as “heavy snowfall” for several hours on Thursday

Inbound intercontinental arrivals were diverted as far away as Dublin and London Gatwick.

At least 14 arrivals and departures have been cancelled, and dozens of flights are delayed. Disruption is likely to continue for the rest of the day.

The last weather-related closure was on 10 December last year, for similar reasons.

If your journey plans have been disrupted, these are the key questions and answers.

Why did Manchester airport close?

At around 5am on Thursday morning the airport said: “Following a period of heavy snowfall, we have temporarily closed both runways.”

The airport reopened shortly after 8.30am, but during that time many flights were disrupted. Problems are expected to continue for the rest of the day.

Inbound flights

My flight was diverted. What are my rights?

Intercontinental arrivals have landed at Birmingham, Dublin, Liverpool and two London airports: Gatwick and Heathrow.

Affected arrivals include those from Abu Dhabi, Atlanta, Barbados, Doha, Dubai, Montego Bay and New York.

In some cases the pilots will keep passengers on the planes in the hope of flying on to Manchester. But otherwise buses will (eventually) be laid on, except from Dublin – where Aer Lingus is providing another crew and will fly the Airbus to Manchester later.

If I choose to make my own arrangements, what are my rights?

If buses are laid on by the airline, there is no legal obligation to meet other costs – though passengers who land at Birmingham airport, which has an adjacent railway station, may choose to take a train to their destination and ask the airline to recompense them.

Airlines are unlikely to meet requests to pay for taxis or domestic flights.

My car parking bill has increased. Can I claim?

It will be tricky; try the airline, but it may deny liability. If the bill is significantly higher and you have travel insurance, you might seek to claim. Or contact Manchester airport and invite them to settle.

Outbound flights

My flight has been cancelled. What are my rights?

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, travellers whose flights are cancelled or delayed are entitled to be flown to their destination as soon as possible.

But with many aircraft flying very full there are limited options for getting people where they need to be.

If the airline they were originally flying with does not have an imminent replacement, it must buy a flight on another airline.

Passengers must be provided with meals, and if necessary accommodation, until they are able to travel.

I have missed my onward connection from Heathrow/Paris/Frankfurt/Dubai. Do the same rules apply?

Yes, assuming you booked the trip as a single transaction, eg Manchester-Paris-New York or Manchester-Dubai-Bangkok. But if you have bought a separate onward ticket, there is no obligation to get you to your destination. Travel insurance may compensate you for the extra costs.

Am I entitled to cash compensation?

Not from the airline. The usual compensation arrangements for flights that are cancelled or delayed by three hours or more do not apply to weather-related disruption. The closure is classed as an “extraordinary circumstance”.

Even so, the cost to airlines of another closure at Manchester airport is likely to run into millions of pounds.

Shouldn’t Manchester airport have been prepared for snow?

It is often said that other airports in countries such as Canada, Switzerland and across Scandinavia are much better prepared than we are for snow.

Partly that is because the UK climate is generally much more benign, and therefore investment in equipment for severe weather is not so easily justified.

Aircraft cannot take off with ice on their wings, and de-icing can often cause delays.

But even when airports are really well equipped, sudden snowfalls will still close the best-prepared as I know from personal experience getting stuck at airports in Russia and the US in midwinter.

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