Airport slots amnesty: when is summer schedule deadline, will my flight be cancelled, can I get a refund?

The flight cancellation plan aims to avoid summer chaos - but it could lead to more travel woes for passengers

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

Government regulations will allow a one-off “amnesty” on airport slots rules, enabling airlines to plan ahead and deliver a more realistic summer schedule with a view to minimising disruption at airports.

British Airways and Heathrow Airport have welcomed the plan, although it could lead to more disruption for passengers - even if they will have more advance warning.

Here is all you need to know:

Travellers have been hit by delays and cancellations at London airports for the last month. Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images

When is the summer schedule deadline?

Airlines will be able to cancel flights without being penalised for not using their airport slot, but must finalise their summer schedule by this Friday (8 July).

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

What is the purpose of the slots?

Slots are used to manage capacity at the busiest airports, giving airlines authorisation to take off or land at a particular airport at a specified time on a specified day.

Airlines must use slots a certain amount of times each season in order to keep them, and this “amnesty” is giving them the leeway to put a more manageable schedule in place without the risk of losing a slot due to cancelling flights.

When will I find out if my flight is cancelled?

The airlines need to finalise their summer schedule by Friday, meaning that any cancellations should be announced well in advance.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “An amnesty on slot rules is potentially good news for passengers as it should encourage airlines who need to cancel more flights to do so now rather than at the last minute and could ease disruption this summer by letting better-staffed airlines step in and fly routes.

“For this to work, carriers must surrender their slots to other airlines if they are unable to fulfil them. This will help reduce cancellations and end the unsustainable practice of airlines flying near-empty planes to retain slots.”

Can I get a refund if my flight is cancelled?

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 will be entitled to a full refund for flights but you can only accept either a refund or a rebooking, not both. Given the advance warning, in this case compensation will not be available to passengers who have to change their plans.

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

How have airlines reacted to the amnesty?

A spokeswoman for British Airways said: “We welcome these new measures, which help us to provide the certainty our customers deserve by making it easier to consolidate some of our quieter daily flights to multi-frequency destinations well in advance, and to protect more of our holiday flights.”

A spokesman for Heathrow said the slot amnesty is “good news for passengers”, adding: “This amnesty will enable airlines to make early choices to consolidate their schedules, boosting the resilience of summer operations and giving passengers the confidence they deserve ahead of their journeys.

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