Budget airline Ryanair is cancelling 40-50 flights every day for the next six weeks after saying it “messed up” the planning of pilots’ holidays. They include flights to and from UK airports including Luton, Stansted, Birmingham and Manchester.
If your flight has been cancelled, don’t worry. While Ryanair is saying it’ll transfer you to another flight, you could avoid the stress of the airport and simply drive instead. It might be easier than you think.
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Booking a hire car
Most airports have a choice of car hire companies, so that’s a good place to start if you decide at the last minute that you’d prefer to drive than fly. Stansted, the UK airport with the most Ryanair cancellations, has no fewer than eight car hire companies: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National and Sixt. Luton, meanwhile, has four hire firms, with a free shuttle bus operating from the airport to its car hire centre.
Some of the companies offer a one-way service, but it might prove difficult to hire a car in one direction at short notice. It’s worth checking the airport’s website, though (Stansted’s site lets you search across providers), but don’t be disheartened if it says there aren’t any cars available. It might be worth phoning, or visiting the rental company’s desk at the airport, and discussing your requirements.
If you’re in the UK when you discover your flight has been cancelled, It’s usually easier (and cheaper) to hire a car and return it to the same place. If, for example, you’re due to fly from Stansted on 20 September 2017, we found quotes for a week’s car hire from £72.35. That’s for an ‘Aygo or similar’. We’d recommend upgrading, though, as a city car such as the Toyota Aygo won’t be pleasant for a long European road trip. A Ford Fiesta can be had for £78.48, at the time of our search, while a Ford Focus would cost £84.08. Bigger cars are, obviously, pricier: £132.37 for a Toyota RAV4, or £150.68 for a Citroen C4 Grand Picasso. Sounds expensive, but that’s still less than £22 per day.
There are terms and conditions. These prices change by the minute, and assume the driver is aged between 25 and 70. Different companies have different conditions, but it’s worth checking with each firm directly if you’re young, old, or haven’t held a full driving licence for long. Double check you’re OK to take the car abroad, too.
Taking your own car
If you know in advance that your flight has been cancelled, why not take your own car? We advise checking with your insurance company to make sure you’re fully covered to drive abroad (otherwise you may only be covered third-party, which could prove costly if you’re involved in a crash in Europe). Check your breakdown cover, too, or take out dedicated European breakdown cover to avoid unnecessary stress if your car breaks down on the journey. If your car hasn’t been serviced recently, it might be worth booking it in before your trip, and carry out essential checks, such as tyres, lights and fluids under the bonnet to avoid a disaster on your journey.
Crossing the channel
The easiest way to cross the channel is via the Eurotunnel, which runs from Folkestone to Calais. Prices change subject to demand, but we found return crossings for the next day (and returning a week later) from £132. A quick search reveals ferries from Dover to Dunkirk from £94 at short notice. For more advice on whether to use the ferry or channel tunnel, read our handy guide.
Buying a car
If you’re stranded in Europe, why not buy a car to drive home? OK, it’s not as sensible as waiting in the airport for another flight, but where’s the fun in that? Cheap cars can be had across Europe for less than €1,000 (£887). Search eBay, fire up Google Translate and be ready for some light-hearted bartering! These guidelines explain the legalities of importing a car to the UK.
Driving in Europe
Many people find driving in Europe easier than driving in the UK. The roads are often less congested, and most motorways are simple two-lane affairs. It’s worth doing some research on driving in the particular country you’re visiting but, generally, you’ll need to drive on the right, roundabouts and traffic lights operate in the same way as the UK, and speed limits are usually signposted in km/h. It’s worth bearing in mind that drink-drive limits are often stricter than in Britain, too, and police have the power to hand out on-the-spot fines if you’re caught speeding.
You’ll also have to carry a number of essential items, including reflective jackets (one for each passenger), a warning triangle, headlamp beam deflectors, a breathalyser, a GB sticker and spare bulbs.
You’ve decided that you’d prefer to drive rather than wait for another Ryanair flight. Where does that leave you with compensation? Although the firm hasn’t released full details of the compensation on offer, it has said that it expects to face a bill of €20 million (£17.7 million) plus an extra €5 million (£4.44 million) in costs. In truth, you’re better waiting for another flight if you’re concerned about being left out of pocket. If the family holiday’s at stake, though, driving could be a genuine alternative option.