Flight disruption 'like hearing you are ill', academics claim

Image caption, Flights were delayed and cancelled at both Gatwick and Heathrow

Researchers have looked at the impact of air disruption on passengers and offered advice on how to cope with it.

Surrey University academics said people who were stuck at airports had emotions similar to the feelings they would have on hearing they had a serious illness.

Recent snow led to days of delays and cancellations at airports including Gatwick and Heathrow.

Researcher Niamh Murtagh said the best way to cope was to think ahead and acknowledge the risk of disruption.

Denial 'can be productive'

Researchers looked at the air travel disruption caused by volcanic ash earlier this year, as well as the impact of the snow and ice which affected travel before Christmas.

Ms Murtagh said people who had spent days and nights at airports waiting for their flights experienced denial, uncertainty and worry - the reactions they would have if they found out they were seriously ill.

She said denial, or thinking "this won't affect me", could be a productive way of avoiding unnecessary stress and anxiety, but could stop people taking action.

"Perhaps the best way of coping is thinking ahead and acknowledging that travel plans are always at risk of disruption," she explained.

After snow disruption at Heathrow this month, the government said airports could face fines when passengers had their travel plans disrupted.

Heathrow operator BAA said it would welcome any law "designed to improve the experience for passengers".

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