April 21st, 2010
11:07 AM ET

Q&A: Who gets to fly first?

Experts say it could be weeks before the backlog is fully cleared.


With more flights beginning to take off on schedule, airlines are attempting to clear the backlog of passengers who have been waiting for days because of the volcanic ash cloud over Europe.

But with tens of thousands waiting to travel, there are questions over who gets to go first and how long the delays will last.

How are airlines prioritizing ticket allocation?
Other than a few special cases, most airlines are prioritizing those with pre-existing tickets for scheduled flights. In some cases, empty seats on these are being filled by customers with urgent travel needs. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific says it is giving priority to unaccompanied minors and students heading back to the UK to sit exams. Singapore Airlines is fast tracking those with "special needs," the elderly and those with infants or young children. Rochelle Turner, head of vacation research for consumer watchdog Which?, says any prioritizing is at the discretion of individual flight operators. "The elderly, the sick, frequent flyers - it's entirely up to the airline who goes first."

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