Top travel tips to get you home
Wednesday 4, August 2010
The demise of British holiday firm Goldtrail disrupted the plans of thousands of holidaymakers who had booked package deals to Turkey and Greece this summer.
In total, around 50,000 tourists have been affected by the collapse of the Surrey-based budget holiday package specialist, many of whom were recently delayed in getting home.
There can of course be many other reasons for a delayed journey home, from air traffic control strikes and mechanical faults to more bizarre explanations such as a huge flock of birds or the eruption of a volcano. Don’t worry too much though – on average over 70% of UK charter flights are on time, according to data from the Civil Aviation Authority, and only a very small percentage (1-2%) are cancelled.
What happens if my flight is delayed or cancelled?
If your flight is cancelled at short notice, airlines must normally either give you a full refund of any unused ticket or offer suitable alternative travel. In November 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled that airline passengers who are delayed by three hours or more will receive the same compensation as those whose flights are cancelled. If you’re flying back into the EU, on a non-EU based airline, you’re entitled to an alternative flight but not food and accommodation.
If I booked separate flights, am I covered?
The Air Traffic Users Council states that EU rules apply equally on any journey, whether one-way or part of a return ticket. Unfortunately, if you have single tickets with different airlines and miss the second flight due to the first flight being cancelled, you may not get a refund for the second flight.
Will I get any compensation if I’m stuck at the airport waiting for a new flight?
You should get food if stuck at the airport for over two hours for a short-haul flight or for up to four hours for a medium/long haul flight. If the delay is not the airlines fault, you should check your travel insurance policy as you may be entitled to some form of compensation. During the volcanic ash crisis, some insurance companies paid out and some did not.
Who pays for my food and accommodation if I have to stay extra days?
If you’re travelling into the EU on an EU airline, you are entitled to food and accommodation from the airline. This also covers passengers departing from an EU airport on a non-EU based carrier.
If your flight is booked with a non-EU based airline, and you’re flying from outside the EU, you are also entitled to a refund or an alternative flight, but may have to claim for food and accommodation from your travel insurance.
Accommodation is often provided depending on certain circumstances. British Airways, for instance, says it will provide hotel rooms on a case-by-case basis. If you're from overseas and have nowhere to go you're more likely to get accommodation than someone who lives in London and is due to fly from London, for example.
What happens if the airline refuses to pay?
The airline is legally bound to pay out for a legitimate claim due to a cancelled flight, and face a £5,000 fine should they refuse to stump up. If they do refuse, the only way to force an airline to pay is to take the case to the small claims court. If you’ve paid for the flights by credit card, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act covers items over £100 – but only if there has been breach of contract.
How do I claim for a refund or expenses?
Each airline deals with refunds or expenses differently, so it’s best to go direct to your airline and check how this is done. Keep a note of the airlines’ phone number handy.
Will my travel insurance cover any additional costs I incur?
Many insurance companies deal with claims on a case-by-case basis, and will not pay any costs that should be covered by the airline. Natural disasters such as the volcanic eruption can often be exempt from your policy. For many people, buying an insurance policy can be a last minute thing done in a hurry, but as each policy is different it’s really worth checking the small print and printing off a copy. Give the insurance company a call if you have any questions.
It’s worth noting that an ‘Act of God’ might not be covered by your travel insurance, depending on the wording; however the authorities did make airlines pay out reasonable compensation to passengers after the volcano.
If I decide to come home on my own, will the airline pay my costs?
The airline must refund the cost of the ticket if a flight is cancelled. But beyond that, if you choose to buy your own flight home, or find another form of transport, it depends on your travel insurance whether you are refunded or not.
What happens if I miss a flight or connection?
If you miss a flight or connection, you should contact your airline straight away. Airlines have different procedures in place – some may offer you a place on the next available flight for free, and others may charge you for this. It’s best to be nice and early for your flight!
What happens if you’re late because the inbound flight is delayed?
If your inbound flight was with the same airline then the airline is responsible for finding you another flight. If the flight was with another airline, you may have to check your travel insurance to see if you are due any form of compensation.
What if lose my passport?
First of all, tell the police in whichever country you are in. You should also contact the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) who can help to issue replacement papers to get you home. It’s a good idea to scan your passport and other important documents and email them to yourself, so you can access the details from wherever you are.
What if I had a hotel or car hire booked that I now cannot use?
It will depend on the conditions of your booking. In some case you may be entitled to a refund, in other cases you won’t be. It’s always a good idea to check the small print before you book your hotel or car hire.
What should I do if I my car is in airport car parking?
After the volcano eruption, many car park operators said they would not charge customers extra as long as they could provide evidence of their planned arrival date. It may also help to contact the airport car park to warn them of your delay. Unfortunately, for most normal delays, your airport car park will charge the standard rate for additional hours.
What happens if I am late getting back to work?
Your employer is not obliged to pay you, as this would still be considered as unauthorised leave. It may be suggested that you use holiday to cover any extra days. If you are away on business, then your employer has to cover additional expenses and accommodation. Keep in touch with your employer and let them know what’s happening.
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