Volcanic Ash Flight Disruption: What are your rights?

By , November 28, 2011 1:04 pm
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In the event that your holiday or flight is disrupted due to volcanic ash contact your airline or tour operator in the first instance, they should be able to tell if your flight is affected and what the likely delay will be. If your flight is disrupted you have certain rights as detailed below:

travel insurance volcanic ash

Check out our volcanic ash infographic for facts and figures about volcanic ash flight disruption and travel insurance

Booked flights direct with the airline

What if your outbound flights is affected?

When you booked your flights you entered into a contract with the airline to get you from A to B. If they are unable to provide the journey as booked, they have a duty to re-route or reschedule your journey.

If you think your flight might be affected the first thing you should do is contact the airline for the latest information.

If your flight is affected you should get the choice of transferring to another flight or a full refund. There should be no administration charge for changing your flight, and no extra charge if the new flight was more expensive.

Be aware that if you have booked your flights and accommodation separately your airline has to reschedule or refund your flights, but your accommodation supplier is under no obligation to reschedule or refund your accommodation.

To avoid being in this situation you could either buy travel insurance with natural catastrophe cover, which should provide cover for unused accommodation if your flight is cancelled due to volcanic ash. Or, book a package holiday, in which case your tour operator would have to reschedule or refund the whole holiday.

What if you are stranded abroad?

With the Europe there are strict rules in place for airlines to follow if a flight is cancelled or delayed for more than 5 hours. The airline must provide meals and refreshments and accommodation if an overnight stay is required.

These rules apply if you are flying within the EU, if you are flying into the EU from overseas on a European airline and if you are on a non-EU airline leaving from an EU airport.

If you are flying on non-EU carriers from outside the EU you are entitled to a refund or rescheduled flight, under different regulations, but may not be entitled to claim back food and accommodation costs.

Some things to keep in mind:

There should be no time limit on their provision of accommodation and food, even though it adds to the financial pressure on airlines.

If passengers have organised their own return travel or hotel stays, they should apply to the airline for the money back when they return. But if these are costs are “unreasonable” then the airline will not pay. Alternative return transport organised by airlines will be safest as there will be no need to pay out and claim back – unless you have extra insurance that will cover this.

Beware if you are on a “codesharing flight”. If you are on a “codesharing flights” you get the rights given to passengers of the airline you actually fly on irrespective of the ticket you hold. Eg. a passenger with a BA ticket travelling on an American Airlines flight into the EU would not be entitled to the assistance, whereas a passenger on a BA flight with an American Airlines ticket travelling into the EU would. All passengers, whatever ticket they hold and airline they fly with, are entitled to assistance on flights departing the EU

If you have 2 single tickets rather than a return your rights are the same.

If you do end up stranded overseas, don’t go mad just because you think the airline is paying for food and accommodation. Airlines can refuse a claim for costs if they deem them to be ‘unreasonable’.

Booked a package holiday

In terms of financial protection and support booking a package holiday with a bonded tour operator will beat booking independently.

If something happens before you depart for your holiday tour operators will generally give you three options:

– Defer the start date of your holiday

– Transfer to another holiday of the same or similar value

– Provide a refund for the cost of the whole holiday

This potentially leaves you in a much better situation than if you have booked elements of your holiday independently where you might find that you can the airline can reschedule or refund your flights, but you are still stuck with your original accommodation booking with a hotel abroad who are under no obligation to change your booking or provide a refund.

If you are stranded overseas due to volcanic ash, your tour operator should arrange alternative accommodation and flights for you as required and ensure that you return safely back to the UK as soon as possible.

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