Consuming Issues: How to protect your holiday from disaster
Saturday 05 June 2010
A volcano has done more than anything else to expose the gaps in financial protection for travellers. When Eyjafjallajökull erupted in April, hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers discovered they would not be helped by insurers and airlines. Political unrest in Thailand and the British Airways strikes have underlined the need to prepare for the worst before venturing abroad. Here is a brief guide to holiday protection.
Annual policies have fallen to as little as £25, but it's wise to check what's covered. Consumer organisations recommend medical cover of at least £2m because flying an ill person home is extraordinarily expensive. Terrorism or civil unrest are usually excluded. And when unforeseeable events occur some firms are more generous than others. Columbus Direct, Direct Line, Direct Travel, HSBC, Marks & Spencer, the Post Office and Saga paid out for the ash cloud. AXA, Aviva, Endsleigh, Europ Assistance and Swinton didn't.
Legislation from Brussels, the Air Passengers Rights Directive, covers many flight delays and cancellations. The regulations are quite complex (see Air Transport Users Council's website for full details), but broadly they cover people flying within Europe or on EU airlines. Norway, Switzerland and Iceland are also covered by the directive. Carriers must pay compensation as well as a refund if they cancel a flight less than two weeks before departure. For delays of two, three and four hours, depending on the distance, carriers must pay compensation of €250, €400 or €600. Stranded passengers are also entitled to meals and refreshments, telephone calls, fax messages or emails, and hotel accommodation and transport between airport and hotel.
Airlines have to pay out for strikes under the same legislation. However, while still being obliged to provide new flights and expenses, they do not have to compensate passengers if there are "extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken". This exemption applied during the ash cloud, meaning travellers should have been given new flights and accommodation and so on but not compensation, for which they had to approach insurers, some of whom rejected claims.
Tour operator goes bust
The Package Holiday Directive protects people booking "package holidays", when a tour operator provides at least two of the following: flights, accommodation, car hire and entertainment. Holidaymakers are protected if a trip is cancelled or an operator becomes insolvent. In the UK, this is organised under a bond scheme run by Atol (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) and you should check a tour operator has an Atol number and, if suspicious, check that number. However, with the rise of the internet, many people no longer book traditional sun, sea and sand trips and the EU is looking at extending the rules to cover "dynamic packages" where flights, hotel or car are booked separately. Last year, some 27 million holidays taken by Britons did not enjoy this financial protection.
DIY travel unravels
Passengers who book flights direct are only covered for the airline going bust if they paid more than £100 on a credit card or took out insurance. Expedia and some other websites are covered by Atol for two or more elements of a traditional holiday such as flights and hotel. If EU accommodation, flight or car hire are all booked separately, problems may be pursued with the help of the European Consumer Centre on 08456 04 05 03.
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Day In a Page
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
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An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000