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.
Heroes & villians
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Day In a Page
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
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