Questions of Cash: 'A connecting Vueling flight was cancelled and all my travel costs were left hanging in the air'

Our reader encountered problems when flying from London to Ibiza in May to take part in a charity ride

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Q. I flew from London to Ibiza in May to take part in a charity bike ride for Great Ormond Street hospital. It was a bank holiday weekend, so direct flights were too expensive. I halved the cost by breaking up the journey with a flight from London to Madrid with Norwegian Air Shuttle, and from Madrid to Ibiza with Vueling. The Norwegian flight would get me into Madrid for 13:35 and the Vueling flight was scheduled to leave at 17:25. This was booked and confirmed on 3 March.

On 15 April, however, Vueling sent me a message saying it had moved the flight time to 09:50 – before I was due to land in Madrid. I phoned but was told the 17:25 flight had been cancelled. I was offered another flight at 11:00, which also did not work for me, or the following day, which would have been too late for the cycle event. I was offered a refund, though I have not received it yet.

I then had to cancel the Norwegian flight and book a replacement from Stansted to Ibiza with Ryanair. My travel insurer, Columbus, promised to pay out for the money I lost on the Norwegian flight and the costs for rebooking a direct flight with Ryanair. But it needs proof from Vueling that it changed the flight times and an explanation why. Vueling's representatives will only say they don't know. In the meantime, Columbus can't do anything to help me. CT, London

A. A spokeswoman for Vueling – part of IAG, which also owns BA – apologised for the flight cancellation but said it was unable to provide a reason and that it "cannot provide a letter" to assist with your insurance claim. She added that it has now refunded the cost of your flight. You have confirmed receipt of this payment – but, like us, you again asked for an explanation for the cancellation, to no avail.

And unfortunately, your problems haven't ended there. A spokeswoman for Columbus said: "We understand that [the reader] is making two claims on her travel insurance – one for the cost of a Norwegian flight from London to Madrid that she cancelled due to her connecting flight from Madrid to Ibiza with Vueling changing its original time. The second claim is the cost of a flight she booked with Ryanair.

"Columbus has thoroughly investigated the claims. Unfortunately, the investigations have shown that this particular circumstance is not covered under her travel insurance.

"It understands that the situation was not within [the reader's] control and ... as a gesture of goodwill, would like to offer to reimburse [the reader] the cost of the Ryanair flight, less the policy excess."

This is not consistent with the information you say was given to you by Columbus, but the insurer is adamant it will not meet the costs of the Norwegian flight as well.

We requested that Columbus review its decision. It did this and reiterated its position, its spokeswoman stating: "Columbus believes that a decision not to pay any claim would accurately represent the cover ... Section 11 of the travel insurance policy [delay/missed connection] states that cover is provided where travel was affected by a strike, adverse weather and mechanical breakdown only. The reasons stated for making a claim are not covered under this section and so Columbus would not be required to consider payment in this case."

As a result, you have been reimbursed for both the Ryanair and Vueling flight costs, but not the Norwegian flight.

Buy-to-let and the capital gains maze

Q.  I have a question about capital gains tax. If we sell our buy-to-let property and reinvest the money in another buy-to-let, is CGT still payable? We haven't, after all, taken the money out of the "business". If so, would we have to buy the second property in the same tax year?

The plan is to sell for about £100,000 a property we bought jointly for £40,000, reinvesting the proceeds in another property nearer to where we live to make management easier. If CGT is payable, would we both be able to claim the £11,000 tax-free allowance on the profit? RH, by email

A. Gill Smith, head of private client services at the accountancy firm Moore Stephens, answers: "A buy-to-let property is viewed as an investment, not as a business asset (unless used for furnished holiday lettings). Therefore, assuming this has always been a rental property and you have never lived there, any gain will be subject to CGT and cannot be rolled over into another property.

"On the basis that the property is held jointly, the gain is divided between the two of you. The good news is that you each have an annual allowance of £11,100 to set against the gain – assuming there are no other capital gains to use up these allowances.

"Additionally, if either of you have any unutilised 20 per cent income tax band in the year, then that amount of the gain will only suffer CGT at 18 per cent, rather than the higher 28 per cent rate.

"Also, do not forget that the cost of the property for CGT purposes will include costs of acquisition, such as legal expenses and stamp duty land tax, and also the cost of any capital improvements to the property. The selling price can be reduced by expenses of sale, which again include legal costs and estate agent's fees."

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But we'll do our best to help if you have a financial dilemma. Email us at:

Looking for credit card or current account deals? Search here