Ask the Traveller: Canada
Wednesday 10 November 2010
We are going to Canada. We chose not to fly BA from Heathrow because we felt they were unreliable. But we want to fly down from Newcastle and our only choice is BA. If BA cancels on the day we will miss our connection. What do we do?
S Dixon, Northumberland
First, the question of BA's "unreliable" performance. The airline's ability to operate its schedule has been under scrutiny for the past year, because of the dispute with cabin crew. But its chief executive told The Independent last month that any further strike would have no effect on BA's flights, except possible some European and domestic services from Heathrow. So it seems you could have booked the service to Calgary without worrying about industrial action. However, it's fair to say that UK domestic flights took more than their fair share of cancellations during the strikes this year, and the two other leading causes of disruption, ie, weather and mechanical problems, are entirely unpredictable. February, when you are planning to travel, is prone to sudden closures.
That would not be a problem if you booked Newcastle-Heathrow-Calgary flights on a single ticket. If you had, the airline that failed to operate the first segment would be responsible for getting you to your destination.
As things stand, if you book a BA flight separately and the airline fails to get you to Heathrow in time for the transatlantic flight, it has no obligation to you – and neither does Air Canada, which effectively can say: "We were ready to go, and the fact that you couldn't join us isn't our problem." In practice, you might get a more sympathetic hearing, but the best way to get some certainty is to persuade your tour operator to add the Newcastle-Heathrow leg as part of the same package. That means it is responsible if the itinerary falls at the first hurdle. But the company may decline an extension of its liability.
Instead, travel down by train the night before and stay in London. This far ahead you should get train tickets on East Coast for next to nothing. In the capital, do not pay high prices. Travelodge and Premier Inn have perfectly adequate hotels for around £49 a night if you pay in advance.
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