The late arrival of my flight to Heathrow caused a missed train departure home - what are my rights?


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The Independent Travel

Q.  Last month, my wife and I returned from a package holiday in Russia. Unfortunately, the return flight from St Petersburg (pictured) to London was over two hours late and finally arrived at Heathrow at 7.45pm. As a result, we could not catch the last train to York, which left at 8pm. We had tickets booked specifically for this train. We had to stay overnight in London and buy new tickets to travel to York the next day. Can we claim compensation for the out-of-pocket expenses we  incurred as a result of this delay, either from the airline or the travel company? Brian Carter

A The only real hope is that your travel insurance may conceivably pay out under the "failure of public transport" clause (though this part of the policy is usually focused more on your getting away on holiday than the final stretch of the trip). A two-hour delay is, by international aviation standards, nothing unusual; if you could bear to write to the airline's customer-relations staff, and they could be bothered to reply, they would probably explain how the delay was beyond their control and politely decline to refund your extra expenses.

If you are an especially loyal and valued customer, and the travel firm wants to keep you on side, you might get some recompense because of its failure to perform the contract exactly as agreed.

Absurd though it may seem, you would be in a much stronger position had you planned to fly back to Yorkshire rather than take the train – so long as you booked a connecting flight from Heathrow to Leeds/Bradford on the same overall ticket as the St Petersburg leg. If you missed the last departure of the day, the airline would be responsible for putting you up and  re-booking you on the next available flight.

One more aspect that might save you some cash should something similar happen: experience suggests that, if you can provide East Coast Trains with reasonable proof of why you failed to make the original train (such as a note from the Heathrow handlers, or even a digital photograph of a departures/arrivals screen), you may not have to pay again. Staff may be able to endorse your ticket to allow you to travel on the next service.