Simon Calder: Ash cloud - what are your rights?
Tuesday 24 May 2011
The latest volcanic eruption in Iceland has led to yet more turmoil for airline passengers. Here’s a quick guide to your rights when it all goes wron.
Q. My flight has been cancelled – what can I do?
If you are flying from your local airport, and you learn your flight is cancelled, you can rebook free of charge for a later flight – or cancel, and apply for a refund, which, with luck, will turn up in a couple of weeks. Of course if you’ve booked (as many people do these days) an outbound on one airline and an inbound with another carrier, you can only claim back the outbound flight – unless the inbound one is subsequently cancelled.
If you're away from home, it’s a very different story - the airline has a duty of care to look after you - as long as it's based in the EU. So, stay by the pool and order lunch until the airline can get you home.
Q. Does the airline have to provide the hotel?
In theory, yes; in practice, they don’t when there is large-scale disruption, in which case you need to keep all your receipts for reasonable expenses and claim them back.
Q. But I have to get home...
If you decide to make your own way back, the only liability of the airline is to refund the fare for the cancelled flight. All other costs are down to you - though some travel insurers may compensate you. Your airline may offer to fly you to an alternative destination, such as easyJet flying you from Faro to London rather than Edinburgh, but in these cases you must meet the onward travel expenses.
Q. What if I’m outside the EU on a non-EU airline?
Then you could be in trouble, as many people who were caught up last time found to their cost. For example, if you’re in New York and flying on one of the US airlines, they will say, approximately, “We’ll get you where you need to be, as soon as we can, but meanwhile you’re on your own” – and that’s in a city where accommodation typically costs £200 a night. Even if you booked, say, with BA, you could find yourself flying on a “codeshare” with its partner American Airlines – in which case there is no obligation of care. It’s the “metal”, ie the airline doing the flying, that counts.
Q. Lots of people will be reading this and thinking, “Yikes, I’m booked to fly but I just don’t know if I’ll be able to get home – and I can’t take that risk. What happens of you decide not to travel, for example on a half-term holiday, because of fears that you might not get home?
You are likely to lose most or all of your air fare or holiday cost - "Disinclination to travel" is not regarded as valid grounds for a refund by either travel companies or insurance firms.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 4 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 5 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
The best time to book flights – region by region
The Atlas of Beauty: Photographer travels around the world to capture cultural diversity through stunning portraits of women
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
The 10 Best hiking boots
Singapore named the most expensive city in the world for second year running
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...