Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: A heart patient chasing a flight extension

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Q. Last July I booked a holiday to South Africa through Expedia, flying on KLM, in April. I then discovered I will need a heart operation at that time. I asked Expedia to contact KLM and ask for a one-year extension. KLM would only give a year's extension from date of purchase of tickets, ie until July 2013. Is there any way we could persuade KLM otherwise? I have sent a fax to KLM with a doctor's letter but had no reply. As we are pensioners, nearly £1,500 on flight tickets is a lot to lose.

Gordon Hamman, Kendal, Cumbria

A. First, I hope the heart operation goes well. Next, your question is intriguing - because I am surprised and impressed that Expedia was able to negotiate any kind of extension. The airline is perfectly entitled to say, approximately, recoup the cost from your travel insurance company. Hats off to Expedia and KLM for being cooperative, though I am afraid that they are unlikely to budge any further.

I agree it sounds most unfair, since you will give them plenty of time to re-sell the original seats. You are asking only to be allowed to take up the travel that you have paid for. But in these difficult days, airlines are inclined to stick firmly to their terms and conditions - and if you book a non-changeable, non-refundable ticket, they have every right to keep your money.

You can try to reclaim some of the charges bundled together as “ taxes”, but by the time various deductions are made there will be only a meagre amount. Sorry I can't be more optimistic.

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