Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Must I accept a voucher for flight delay?


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The Independent Travel

Q. My flight was delayed last year. Thomas Cook have offered £1,083 in compensation - but only as a voucher. Must I accept this, or can I insist on a cash or cheque payment?

Rod Brittle

A. For a flight that is three hours late or more, for a reason within the airline's control, European passenger rights law (EU261) stipulates compensation of €250, €400 or €600 per person, depending on the length of the journey; see for more details.

I am glad to see Thomas Cook Airlines has agreed to compensate you. But I am concerned to see the firm is offering vouchers rather than the cash to which you are legally entitled.

Any travel company would rather pay out in vouchers for use on its own products than dispense cash; it keeps the money in the company. The spirit of the rules is that travellers should be offered real money. But Thomas Cook is taking advantage of the clause that permits the airline to pay in vouchers "with the signed agreement of the passenger".

Passengers who claim successfully from Thomas Cook under the European rules get a standard letter saying: "In line with our obligations under Regulation 261, I would ask you to accept the enclosed voucher".

A spokesman for the company says: "Unless specified by the customer, we offer vouchers. If however if the customer requests cash during the process, or would rather have cash after we have offered vouchers, we will exchange this for cash, so it is always ultimately with the customers agreement."

Insist on cash or cheque - then you can choose to spend the compensation on anything you like - including a future Thomas Cook holiday.

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