Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Must I accept a voucher for flight delay?
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Monday 22 April 2013
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?
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 bit.ly/PlaneRepay 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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