Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Was airline right to fly me out to New York City for a traumatic and expensive experience?

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Q I flew to New York City on Sunday 28 October, just as Hurricane Sandy approached. When I arrived it was clear that the most of the city had been evacuated; the streets were empty and the shops were shut. Was the airline right to fly out that late? The holiday was a disaster: NYC was shut down with no public transport and all the tourist sites. It turned out to be a very traumatic and expensive experience.

Lygia Cross, Southampton

A You have been unfortunate in the extreme. You must have been on about the last flight out before the “superstorm” struck. Later departures were cancelled as the forecast storm approached. At about time you were in flight, airlines were announcing their “commercial policy” – ie what they would offer passengers booked on flights to and from the storm zone. Crucially this included the option to postpone a trip.

For you, however, it was too late. You found yourself in the unenviable position of taking delivery of what you had booked and paid for, ie a flight to New York and a Manhattan hotel, but in very different circumstances to those you had envisaged.

Was the airline was right to fly out that late? Well, evidently the carrier correctly concluded it was safe to operate and no doubt flew a lot of concerned Americans home to try to protect their property.

The airline and the agent you booked through has no further legal obligation, unless you had booked a specific “shopping holiday”. However, contact them to express your unhappiness, and they may possibly provide a voucher for future travel as a gesture of goodwill – but it will, I fear, not come close to the amount that this unhappy experience has cost.

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