TRAVEL CLINIC - Travel - The Independent

TRAVEL CLINIC

Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts, including a doctor and a lawyer

WHY DON'T FLIGHTS HAVE A PRICE TAG?

There always seems to be a discrepancy between the advertised price of plane tickets and the price you end up paying. I was under the impression that the Consumer Protection Act was there to avoid this sort of thing. Also, why isn't tax included in the price?

Gee Harrison

Connah's Quay, Flintshire

The Travel Editor replies: The Consumer Protection Act 1987 sets out the legal restrictions in broad terms - it is an offence to give consumers a misleading price indication about goods or services. At present there is no specific law which states that prices have to include compulsory costs such as airport tax, or that dates should be published to indicate the availability of the price advertised.

Lack of availability and hidden costs are the two most common reasons for customers to feel aggrieved about airfare advertising.

Under the Consumer Protection Act, a flight price is misleading if it conveys that it is less than it actually is, that it does not depend on circumstances on which it does in fact depend, or if the price covers matters in respect of which an additional charge is made.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which regulates advertisements through the Code of Advertising Practice, has received a steady flow of complaints over the last few years concerning the indication of flight prices in advertisements. The majority of these have concerned the non- availability of seats at the advertised prices.

Under an agreement between the ASA and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), if prices exclude any compulsory incidental taxes, the advertisement should contain a clear indication to this effect. Also, all fares quoted should apply to departures on a date between one and six weeks after the advertisement appears.

However, at the end of June the Air Transport Users' Council lodged a formal complaint to the ASA because of refusal on the part of particular airlines to include airport tax and other extras in advertised fares. The council says these charges can add up to 25 per cent to the cost of the air ticket. The ASA is now sending a paper to its council on this point and the decision reached, along with any new guidelines, will be published in the autumn.

The travel industry is keen to decide whether airport tax should be included in flight prices by the autumn in any case because a new level of tax - it was doubled in the last Conservative budget - comes into effect this November. As a result travellers will pay an additional pounds 20 on top of the cost of a ticket to fly out of Europe.

The Department of Trade and Industry has voiced particular concern that airport tax should be included in prices advertised (already package holiday adverts have to include all non-optional taxes).

Consumers who feel they have been misled by an advert can contact the ASA Public inquiry Service (0171 580 5555), or the Air Transport Users' Council (0171 242 3882).

Research by Carlina Macdonald.

WHAT'S THE BEST REMEDY FOR TRAVEL SICKNESS?

I love travelling but I am very prone to motion sickness. This especially affects me in buses or coaches but it can even be a nuisance when I am flying. I have heard various suggestions about how to minimise the symptoms but they all sound like old wives' tales. Do you have any suggestions?

Robert Taylor

Northampton

Dr Richard Dawood replies: Nobody should be deterred from flying these days by the fear of air sickness. There is a vast armoury of medicines and other remedies for inveterate sufferers. Most do not require a prescription and through a simple process of trial and error, most sufferers are able to find a remedy that suits them. (Many of these medicines have side-effects such as headache, a dry mouth, and drowsiness; it is important to avoid driving while taking these medicines.)

Other remedies include ginger, and acupressure on acupunture points at the wrists. A convenient way of applying acupressure is to use special wrist bands, that are widely available. Research suggests that all of these methods are equally effective - it really is a matter of finding a remedy or combination of remedies that works for you.

You can also lessen your risk of air sickness by choosing larger, more stable jet aircraft, and by requesting a seat close to the wings where the least aircraft motion is felt.

If my own observations are anything to go by, availability of sickness bags on board aircraft seems to be decreasing. This is presumably a reflection of the fact that more stable aircraft, more experienced travellers, and better medicines for sufferers, mean that the frequency of the problem is declining.

Dr Richard Dawood is Medical Director of the Fleet Street Travel Clinic, London, which provides immunisation and pre-travel health advice by appointment (tel: 0171 353 5678).

CAN I TAKE MY VAN ON A LONG JAUNT?

We will be buying a van and hope to be touring around Europe for at least one or two years. What is your best advice as regards MOT test and road tax renewal?

F Buck

Edinburgh

The Travel Editor replies: The answer depends on where exactly you are planning to travel, and in what type of van. There would be specific documentary requirements for a minibus or anything larger, and each country has its own stipulations as to how long you can stay under "temporary importation". Most EU countries allow 6-12 months. You should contact the overseas service branch of a motoring organisation with your specific details and itinerary.

The AA advises that MOT and tax are domestic requirements, and are therefore irrelevant outside the UK. There are no pan-European standards, so as long as you are travelling in and out of each country in accordance with temporary importation rules, you are in what the spokesman defined as, "a sort of loop-hole" regarding tax and MOT. So, if you are travelling in something like a camper van, within central Europe, then vehicle insurance is seemingly the only compulsory documentation required. This situation may change if you are staying in any one country for a significant length of time, seeking employment, or undertaking studies there. A useful information leaflet, V100, on this subject is published by the DVLC, and can be obtained from Post Offices, or telephone 01792 782341.

The RAC points out that an MOT is a guarantee that your vehicle is roadworthy, and without this you alone are responsible for its safe state of repair. An unsafe vehicle could result in a local fine, and insurance policies may depend on a valid MOT. Your vehicle should have MOT and tax cover for a year when it is bought and registered in the UK. To renew the MOT, you must return to the UK, and renewal of tax by post relies on sending valid insurance, and MOT documentation.

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