What Wendy does next

The short answer is "not much" - except claim on travel insurance, if it specifically covers delays. The same goes for Laker passengers who spent two days of their holiday at Gatwick.

The "fair trading agreement" that Wendy accepted when she booked the Airtours holiday has typical small print. It limits the scope of any claim she might make against the company. Condition 7 states: "In the event of any delay, we will try to reduce the discomfort suffered by you by providing additional services, subsistence and accommodation. We cannot accept any liability for any payment incurred ... nor for any time lost on your holiday."

Airtours' brochure goes on to detail what the company will provide: after three hours, you qualify for a "light refreshment"; after six hours, a proper meal; and after nine hours, "meals and accommodation appropriate for the time of day or night".

Wendy had insurance which is similar to Airtours' own policy. This provides delay cover of pounds 25 for each 12-hour delay after the first 12 hours, so she assumed that topping 48 hours would earn an extra pounds 25. But Airtours has written to her travel agent saying that departure was scheduled for 9.30pm, not the 4pm as shown on her ticket.

The scheduled departure time is being disputed with Airtours. But beyond the insurance, any further claim for lost wages or out-of-pocket expenses is unlikely to succeed; first because of that fair trading agreement, second because of the ex-gratia payment of pounds 50 that Airtours made to each adult passenger on arrival.

The only successful claim I have made was against a Canadian charter airline, Air TransAt, after three dismal days in Toronto. I put the cheque towards a flight to Georgetown, Guyana. The elaborate itinerary, involving stops in Madrid and Caracas, began with a short hop to Paris. It arrived three hours late, at the wrong airport. And after that, things really deteriorated.

SC

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