Ask The Traveller: Snow problems

Wednesday 29 December 2010 01:00

We were booked on an Azamara cruise from Florida departing on 23 December. We had arranged independent flights on 22 December with Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow to New York, connecting to Miami, with an overnight hotel there before the cruise. Our flight was cancelled due to the snow, and we couldn't travel. Azamara say they won't reimburse the cruise costs as the flights were not booked through them. Who is responsible?

Linda Graham

You were among the half-million-plus passengers who were hit by the partial closure of Heathrow for five days because of snow. Even though by 22 December both runways were open, the disruption to normal operations was so severe that Virgin Atlantic was obliged to cancel some flights that day – incidentally costing it tens of millions of pounds in lost revenue and additional costs.

Passengers who were booked on a package holiday that they were unable to take because of flight cancellations are entitled to a full refund under the Package Travel Regulations 1992. But anyone who has assembled the components themselves has no such protection, whether they have booked accommodation, car rental or, like you, a cruise. Some suppliers may generously offer the chance to postpone your booking, but there is no obligation to do so. Azamara's terms warn that "Failure to check in at least 90 minutes in advance will constitute a no-show. Your booking will be cancelled and cancellation charges will be assessed."

Some insurance policies offer cover in cases when one element of a self-assembled package fails, but most do not. Check the small print of your travel insurance, but otherwise the only reimbursement you can expect is for Virgin to hand back the air fare.

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