How To Cope With Ash-Cloud Flight Cancellations
With volcanoes erupting all over the place, sooner or later we will probably all be affected by flight cancellations. Although there is going to be a radical overhaul of existing safety rules, ash clouds will still prevent aircraft from flying and disrupt holiday plans, so plan your future insurance cover and travel arrangements well in advance.
According to the Daily Telegraph travel advisor, if your airline cancels your flight, European regulations require them to either offer you a full refund of the unused parts of your ticket(s), or to re-route you to your destination. If your flight is cancelled outright you will be entitled to a full refund.
In the event of an ash-cloud, the Civil Aviation Authority instructs passengers to check with their airline or tour operator before travelling to the airport.
EU regulations state that when a flight with an EU airline, or from an EU airport is cancelled, the airline is liable to pay for the cost of a hotel and subsistence for all those stranded as a result, until a replacement flight is provided.
Should the airline advise you to buy your own food and accommodation, keep all receipts and keep costs to a reasonable level, before making a claim when you get home.
Under these circumstances, the airline is not liable to pay the usual fixed compensation set out by EU regulations. And if you make your own way home, it is unlikely that the airline will be responsible for the cost of alternative travel arrangements.
Passengers on a package holiday whose travel arrangements are affected by an ash-cloud should be looked after by their tour operator, and the operator is legally obliged to get them home. Holiday makers will usually stay in their original hotel, but it may be necessary to move to one of a similar standard on half-board or full-board basis. The exact situation will depend on the operator’s terms and conditions.
If your holiday is cancelled by the operator, you are entitled to a refund, or rebook at a later date. Contact the company directly to clarify the situation. You can cancel a non-flexible airline ticket then you will lose your money and cancellations fees for package holidays usually increase sharply as the date of travel approaches – with a 100% charge often applied within two weeks of departure.
If you have booked a hotel, villa or other accommodation independently of the travel arrangements, your contract is directly with the operator and you will be responsible for any cancellation.
Following last year’s disruption a number of travel insurance policies now cover delays or cancellations caused by volcanic ash. Check with your insurer the terms and conditions that apply to your policy.
The continued disruption of air travel will put many smaller airlines and tour operators under severe financial pressure, and some my go out of business as a result. Make sure your travel arrangements are made through airlines and operators covered under the government ATOL licence. Unfortunately ATOL does not cover most ticket-only air fares you buy direct from an airline – so check your travel insurance policy includes cover for ‘scheduled airline failure’.
Pack hand luggage to include toiletries and a clean top/shirt on the top so that you can freshen up whenever you feel like it in case of delays.
Book access to an executive lounge when travelling – in the event of delays this will be far less congested than the public airport concourse and will provide an extra degree of comfort.
Because of the uncertainty of ash-clouds, most tour operators and airlines will take decisions on a day-to-day basis as announcements of the closure of airspace is updated.