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Archive for October, 2008

Another airline folds

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Another budget airline, this time Sterling Airlines, has ceased flying after filing for bankruptcy and leaving hundreds of air passengers stranded at London Gatwick. Flights grounded included three to Copenhagen and one to Stockholm; in all around 500 to 700 passengers were affected. Sterling also offered services to Scandinavia from East Midlands and Edinburgh airports but flights to both these airports had recently ceased for the winter. The airline has warned that those who had booked directly through the airline’s website would not be getting a refund. Sterling is the latest in a line of carriers that have ceased operation in recent months. Others have included XL Airways, Zoom and transatlantic luxury airlines Eos, MAXjet and Silverjet. Travel industry experts said those people who had booked flights through travel agents might receive a refund but those travellers, who made bookings through the company’s website, will not qualify. The only hope for passengers who bought flights directly from Sterling Airlines is to seek cash back from their credit card company, assuming they used a credit card for the transaction but anyone who paid using a debit card, cash or a cheque to can only hope that their holiday travel insurance provides protection against the collapse of an airline failing. Not all travel insurance policies will offer this but some insurers offer Passenger Protection Insurance sold separately or part of a travel insurance policy but always check the small print if this is offered because these are quite often restrictive in their cover. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Early snow heralds new ski season

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Whilst the world’s economies appear to be in ‘meltdown’, thankfully this term does not look to apply to the coming ski season.  The leaves may still be on the trees but the first snow has fallen in the Alps and the Pyrenees. Yes, the start of the new ski season is just around the corner but will it be one to remember and will it be for the right reasons? Each year thousands take to the slopes for the first time but some unfortunately will return with an injury. And it’s not just first timers as the more experienced take on new challenges, on and off piste, the wipe out’s just tend to be more spectacular! That is why it is essential to have the proper ski and snowboard travel insurance to provide the necessary cover on and off the slopes. So what should people be looking for? Most travel insurance providers offer good cover for intermediate and beginners. This is the vast bulk of the market. Yes, accidents do happen but they are more likely to be in a controlled fashion, by that we mean on well groomed pistes and with assistance and help on hand. The problem area is when the skier or snowboarder gains in confidence and skill and wants to seek greater challenges and with it more thrills. This generally means tackling ever more severe slopes but also to venture into what is loosely termed ‘off piste’. This is where the unwary can very quickly become unstuck and we are not talking about the snow conditions. Most travel insurance policies will have restrictions on ‘off piste’ such as ‘only with a guide’ or ‘only within a specified resort area’ so when seeking that ‘adrenaline rush’ it is important to know what you are getting yourself into first. What’s more, the increasing popularity of ‘half pipes’ and ‘free style’ means that the potential risk of injury has increased as more and more people are attracted to this immensely enjoyable leisure activity. To make sure you are properly covered for these more extreme sports activities, it is essential that winter sports insurance is obtained that offers protection to this level of activity. The more expert you are, the more likely you will need more specialist cover than provided by the usual high street provider. Mountain rescue and medical costs are expensive and if this requires repatriation then the costs mount up rapidly. It’s probably too late, as you are being strapped to the rescue sledge, to wonder whether the travel insurance you bought before the holiday is going to cover you. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Don’t skimp on travel insurance

Monday, October 27th, 2008

The pound is sliding, stockmarkets are in meltdown and the dreaded recession word is ‘out of the bag’, so where’s the good news?  There’s not much out there in the present economic climate though most travel punters still agree that the last luxury to go, when the belt tightening really begins, will be the annual holiday.  It remains to be seen whether this is the case but it would be foolhardy to make cuts in some holiday expenses if these proved to be a false economy.  Take travel insurance for example.  The latest figures from the Foreign Office show that 35% of British travellers forget or choose not to take out travel insurance when they holiday.  With family budgets coming under increasing pressure, this figure is going to rise but is it sensible to take the risk of travelling uninsured? The reason why we take out travel insurance is to provide that ‘peace of mind’ should something go wrong and we can get our money back or part of it anyway, so why scrimp and save to go on holiday only for that investment to be put at jeopardy by not being insured? At the same time, insurers are getting tough when claims are submitted and, more than ever, it really is important to read the small print as this will not only tell you what you are and, more importantly, not covered for but will also make you more conscious of what might happen whilst away on holiday and how to deal with it. As they say ‘Forearmed is Forewarned,’ and it will help ease what otherwise could be a stressful situation if things do go wrong. What are the common errors that make it easier for an insurer to decline a claim? Take declaring a pre-existing medical condition. Have you declared one when taking out your travel insurance policy? And it is not just restricted to you and your travelling companions. Many policies are very strict here and ask you to declare a pre-existing medical condition on anyone who could subsequently get you to cancel or curtail your trip. If you don’t declare it, and it subsequently appears on the medical certificate, which the insurer will ask you and your GP to complete, then it is highly likely that you won’t get any money back. Then there are those baggage claims. For loss, theft and damage, you will be required to get a report within 24 hours of the incident, from either the local police for theft claims, from the airline for lost, damaged or delayed baggage and from the hotel or tour representative, often for all three types of loss. Without these reports, it is probable that your claim will not be upheld. It can be a minefield out there designed to trip up the unwary but with a little bit of preparation before you take out your travel insurance and sensible precautions once on your holiday, you can substantially improve your chances of coming home not out of pocket and, in the present economic situation, every little helps. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Travel to cost more as pound slides

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Do you remember when your pound could get you $2?  Well, not that long ago.  At the beginning of the 2008, all travel pundits were telling us that the USA was the destination to visit with the pound at an all time high. But with the pound dropping to close to $1.60, its lowest level for 5 years and likely to fall further, and with the pound now buying almost 25% less in America than in autumn last year and down, at the same time, around 12% against the euro in the last 12 months, this has a serious effect on the cost of accommodation, food and drink abroad. The full impact will take a while to feed through, as the holiday brochures for this winter and next summer have already been printed but don’t rule out possible surcharges and fewer holidays on offer as travel firms anticipate a fall off in demand.  What it does mean is that a family of 4 travelling to Spain for a fortnight could be looking at paying over £700 more that earlier this year as a result of the different exchange rate.  With half term looming, then it might be worthwhile looking at a short break in the UK rather than travel abroad and if the credit crunch continues, then we will be seeing a continued rise in holidays at home for sure. But remember the same rules apply to holidays in the UK as they do elsewhere. Do make sure you are properly covered in case of emergencies. Travel insurance, for example, is not always thought of as a necessity if you take a break in the UK, being so close to home and under the safety net of the NHS should you have an accident but travel insurance covers much more than medical emergencies. It is a fact that most people buy travel insurance for trips and holidays abroad but these policies do generally provide cover for travel within the UK, though do check the small print rather than assuming that this is always the case. So is travel insurance that covers holidays in the UK worth considering? It can be very useful to have insurance should you subsequently cancel a trip, say for illness, as your holiday costs will be reimbursed subject to any excesses to pay. Your personal effects will probably be covered too which is an important point to consider as theft and loss is not just confined to holidays on the ‘Costas’ – these things happen at home too. What you will almost certainly not be covered for will be for medical emergencies and expenses as insurers argue that the NHS is available for such instances and will point out that travel insurance is not a substitute for private medical insurance. One final word of advice though is do check the small print as many, if not most, insurers do require you to have proof of booked accommodation for a minimum stay of normally 2 nights away for the policy to be in force so the Sunday ‘trip out’ is definitely outside this definition. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Choose carefully in the credit crunch

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

With the Governor of the Bank of England gloomily predicting the UK is heading for recession, then what hope for the rest of us!  How surprising then that, although belt tightening is what he is predicting, it does also appear that few of us have plans to cut back on holidays whatever happens. But that does not mean that we have not become more budget conscious and ‘savvy’ in the way we search out the best deals and book our holidays. Most of us make our holiday bookings online, using low cost no frills airlines, and make particular use of last-minute deals, again mostly online. But there are traps for the unwary, as the recent spate of airline failures and tour operators going bust has demonstrated. Searching out the cheapest deal can make us choose the higher risk option, such as buying directly from an airline not covered by an ATOL or ABTA bond to compensate if it all goes wrong.  That’s why high street travel agents, once a justly endangered species in the face of the internet, are now experiencing a revival as people seek secure holidays with the tour operators who own the shops.  But as one leading newspaper has highlighted “this will mean more mediocre holidays flogged by know-nothing sales staff,” so it’s not all plain sailing there either.  Travel insurance though is one area where it does pay to shop around before you buy. Not only does the customer get a wider choice than what is on offer over the counter at a travel agent, but it is so much easier to tailor a policy, all by a simple click of a mouse. Moreover, internet based companies do not have the high overheads of the travel agent in the High Street, which means cheaper premiums which can only be a good outcome for the consumer. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Spanish airline LTE in trouble

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Holidaymakers have been left stranded as the financial downturn has forced Spanish airline, LTE, to ground its plane. In a statement, the company announced that services had been suspended “due to the financial situation of the company that made it difficult to meet the operational expenses in the next days.” LTE has a fleet of seven 180-passenger Airbus A320s with bases in Palma, Majorca, the Canary Islands and Milan. The airline had recently started weekly low fare flights in July 2008 linking Norwich with Alicante, Barcelona and Palma. More than 100 passengers from East Anglia who were due to return from Barcelona, Alicante and Palma have been told they must make alternative arrangements to fly home. LTE also flew for a range of tour operators in Britain and Europe, including Cosmos, which has arranged an alternative flight to bring more than 300 holidaymakers back from Tenerife. Another 350 are due to return home at a later date. Norwich Airport said that if LTE passengers had booked an ATOL-protected package with tour operator Sunways Holidays, then the company was responsible for repatriation or refunds for customers yet to travel. Customers with forward bookings are being advised to contact the travel agency, with whom they booked, or the airline directly. If you’ve booked an LTE ticket as part of a package holiday then the tour operator is responsible for sorting out alternative flights. If you’ve booked a ticket direct with the airline, then there is no such protection. However, if you made a payment of £100 or more with a credit card, you’ll be able to get a refund through the credit card company but they won’t refund the cost of buying a flight on another airline if you find yourself stranded. Some travel insurance providers offer scheduled airline failure insurance, normally sold separately, or sold as dynamic packaging protection as part of a travel insurance policy but it is important always check the small print if these are offered because they can be quite restrictive in their cover.  This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

EHIC expiry scare

Friday, October 17th, 2008

With around 25% of people travelling abroad without travel insurance, it is worth asking why? One reason is a view that the EHIC will provide all the cover you need in case of requiring medical treatment abroad. Yes, up to a point, so do you actually need to take out travel insurance? Well, simply put, you need both if you are planning to travel abroad. One does not replace the other. First of all what is EHIC? The EHIC replaced the old E111 form in 2006 which is no longer valid. Do make sure you get your EHIC before you travel. Application forms are readily available from Post Offices and you can also apply online through the Department of Health website or by telephoning 0845 606 2030. EHIC is valid throughout the EU and a number of other countries, namely Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechenstein. Should you be suddenly taken ill or have an accident in any of these countries, then the EHIC will entitle you, in most cases, to free, or at a reduced cost, necessary medical treatment. Do remember, however, that an EHIC does not cover you for all the medical costs that you can incur or for your repatriation – it is not an alternative to medical insurance and to go abroad without appropriate medical cover, as provided by most travel insurance policies, is probably as close to playing ‘Russian Roulette’ as you can get. Furthermore, an EHIC does not cover you outside the areas described and although the UK has mutual agreements with many countries, these arrangements don’t cover all expenses you can incur. You may have to pay thousands of pounds in medical costs, a prime example is the USA and Canada where medical treatment is expensive and, increasingly, there are many other countries that fall into this category. So we do recommend that before you travel that you always arrange travel insurance with health cover that is adequate for your destination. The FCO advises that the level of cover should be at least £1 million for Europe or £2 million for the rest of the world but most travel insurance policies now offer cover beyond these figures and £5 million is becoming quite standard and even higher figures are commonplace. As with all insurances where health cover is required, there may be restrictions because of a particular medical condition for example, which may result in a higher premium to be paid. At the end of the day though, what you are paying for is ‘peace of mind’ and that is why it is so important to make sure you get cover before you go. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Missed departure – blame it on the leaves!

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Winter sees the perennial problem of leaves on the line leading to rail stoppages and delays.  As Network Rail puts it, “it’s our equivalent of black ice,” but we can imagine the raised eyebrows that this excuse receives from the general travelling public. Leaves falling onto train tracks, apparently, sticks to the rails and hardens into a substance with the same slippery characteristics as butter on toast.  Now train operators are adjusting their timetables to allow for these leaves on the line which will inevitably lead to longer travelling times during the winter months. Cynics will say that this is so that operators can protect their punctuality figures but for the kind hearted, this is probably an attempt to inform the travelling public in advance and being upfront and honest with their customers. But what do you do if you are going on holiday when this happens and you miss your flight as a result of such a delay.  Do look at your travel insurance wording in such circumstances.  Most policies will have a provision for Missed Departure.  That is, if you get to the airport late to catch your flight you might be able to claim the costs of booking a new flight to your destination and perhaps additional accommodation costs up to a specified limit.  The crucial part is whether the policy allows this so look out for mechanical breakdown or technical fault as a permitted reason for claiming for missed departure.  If it does, then sit back and ‘let the train take the strain’ as you will still get to your destination despite the best attempts of a few leaves on the line.  This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

New report highlights cancellation and lost bag concerns

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

British Airways has been branded worst national carrier in Europe for cancelling flights in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme.  According to this latest investigation into the airline industry, BA has had to cancel one in 50 of its flights to and from London Heathrow in 2008, a worse record than its biggest rivals KLM, Air France and Lufthansa. However BA have defended their record stressing that these airlines had a slightly lower percentage of cancellations than British Airways in 2007 and the early part of 2008 as they enjoy much greater spare runway capacity at their home airports. The programme also claims that “your chances of seeing your luggage on the carousel when you arrive are worse than any other European airline” adding that “since 2006, it has mislaid about 2.5 million items of luggage, that’s one for every 40 passengers.” What is clear from this is that passengers should be travelling with some form of travel insurance protection. Although under EU law, airlines are obliged to pick up the full bill for an overnight stay for flight cancellations, this is only one part of the costs faced by a passenger with a cancelled flight and lost or delayed bags. For example, let’s take a cancelled flight. If this affects you getting to your destination and the delay is unacceptable, then most travel insurance policies, after a period, normally 12 to 24 hours delay, will cover you for abandonment. What this means is that you can claim back the cost of your holiday up to the amount specified in your policy less the policy excess. You might choose to sit and wait for the next available flight, particularly if you are going on a holiday for a week or more but, for those taking the increasingly popular short or mini break, the abandonment option is a very valuable insurance to have and comes as standard in most travel insurance policies. And don’t forget those lost bags. How irritating to get to your final destination only to find your bags are still at your departure airport. Provided you have travel insurance, you should be covered for the purchase of emergency items and clothing to continue your holiday whilst you wait for your bags and, if you are unlucky to find your bag is permanently lost by the airline, then you will be able to claim for the bag and contents, again up to the limit as specified in the policy. So our best advice is don’t leave the house without travel insurance. It won’t cut the delays nor retrieve a lost bag, but it will make it easier to bear. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

More woes as another travel firm folds

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Kent based accommodation specialists Bluebookonline has become the latest travel company to collapse, citing “difficult trading conditions” behind its decision. Founded in 1996, Blue Book provides accommodation in long-haul destinations such as Australasia, North America and the Caribbean. A statement on the company’s website informs customers of the failure and advises travel agents that have already paid for accommodation to contact Marryat Reader & Co, the trustee of the trust account. The company was not ATOL protected but it confirmed in its statement that any payments made for accommodation were protected by the trust. Around 25 ATOL-protected holiday firms have failed in the six months since March, according to the Civil Aviation Authority, while dozens of airlines have also gone bankrupt.  The financial crisis is likely to claim more victims so it is important to get some protection. Some insurers offer Passenger Protection Insurance sold separately or part of a travel insurance policy but always check the small print if this is offered because these are quite often restrictive in their cover. You can reduce the risk further by organising your travel through tour operators and agents covered by ATOL or who hold bonding through an approved body, such as ABTA or AITO. What is ATOL? This stands for Air Travel Organiser’s licensing and is a protection scheme for flights and air holidays, managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and protects the customer from losing money or being stranded abroad when a tour operator goes bust. All licensed firms have to lodge bonds with the CAA so that, if they go out of business, the CAA can give refunds to people who can’t travel and arrange for people abroad to finish their holidays and fly home. And ABTA? Members of the Association of British Travel Agents are required to provide financial protection for their customers which means that you can book your holiday knowing that if an ABTA member fails financially while you are on holiday, you can continue your holiday as planned. If your holiday has not started, then you will receive a full refund or be given help to make alternative arrangements for the trip to proceed. Likewise AITO, or Association of Independent Tour Operators to give it its full title, require their members to protect their customer’s money in the event of an AITO member going into liquidation. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.