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Archive for March, 2011

FCO latest travel advice for Japan

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

The following is the latest Travel Advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for Japan issued 30th March 2011:

1. We advise against all but essential travel to Tokyo and north east Japan given the damage caused by the 11 March earthquake, the resulting aftershocks and the tsunami.

2. Due to the evolving situation at the Fukushima nuclear facility and potential disruptions to the supply of goods, transport, communications, power and other infrastructure, British nationals currently in Tokyo and to the north of Tokyo should consider leaving the area.

3. At present this advice does not apply to Hokkaido due to its significant distance north of Fukushima. We will continue to monitor the situation.

4. In response to reports of contamination of food or water supplies, we advise British nationals to follow the advice of the relevant Japanese authorities.

Nuclear

5. We urge British nationals to observe the advice being given by the Japanese authorities. The Japanese Government has put in place an exclusion zone of 20km around the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which must be observed.

6. As an additional precautionary measure, British nationals are advised to remain outside an 80km radius of the Fukushima nuclear facility.  This is in line with the advice issued by the US Government to its citizens.

7. Any British nationals currently within 80km of the facility are advised to leave the area or take shelter indoors.

8. The Scientific Advisory Group in Emergencies (SAGE), chaired by the Chief Scientific Adviser, has been examining possible worst case scenarios.  Even in these worst cases, it considers that the risks to human health beyond the exclusion zone set up by the Japanese authorities could be managed by precautionary measures, in particular staying indoors to avoid exposure.

9. The consular counter at the British Embassy in Tokyo is currently operating extended opening hours, from 09:30-16:30, Monday to Friday.  It will be closed during the weekend. If you require emergency assistance outside public hours, please call the British Embassy on 03 5211 1100 03 5211 1100  and follow the instructions.

10. The consular counter at the Consulate-General in Osaka is now open from 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-17.00, Monday to Friday.

Keeping in touch

11. Keep listening to local media for real time information and monitoring FCO travel advice for further updates.

12. We will be using Twitter and Facebook to provide updates and advice.  We recommend following “FCOtravel” and “British Embassy Tokyo” on Facebook and “@fcotravel” and “@ukinjapan” on Twitter.

Flights

13. Those wishing to leave Japan should use the commercial flights, which continue to operate to and from Japan.   The UK government does not currently have plans to organise further charter flights.

This advice is brought to you by www.travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance

British Airways cabin crew vote in favour of new strikes

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

British Airways cabin crew have voted overwhelmingly to stage fresh strikes in their row with the airline, raising fears that Easter holidays will be disrupted.

Which flights are likely to be affected?

Unite, the union that represents 90 per cent of BA’s 12,000 cabin crew, must start any strike action within the next 28 days, or it will be obliged to conduct another ballot. It must also give the airline at least seven day’s notice before any industrial action. Therefore, unless an agreement is reached, strikes must begin next week (April 4), at the earliest, or on April 25 (Easter Monday), at the latest. The number of flights which have to be cancelled will depend on how the strike is organised and how many cabin crew take part. Previous experience suggests that British Airways will try to operate as many long-haul flights as possible, and sacrifice shorter flights, which tend to be more frequent and easier to merge. A BA spokesman said it has well-established contingency plans and it hopes to run all of its flights from London City Airport and Gatwick, should the strikes take place. It will also aim to operate all long-haul flights, and “the majority” of short-haul flights from Heathrow.

Can I cancel my flight before they do?

You could, but unless it is a flexible, or refundable ticket, then you will lose your money.

Am I entitled to a refund if BA cancels my flight?

Yes. EU regulations require that the airline offers you either a full refund of the unused parts of your tickets (to be paid within seven days), or the soonest available flight, or flights, to your final destination. If your flight is cancelled you are entitled to a full refund.

What are the other options?

BA has not announced what it will do yet, but it is likely that passengers on cancelled flights will, instead of accepting a refund, be able to rebook for a later date. It is also possible that BA will arrange for flights on other airlines.

What if I am stranded abroad, or at an airport in the UK as a result of the cancellation?

BA is liable to pay for: meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time; two free telephone calls, emails, telexes or faxes; overnight hotel accommodation and transfers as necessary.

I have booked a package holiday and my flight has been cancelled, what do I do?

Speak to your tour operator. It is responsible to trying to make alternative arrangements, or cancelling, refunding or rebooking your holiday.

I have booked other arrangements, such as accommodation or car hire or hotels, and I now won’t be able to use them. Can I claim compensation for this?

BA isn’t responsible for this sort of “consequential loss”. If the car hire company or the hotel won’t refund your deposit, and you can’t find another way of travelling to your destination, you will lose out, unless you can claim through your travel insurance.

What about travel insurance?

This is complicated and, as always with insurance, depends on the individual circumstances and the policy you have bought. Generally, you can claim abandonment of your holiday and the consequential loss, if you can prove that you have been delayed by 12 hours or more. But your insurer will need a letter from the airline confirming that the cancellation involves such a delay, and it is likely only to consider cancellations which have been made at short notice. And obviously, it will only apply if you bought the insurance (and the travel arrangements) before you knew about the strikes.

Am I entitled to compensation as well as a refund if my flight is cancelled?

EU regulations suggest that you should be entitled to compensation if you flight is cancelled within 14 days of departure (or delayed). However, according to the Air Transport Users Council (AUC), a provision in the regulation which excludes “strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier” has been used by airlines to avoid paying compensation. It is untested in law, but your chances look slim.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Watch out, there’s a thief about!

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Regrettably, the increasing incidence of theft abroad is going largely unreported. It is a growing problem and affects thousands of holidaymakers abroad each year. Generally, when we go abroad, our guard is down and this is what the professional gangs and pickpockets look out for. Whilst baggage that is lost, whilst under the control of the airline, may be attributed to theft, generally this will be marked down as lost in transit and a claim against the carrier and travel insurance will be fairly straight forward providing that a passenger irregularity report is obtained from the airline.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg for the unwary traveller. Many thefts occur as soon as you have picked up your bags and ventured into the arrivals hall. Picking up a hire car is a very common place to be targeted where bags are taken whilst distracted at the counter. Travelling on public transport is another popular target area where jostling can appear harmless, only to find that a purse or wallet has been taken in the confusion. Placing bags under your chair in a restaurant is an open invitation to it being lifted.

If you are unfortunate to have any items stolen on holiday, do make a list of the items stolen and cancel your credit cards and travellers cheques immediately. Go to the local police station as soon as possible and insist on a police report. This is an absolute must if you intend to claim on your travel insurance and most policies insist that this should be done within 24 hours of the incident.

If you don’t, then you will find your insurer less inclined to pay out. If you lose your passport, then contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate who will be able to issue you with an emergency replacement passport to get you home.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.