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Archive for May, 2011

Volcanic ash cloud: travel advice 24th May

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Here is a summary for Tuesday 24th May of the flight disruption caused as a volcanic ash cloud spreads from Iceland to British airspace, causing a number of airlines to put scheduled departures on hold across Scotland and northern England. For the latest information, passengers are advised to check with their airline before departure.

British Airways has announced it will not operate any flights between London and Scotland before 2pm.

BMI has cancelled flights between London Heathrow and Aberdeen; Manchester and Aberdeen; Norwich and Aberdeen; Leeds Bradford and Edinburgh; and London Heathrow and Stavangar.

EasyJet has cancelled all flights to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen between 5am and 1pm today. Passengers flying to or from Newcastle, Belfast, Liverpool or Manchester are advised to check with the airline before travelling.

Flybe has cancelled all flights between Aberdeen and Birmingham, Manchester and London Gatwick; and between Inverness and Manchester and London Gatwick.

Ryanair has been ordered by Irish authorities to cancel all flights to and from Glasgow, Prestwick, Edinburgh or Aberdeen until at least 1pm.

Aer Lingus said it had cancelled 12 flights between Dublin and Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen; Shannon and Glasgow; and Cork and Glasgow.

KLM has cancelled more than 30 flights to and from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Newcastle.

Loganair, which mainly operates within Scotland, said it had scrapped 36 flights due to depart between 6am and 1pm, but is still operating inter-isles flights in Orkney.

My flight has been cancelled. What should I do?

There are currently no restrictions on UK airspace. You should check the airline or holiday operators website for the latest news. For those who have booked a trip to Iceland, check with the tour operator or airline for the latest travel information.

Under EU rules, airlines must compensate passengers up to €600 if their flight is cancelled or heavily delayed, unless the situation has been caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.’  The ruling that outlines these rights is Regulation (EC) 261/2004 and it applies to all flights wholly within the EU/EEA or Swiss region, or departing an EU/EEA or Swiss airport, or arriving in the region and run by an EU/EEA or Swiss airline.

In the case of the volcanic ash delays, the airlines may claim ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and should be able to avoid paying compensation. However, this does not remove their duty of care that is also detailed in the regulations. The rules state that they must provide passengers with accommodation, meals and refreshments and transport between the airport and accommodation. Airlines are breaking the rules by shirking this obligation.

If you are travelling as part of an ATOL covered package, your tour operator will be able to advise on your total travel plans. It is the responsibility of the tour operator to cover all costs should air space be disrupted. Those travellers still in the UK are entitled to refunds or transfers, and for those stranded overseas will be kept in accommodation at the expense of the tour operator.

What are my rights?

The former Air Transport Users Council, now part of the Civil Aviation Authority, says: ‘Regulation (EC) 261/2004 requires airlines to offer you meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation as appropriate whilst you wait for a rearranged flight. They should also cover any transport costs between the hotel and the airport. There are no time or monetary limits on the provision of this assistance.

‘If your airline has not provided assistance, and you have had to arrange it yourself, our advice is to keep your expenditure to a minimum, make sure you get receipts and claim reimbursement from your airline when you get home.’

How do I reclaim if I’m delayed?

In order to reclaim ash flight and accommodation costs off your airline you will need to write to them, referencing the regulations and their responsibilities and including as many receipts as possible.

You should tell them that under Regulation (EC) 261/2004 Article 5 you are entitled to be reimbursed or re-routed under Article 8 and also offered assistance, including accommodation, meals and transport under Article 9.

You should also state that under Article 5, airlines are able to not pay compensation in accordance with article 7 in the case of ‘extraordinary circumstances’, but crucially that this extraordinary circumstances clause does not apply to the entitlement to assistance under Article 9.

Your expenses should be reasonable – you can’t treat yourself and expect to get compensated. You are also unlikely to get a refund/compensation if you abandon your flight/any help offered and try to navigate your own way home.

What about insurance?

If your airline refuses to pay out you should check your travel insurance policy to see if you can claim. Look for natural disaster and weather related clauses and understand what is covered in the policy. This covers you for things such as loss of travel arrangements, cost of new travel arrangements and travel delay.

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

New Icelandic volcano threat

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

The first ash from the newest Icelandic volcanic eruption is expected to reach the north-west tip of the British Isles this week with the Civil Aviation Auuthority saying disruption is likely for travellers. There are currently no restrictions on UK airspace. Travellers should check the airline or holiday operators websites for the latest news. For those who have booked a trip to Iceland, check with the tour operator or airline for the latest travel information.

What are your rights is this happens? Most airlines would offer customers a choice of a refund or a free transfer onto another flight when air services resume. According to the Trading Standards Institute, passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled due to the volcanic dust blown over to the UK from Iceland will have the same rights under the Regulation 261/2004 Air Passenger Rights. They are entitled to a refund or re-routing if the flight is cancelled or delayed by more than five hours; if re-routing is offered from an alternative location, the airline must cover the cost of transfers.

Passengers on flights delayed by more than two hours are also entitled to meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation if necessary, transport between airport and accommodation, two free telephone calls, faxes or emails. In cases of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ like this, which are beyond the airlines’ control, consumers are unlikely to be entitled to further compensation. Passengers should also check their own travel insurance as they may be entitled to more under their individual policies.

Although the regulations apply in all cases, not all travel insurance policies will pay out additional sums in the event of a volcanic ash cloud.  With regard to claiming for delay or cancellation through a travel insurance policy, the advice is to contact your insurer and clarify what options are available to you.  If insurance polices do cover this scenario then it is likely that the typical rules for making a claim for delayed departure apply. Travellers would be able to claim after they are delayed for 12 hours or more and to ensure their claim has the best chance of being processed successfully should obtain written confirmation from the airline of why the flight was cancelled.

Travellers with insurance policies should read the wording carefully to see what they are and aren’t covered for and also look at the procedures for making a claim as they differ from insurer to insurer.

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