I’m a VAV (Volcanic Ash Victim) Get Me Outa Here…
Yes, finally after 6 very long and stressful days, all UK airports are open again. Fingers crossed Mr. Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced: AY-uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl-uh…try it AY-uh…) will not rear his ugly and very disruptive ash-cloud-head again, causing misery for all.
Clearly there is still significant disruption so check with airports and airlines before making your way to the airport. Also check online for updates - BBC News would be a good place to start.
ABTA (The Association for British Travel Agents) also have guidelines for passengers who have been affected. Here are their FAQ’s:
1. If I’ve yet to travel from the UK, am I entitled to a refund?
If you’ve booked a package holiday, and your outbound flight can’t be re-arranged until at least a significant time after (the normal rule of thumb is 12 hours), you’re entitled to be offered a refund by your tour operator. This is a refund of the full package price, not just the flight element.
2. What if I’m not travelling on a package holiday?
If you’ve booked flight and accommodation separately, you can get your money back for the flight. The airline, under the Denied Boarding Regulations, must offer the choice of a refund of the ticket price, or re-routing at the earliest opportunity. You might not be able to have a refund for your accommodation costs; this would be down to the accommodation supplier. You should also check your travel insurance policy.
3. What’s the position in terms of customers that haven’t been able to fly home?
Customers on package holidays will be provided with replacement transport home when possible, by their tour operator. Customers that have booked with airlines will be provided with replacement transport home when available, by their airline.
Tour operators have an obligation to provide prompt assistance to their customers. In particular, they should liaise with the air carrier to ensure that the customers’ rights under the Denied Boarding Regulations are met by the carrier (see 4 below). Other assistance should be provided by the tour operator in accordance with their terms and conditions and contractual customer welfare policy.
4. If I’m still waiting to come home, what can I expect from my airline?
Airlines, if they’re an EU airline, or any airline if the flight is departing from an EU country, are obliged to offer you a replacement flight at the earliest opportunity, or a refund of the part of the journey not made. If you choose the replacement flight and it’s going the next day or later, the airline is obliged to provide accommodation and meals. This comes from the Denied Boarding Regulations. The best advice is to reserve your rights by contacting the airline, probably by email or through their website, to explain that you will expect it to fulfil its obligation and cover the additional costs. Keep a copy of this communication, and of receipts for accommodation and meal expenditure.
Non-EU airlines, flying in from a non-EU country, don’t have this obligation. They should be asked whether they will voluntarily provide assistance as part of a customer service policy.
5. Am I entitled to additional compensation, for example, for missing days off work?
No, because the cancellations are clearly being caused by an exceptional circumstance outside of everyone’s control.