Volcanic eruptions and your travel rights

Posted by admin | Posted in Misc | Posted on 06-05-2010

The volcanic eruptions in Iceland disrupted air travel services for thousands of passengers when it happened. Then, we all thought everything was getting back to normal only to have more flights grounded recently in Scotland and Ireland as activity increased and more clouds of ash drifted this way.

Despite revised guidelines that now permit flying through contaminated airspace, and fewer restrictions being imposed, the Civil Aviation Authority has now admitted that more problems are possible through this whole summer, and that if the volcano continues to erupt and the ash is of a density that is unsafe, there will be more no-fly zones occurring, although hopefully not to the extent we saw in April.

The biggest problem is that the wind is unpredictable, so it’s not possible to know where exactly the ash will be blown. The prevailing winds over the UK are south-westerlies which bring air damp from the Atlantic ocean, and would help keep any ash in the Arctic area. Northerly winds like we had in April which brought the ash this way, only occur on average 15% of the time in the summer.

What this means for those of us looking to holiday abroad is risk. Will we be trying to fly and find ourselves either unable to go, or stranded abroad unable to come home because the wind is in the wrong direction and it would be dangerous for the aeroplanes to fly in it.

If we do choose to go ahead and take the risk, what are our rights? This is the most difficult part of the equation as different holiday companies are taking different stances on things. What is most important is that you ask when you are looking at booking your holiday what will happen in this instance and also that you read your contract very thoroughly to make sure that any holiday insurance you take out actually covers you for problems with this as some may well not do so. If you can find nothing in your paperwork to indicate, then contact the company and ask them. Do NOT however accept a verbal answer, make sure you get it in writing from them as well as if you do find yourself one of the unlucky ones, this will give you something concrete to use to claim money back etc.

Of course, the alternative to taking a chance is to opt for a holiday which doesn’t involve flying. There are many parts of Europe which can be reached via the sea instead, and the euro-tunnel was unaffected, so you could look for a holiday where you get there by sea or land and avoid the risk completely.

Package Holidays – Volcanoes – And your rights

Posted by admin | Posted in Guest Articles, Misc | Posted on 01-05-2010

Many of us take package holidays, it’s nice and simple and everything is organised for us. Hotel, flights, transport between the two, and often excursions and food as well. It’s lovely, we can go off on holiday knowing everything is covered and we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

But what happens, when your wonderful package holiday is interrupted by a flight being cancelled because of a volcano that’s spewing ash across your flight path. What are your rights? and how do you go about making sure you don’t lose out?

Package holidays generally have they’re own protection. Holiday operators must refund customers for the whole holiday if flights are cancelled meaning that they can’t reach their holiday destination. Having said that, you may find you’ll be given a choice, either deferring your holiday and travelling a few days later, transferring to an alternative holiday of the same or similar value, or a refund. If you have taken out special holiday insurance you will need to look at the small print to see if you are covered or not.

If you find yourself able to get to your holiday destination, but once there the volcanic ash prevents you from flying home again, your holiday operator should again look after you. The operator is legally obliged to get you home, and in the meantime, they must offer you assistance. In most cases at the moment, that is taking the form of allowing customers to either continue their stay in their original hotel, or moving them to a similar one on either a half-board or all-inclusive basis.

For some people who are on holiday in places like mainland Spain, or in the Alps, alternative transport is being provided such as bus to get holiday makers back to the UK. There is a little uncertainty however about the legal side of things and the costs, as some industry insiders are saying that people travelling with an operator which is using a non-EU-based airline may not be able to claim the cost of accommodation and subsistence if they’re stranded beyond their expected date of return, and that though the operator must offer assistance, it may not involve financial help.

The best thing to do at the moment if you have a holiday booked is to check your operators booking terms and conditions and ask them (ideally in advance of travelling) what would happen if you cannot get home by aeroplane as planned.


This article was written by Alan Fraser who runs a popular travel website about Alcudia in Majorca. http://alcudiaholidays.org.uk