25 Sep 2016
Author: Stephen Breen
Holidays are a time we all look forward to – rest, relaxation and a little over indulgence provide us with much-needed time out from our busy lives. When things go wrong, it can be extremely frustrating – particularly given that we are trying to relax and unwind, not increase our stress levels!
There are lots of reasons why a holiday can turn from a restful excursion to a nightmare – delayed flights, lost luggage, poor service, accidents and illness are just a few. Here, we look at the compensation you may be entitled to when things don’t go to plan.
Delayed or cancelled flights
If you are delayed at the airport by 2 hours or more, you are entitled to food and drink, two free phone calls/emails/faxes, overnight accommodation if applicable, and transport to the accommodation. These rights apply, regardless of the reason for the delay – even if it is something beyond the airline’s control. You should ask for these at the time of the delay. If the airline does not help you, save the receipts for what you have spent – you can ask to be reimbursed. Expenses must be reasonable – you can’t claim for lavish meals or luxury hotels!
Airlines can be reluctant to refund expenses such as these. If the airline tells you that they will reimburse you later, it will help to get that promise in writing and signed by a member of staff. If the airline refuses to pay for your expenses, you can approach the alternative dispute resolution service CEDR (www.cedr.com/aviation) provided that your flight is with the airlines that they cover: Thomson and Thomas Cook Airlines, British Airways and easyJet. Otherwise you can get help from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). This Authority charges the airline £150 for every dispute taken on by its complaints team, which is an incentive for the airline to sort things out.
If your flight is delayed by 3 hours or more you may be entitled to compensation. This ranges from 250 euros up to 600 euros, depending on the distance of your flight and the length of the delay. Each passenger (including children where a fee has been paid towards their ticket) is entitled to claim compensation. If the reason for delay was overbooking, the airline also has to offer you a new flight or a refund.
However, you won’t get compensation for some types of delay – for example, the recent French air traffic control strike which was outside of the control of individual airlines. In these cases, you still have some rights – for example, airlines must refund cancelled flights or offer an alternative flight. Be aware that airlines can take weeks to refund your money. As before, it is a good idea to get any promises made by their staff in writing and signed.
To find out more about claiming for flight delay compensation, click here.
If you are downgraded, from business class to economy, you will be able to claim a percentage of your ticket cost back. For flights up to 930 miles, it is 30% – increasing to 50% for flights between 930 and 2,175 miles, and 75% for long haul flights. To avoid this happening in future, it’s a good idea to check in early online, print your boarding pass and arrive at the airport on time – giving the airline a clear demonstration of your intention to fly. Airlines often overbook flights, counting on the fact that not everyone will show up. If you fly regularly, you should also join the airline’s loyalty programme that allows you to collect points on your flights. Airlines are less likely to bump their lucrative customers.
Hand luggage placed in the hold
Many low cost airlines put a portion of passengers’ hand luggage in the hold. Although this is annoying, it does not entitle you to compensation. Ryanair’s policy is as follows:
“Due to cabin space limitations only 90 large cabin bags (55 x 40 x 20 cms) can be carried in the cabin, any remainder will be carried free of charge in the aircraft hold. Passengers who have purchased Priority Boarding will not be asked to place their cabin bag in the aircraft hold, unless necessary due to operational reasons.”
EasyJet’s policy is first come, first served:
“Overhead locker space is allocated on a first come first served basis and once the overhead lockers are full all remaining customers will be asked to put their cabin bags in the hold free of charge as long as their cabin bag does not exceed the maximum cabin bag size of 56 x 45 x 25cm.”
Jet2.com similarly reserve the right to put hand luggage in the hold where there is insufficient space:
“With all hand/cabin baggage (including airport purchases) we reserve the right to require that it must be stored in the aircraft hold due to operational requirements (in which case there will be no charge unless it exceeds the size or weight requirements referred to above).”
It is worth looking at the terms of your travel insurance as many policies – and airlines – do not offer compensation where valuables are lost or stolen in the hold. Do not allow your mobile, laptop or wallet to go into the hold!
If your checked in luggage goes missing or does not show up after a number of days, you will be entitled to compensation, up to £1,000. However, the Civil Aviation Authority say usually the airline will simply reimburse you for the bare essentials you need while your bag is delayed. This might include, for example, toiletries, underwear and laundry costs. If the delay is on your journey home, the airlines will sometimes pay less as they hold the view that you have the essentials you need available to you. Some airlines offer a fixed rate per day that your bag is delayed.
If your luggage is lost, damaged or delayed, this must be reported at the airport – and the staff must complete a property irregularity report. Make sure you keep a copy, then write to the airline within seven days (where bags are damaged or lost) or within 21 days (where bags are delayed). You’ll have to prove what the contents of your bag were worth using credit card records or receipts which can be difficult. You may find it is simpler to make the claim on your travel insurance.
Holiday illness or injury
If you fall ill or are injured while on a package holiday abroad, you could be entitled to thousands of pounds in compensation. You can find out more on our Package Holiday Accidents Abroad page, which also covers illness such as food poisoning.