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ASH CLOUD from Iceland, alternative travel arrangements and refund advice from Julian Bray
The latest Volcanic ash cloud from Iceland, heading towards mainland UK has already caused flight cancellations to and from Scottish hubs and will continue to do so, the problem is that not only are airports being shut down but when the cloud has passed, aircraft will need to be first repositioned in order to run advertised schedules.
Those passengers already holding air tickets or self generated boarding cards will find they need to re-confirm bookings and in many cases the tickets/boarding cards will have to be exchanged or refunded. This time round, the airlines have greater flexibility as to their willingness to fly in ash conditions.
There is no blanket ban as last time, but airlines need to decide based on their own information if they are indeed willing to fly, have the appropriate pilot expertise and the ash cloud specification guidelines from aircraft manufacturers are within scope.
Whatever the level of volcanic ash contamination, some damage will be caused to aircraft systems and the cost of repair or rectification needs to be taken into account. The civil aviation authority will however retain the final say in the matter and if they issue a prohibition then simply the airlines will not be allowed to operate until the CAA gives full clearance.
The ash cloud will also have an effect on long term financial viability, as many shareholders immediately on news of the pending ash cloud have already issued sell orders to divest themselves of airline and aviation stocks and shares. Prices generally have drifted down knocking five per cent off the value of the aviation sector.
But for the the majority of airline passengers, the first consideration will be in the event of any cancellation or delay the prospect of an early refund or new tickets. This is our understanding of the latest position:
Helpful advice from Aviation & Media Expert Julian Bray:
Already on holiday? Relax, enjoy your holiday. The ATOL bond through the CAA will get you home at the end of your holiday. Other forms of transport possibly sea ferries, cruise ships and trains may also be offered. The offer should be accepted or any obligation under ATOL would be considered fully discharged.
Everyone else read on:
NON AIR HOLIDAY ARRANGEMENTS such as hotels only, are not covered by ATOL scheme ensure you have paid your invoice part or full (but over £100 by Credit Card) to claim under Section 75 Consumer Credit Act.
Booked but yet to travel? You may be able to claim the cost back through the ATOL bond. See www.atol.org.uk for details.
Also see if your travel agent will change your arrangements and accept the ATOL promise ie refund when it eventually comes as part or full payment and if they will defer their charges, although they are not obliged to do so.
Not ATOL protected...accommodation only arrangements are not covered and if flights cancelled, you will still have to pay hotel charges. If the transaction includes a bundled in flight then ATOL is invoked, and you are protected.
ATOL protected and yet to travel? Check your confirmation if you contracted directly with your holiday firm, you are entitled to make a claim. The process will take several months and may take as long as two years (exceptional cases)
I booked with a Travel Agent... Talk to them about a claim and possible alternative arrangements. As a member of ABTA -[Association of British Travel Agents] (however not all travel agents or resellers are!) remind the Agent they operate subject to the ABTA Code of Professional Conduct and therefore morally (if not legally) bound to assist you to either recover your money or find an alternative holiday or resolution. Many agents will try to fob off customers, but they are the initial legal focus for any dispute resolution.
Credit Cards? If you booked through an Agent using a credit card claim through the CAA.
If you paid a Holiday Company directly using a Credit card for at least £100 of the total invoice you may be entitled to make a claim under the UK Consumer Credit Act DIRECTLY against the Credit Card company for the full amount.
If you used a Debit Card, Cash or Cheque then claim from the CAA
I just booked a room, can I claim? Doubtful but talk to your credit card company,bank or travel insurer.
Can I claim through Travel Insurance? Some policies may be valid, but not all read small print.
Will insurance premiums be refunded? No but could be transferred to any new replacement holiday contact the broker or insurance company.
Generally: Carefully preserve in a folder all paperwork in date order. note all telephone calls and keep in constant touch with your travel agent.
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