Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Why Covering Yourself for Flight Cancellations Should Be Your Next Travel Priority

COVID-19 is the spectre that just keeps on haunting the global travel industry. As winter gradually turned to spring, optimism was high that all the disruption to travel we’ve seen throughout the pandemic was fading away.

The Omicron wave hadn’t been nearly as dangerous as feared. Travel restrictions were lifting again, including the UK government announcing in March the complete lifting of all measures on both outbound and inbound travel.

The hoops holidaymakers had to jump through to get into dozens of other countries were eased, lessening the risk of last-minute complications.

Then along came the Easter holidays, the first opportunity to test the waters for post-pandemic travel. And in the UK at least, chaos struck. Announcing high levels of staff sickness with COVID-19, British Airways and EasyJet were forced to cancel hundreds of flights.

including Manchester, Heathrow and Birmingham, facing staff shortages of their own, were inundated with passengers who either didn’t know their flight had been cancelled or were scrambling to get on the next one available.

Needless to say, a lot of would-be holidaymakers, many looking forward to their first overseas escape in over two years, have been left very disappointed.

For anyone planning a holiday in the months ahead, it means there’s yet another thing to think about. It’s not just running the gauntlet of a positive COVID test that could gazump your trip. As long as airlines continue to experience high numbers of staff off sick with COVID, the risk of your flight being cancelled remains very real.

Here’s what you need to know.

Refund and compensation rules for flight cancellations

The good news is that in the UK and across the EU, consumer protections for cancelled flights are very strong. As a rule of thumb, if an airline cancels a flight, you are entitled in law either to a rebooking/travel voucher or to a full refund.

In addition, if your flight is cancelled within 14 days of the departure date, you may also be entitled to compensation of up to £520. This is to cover things like losing out on train fares or airport parking fees, not being able to claim a refund on your accommodation at such a late stage and so on.

So while having your flight cancelled can be a thoroughly frustrating, stressful and miserable experience, at least you are protected financially. Most of the time, at least. Because as always in these circumstances, there are exceptions.

When refunds and compensation don’t add up

The following is a list of situations where, for one reason or another, the refund and compensation offered for a cancelled flight doesn’t cover all of your costs. Or you will struggle to get your money back at all.

Rather than risk being out of pocket, you can take matters into your own hands by adding an extra layer of financial protection to your trip. Taking out travel insurance is a smart move for all sorts of reasons, not least to provide additional cover for cancellations.

Here are some situations where having travel insurance to fall back on could prove more than useful.

Airlines can refuse to pay compensation in ‘extraordinary circumstances’

In UK and EU law, airlines don’t have to offer compensation for cancelling a flight if any of a set of so-called ‘extraordinary circumstances’ apply. These are basically situations deemed beyond the airline’s control and include:

● Extreme weather events and natural disasters (e.g. volcanic eruptions)

● Security risks, terrorist threats or attacks, or civil unrest

● Hidden manufacturing defects

● Industrial action by airport staff (NOT airline staff)

● Delays at the airport (e.g. problems with check in or border control)

If any of these apply, you will not be offered compensation, which could mean losing out on the costs of travelling to the airport, maybe an overnight stay in a hotel etc.

Budget airlines might only pay out on the cost of one flight

Many budget airlines technically don’t sell return tickets, but instead treat outbound and return flight tickets as two separate purchases. This is usually made explicit in the pricing, and gives passengers the flexibility to choose their return journey based on the lowest price available, even if it’s with a different carrier.

However, it does raise issues if your outbound flight is cancelled. If your return flight still goes ahead as scheduled, you may not be entitled to a refund for it - especially if you’re booked with two different airlines.

You may be charged a cancellation fee

Airlines are allowed by law to take a cancellation fee out of any refund they offer, as long as they make it clear they will do so up front in their terms and conditions. You may be able to claim this fee back through the cancellation schedule of your travel insurance policy.

Claiming back costs like car hire at your destination could prove tricky

As mentioned, compensation for flight cancellations is intended to cover you for ancillary costs like getting to the airport. It can also cover anything you have paid up front for at your destination, like hiring a car, airport transfers, excursions etc. However, when you add all of these together, the £520 maximum compensation payment may well not match your total spend.

Depending on where you travel to and the companies you book through, claiming refunds on things like car hire that you’re not able to take up might not be easy. Again, these are the sorts of costs that slip through the net which a comprehensive travel insurance policy will mop up.

If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me on Bloglovin'
Blogger Template by pipdig