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Wednesday 18 July 2018

Don't let a disrupted flight ruin your summer holiday - know your passenger rights

Huge numbers of holidaymakers never get the compensation to which they are entitled
Huge numbers of holidaymakers never get the compensation to which they are entitled
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

Ryanair has cancelled dozens of flights due to striking French air traffic controllers and diverted others due to drunks on board, while Irish Ferries has cancelled all sailings to France – and July has only just begun.

According to the Airlines for Europe trade association, there has been a 300pc increase in the number of strikes by French controllers so far this year, impacting 5,000 flights and 784,000 passenger.

According to research from InsuremyHoliday.ie, 61pc of passengers have had flights disrupted.

This week, I’m looking at the rights of passengers affected by delays and cancellations.

Each year, huge numbers of holidaymakers never get the compensation to which they are entitled, because they simply don’t know what to do.

The panel shows the various bodies set up to get you help, but the biggest tip is to persevere. Don’t be fobbed off, and resort to the Small Claims Court if necessary (I once had the entire cost of a holiday refunded).

 

General Travel Rights

The relevant laws are the Montreal Convention, ensuring people delayed at airports get “care and assistance”, and EU261/2004, which sets out additional compensation for cancelled or delayed flights.

If a flight is delayed more than four hours, you have the right to a meal and hotel accommodation (with transfers), if necessary. All airlines must offer this.

If a flight is cancelled, the airline must offer you a refund or book you on the next available flight (and look after you until then). If you take the refund, you may not get additional compensation.

 

Compensation

Under EU261/2004, a flat amount of €250, €400 or €600 is payable in certain circumstances if flights are delayed or cancelled. The amount depends on the distance and delay.

The airline will not pay out if cancellation was given within 14 days, or seven days with an alternative flight booked. Airlines can also refuse to pay up in “extraordinary circumstances” such as adverse weather or a strike.

 

Ferries

The National Transport Authority is the enforcement body when travelling by sea.

If a crossing is cancelled or delayed by more than 90 minutes, the operator must offer to re-route you to your final destination at the earliest opportunity at no extra cost (and care, assistance and accommodation up to €80 per person in the meantime) or give you a refund. Exceptions are bad weather and strikes.

In the case of Irish Ferries, passengers are being offered refunds/re-routings and €150 off next year’s booking.

 

Package v Dynamic Holidays

Your rights vary depending on what kind of holiday you’ve booked.

They’re far stronger with a bonded tour operator. Booking flights and accommodation yourself has no such safeguards. This includes booking a hotel by clicking through the airline’s website.

A package holiday booked through a tour operator means it’s their job to look after you if things go wrong. Ground reps should re-arrange accommodation and do the legwork on re-booking flights.

If the information provided in the brochure is false or misleading, you can seek compensation for any loss suffered or damage caused as a result and take a case via the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).

If an element of the holiday changes, you must be offered a replacement equivalent or better, or a lower grade holiday with refund of the difference in price or a full refund.

By law, all package holiday providers in Ireland must have arrangements in place so that if they go out of business your money and bookings are protected.

 

Delayed Luggage

There’s nothing more annoying than arriving in Spain to find your luggage has gone to Italy.

By law, checked-in baggage is considered “lost” if it hasn’t arrived 21 days after the date it was due to. Until then, some airlines claim you’re not at a loss, because your bag is only “delayed” and will eventually turn up.

Compensation will be for essential costs (toiletries, basic clothing and the like), provided you can produce receipts.

Aer Lingus and Ryanair will deliver delayed baggage to your local address. You can seek compensation of up to about €1,200 for delay, damage or loss.

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