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Smart Csonumer: Has my ash cloud reimbursement of expenses claim gone up in smoke?

Smart Consumer has heard from several readers who were caught up in the ash cloud crisis but are still waiting for reimbursements.

For example, Jim writes: "My wife and I travelled to Malta with Ryanair at the end of April and were due to fly back on May 4. However, due to the ash disruption we were unable to return until May 8.

"We therefore incurred extra accommodation and meal expenses for these four days and we were able to stay in the same four-star hotel."

Ryanair responded to Jim's original registered letter asking him to re-send his claim using their claim form. Jim did this on September 3 and was wondering why he hasn't heard anything since.

We contacted Ryanair and the airline's spokesperson said: "Ryanair has to date processed almost 80% of the reasonable expense reimbursement claims received and has over 100 people employed specifically to process these reimbursements. We expect that the balance of this reimbursement claims processing will take at least another three months to complete."

So it seems that Jim must wait a little longer and since he contacted Smart Consumer, he has at least received acknowledgment of his claim.

While both Ryanair and Aer Lingus have processed refunds for cancelled flights, reimbursements for expenses while waiting for a re-scheduled flight are still being issued.

Ryanair aims to complete that process by December and Aer Lingus says it is still receiving new claims and are now processing 80% of these within 10 days.

As Jim discovered, you must submit your claim using the relevant claim form provided by the airline.

Jim mentions that he was able to remain in his four-star hotel and it is important to remember that while the European legislation says you are entitled to meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation, it does not specify the star rating of the hotel, for example, or give any upper limit.

Given the scale of the problem, the European Commission did come out and give guidelines to airlines and enforcement bodies. They said that in terms of reimbursements for expenses, they must be "reasonable" and "receipted".

Each person's definition of reasonable will be different of course, but the net result will be that the airline may not give you a full reimbursement of expenses if they think what you are requesting is unreasonable.

However, if you feel you have a valid complaint and you can't resolve it with your airline, you can forward your complaint to the Commission for Aviation Regulation (www.aviationreg.ie).

Irish Independent