What Are My Holiday Rights?

Local private clients, business owners and consumers will be busily looking at what they might recover financially for ruined holidays if things continue to go wrong in the travel industry this summer.

Following the volcanic eruption in Iceland earlier this year and the many displaced passengers whose holiday and work plans were spoiled, a close eye will be kept on the travel scene this summer.

Are we set for a summer of further travel disruption?

With potential issues ranging from foreign air traffic control problems and possible indutrial action, many a thing can go awry with travel plans. It is not just ash that travllers should be concerned about.

Of course aprropriate travel insurance sourced with a suitably qualified insurance broker and from a reputable insurance company may help. Howver, not all policies will cover problems that can arise.

Christine Pilkington a senior Associate Solicitor at Sedgwick Phelan says looks back at the volcanic ash debacle as to what lessons can be learned from the events surrounding that crisis. As Christine says:-

"If you are unsure of your legal rights, contact us for advice. Many of the airlines did not properly followed the law in this area. Under EU regulation 261/2004 article 9 airlines have an obligation to provide accommodation and food for those stranded, subject to jurisdictional limits. Article 9 is not negated by "exceptional circumstances".

This is why certain airlines backed down over the issue.

However, there is no mention of what standard of accommodation must be provided nor what type of food, nor does article 9 state any cash must be paid. If a serious problem has occurred and the airline did not provide you with accommodation and you asked, then you may be able to recover the cost as they breached article 9 but take advice as this depends on where and when and this is an EU regulation only.

However, article 7 (cash compensation) is negated by such exceptional circumstances. Those not looked after as they should have been, who have receipts (where the regulation applies), may have claims for breach of article 9 and as a PR exercise some airlines may choose as a concession to compensate for more than legally they need to, as indeed some insurers have announced, although to avoid setting a precedent they would be wise to choose their words carefully in any press release.

Airlines not offering accommodation and food may still be able to satisfy article 9 and be in a good position to refuse some applications. Article 4(3): "If boarding is denied to passengers against their will, the operating air carrier shall immediately compensate them in accordance with Article 7 [but not if exceptional circumstances, as here] and assist them in accordance with Articles 8 and 9.

"If you hit problems but have paid by credit card, it is also worth checking if you have any recourse via the card company. It is likely insurers and airlines/travel agents will pass the buck between them but ultimately will be pinned down as long as there is a breach of the regulation of course. If they offered 8 nights in a 2 star hotel and instead the holidaymaker spends £3k on taxis across Europe to get home within 48 hours, it is unlikely that the £3k will be claimable from the airline.

A second issue is employees. If they could not return to work from holiday, in most cases employers do not have to pay them. However, check employment contracts carefully. Some employers can deal with this by requiring the employees to take the time as holiday (or possibly unpaid leave at the employer’s discretion).

Thirdly is the issue of commercial contracts. “Icelandic ash clouds and their fallout caused many supply chain issues. These may in some cases amount to “force majeure”. However, under many English law contracts there would be an obligation to try alternative routes to transport goods before a clause excusing non-performance would arise, but it is certainly a good idea on a regular basis to have standard contract clauses re-examined to protect you better against future disputes."

Contact Christine Pilkington on 0161 653 5299 for more advice if you are battling against an airline or insurer.