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Tina's Travel Advice

Friday, 16 April 2010

Tina Leonard, Consumer Expert


1. Checking in Luggage:-

If you are bringing luggage in the hold then make sure you book the bags in advance online as charges at the airport will be higher. Also, make sure you know what the weight allowance is, as you will have to pay extra per kilo if your bags are overweight, which will really add up.

The Costs:-

Ryanair - You are allowed up to two bags at 15kg per bag. The costs is €15 (online) / €35 (at airport) for the first bag, but for travel in July and August this has been increased to €20/€40. If you do bring a second bag that will cost you €35/€70 or €40/€80 in July or August. Excess is charged at €20 per kilo.

Aer Lingus - You are allowed 20kg in total in checked in luggage (for short haul) which will cost €12-€15 / €18 and excess is charged at €9/€12 per kilo.

Aer Arann - They do not charge for checked in luggage and allow up to 15kg per person. Excess is charged at €8 per kilo.


2. If you want to change your ticket.

Unless you have an expensive flexible fare, than if you want to change the flight time or name you'll have to pay. Remember that for a flight time/date change you may also have to pay the difference in flight costs if the new flight costs more. If you are booking a flight for a friend be especially careful to check the name they have on their passport, as it has to match.

The Costs:

Ryanair - flight change €25/€55; name change €100/€150
Aer Lingus - flight change €35/€50; name change €100
Aer Arann - Flight change €25; name change €40

3. If you want to cancel your holiday / flight

If you can no longer travel because you haven't been able to get a new passport in time or because you're sick, for example, neither the airline nor the travel agent is obliged to give you a full refund.

You can apply for a refund of your taxes and charges from the airline but they will impose an administration fee, (Aer Lingus €20 / Ryanair GB£16), which may be almost equal to the amount you're due back, making it less than worthwhile.

If you have to cancel a package holiday but have only paid the deposit, you should just loose that. Check the terms and conditions of your package holiday for penalties for cancellation if you have paid in full, as you may be able to get some back if it is a good while before the travel date, but that is less likely closer to departure.

The most likely way that you can get a refund for your cancelled flights or holiday is via your travel insurance policy. So check what amount the cover for cancellations is and whether an excess is payable. (You should look into this when buying).

Be aware that travel insurance tends not to cover you if you don't have a passport. Also if you have bought insurance but only starting from the day of travel, then you don't have a contract in place when you cancel in advance so won't be covered. Likewise, if you are cancelling because of a pre-existing illness (you or a family member) and you didn't disclose this to the insurer in advance, you may not be covered.

4. Changes made to your Package Holiday:-

If, after you've booked, you hear from your travel agent or tour operator that the price has now gone up, or that the accommodation you wanted isn't available now, what can you do?

If an organiser significantly alters a term of the contract (e.g. price or accommodation) or cancels the contract, you must be given the option of one of the following under the

Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995:

. A replacement package of equivalent or superior quality.
. A lower grade package with a refund of the difference in price
between the two packages.
. A full refund

The organiser does have the right to cancel a package holiday due to factors beyond their control. In such cases you are still due a refund or replacement package as set out above.

When it comes to price changes, they are only allowed in a number of specific circumstances, e.g. currency fluctuations, variations in the cost of fuel, changes in government tax or duty. No price changes are allowed within 20 days of the departure date. If this happens to you, you can refuse to pay an increase or cancel your contract and get your money back.

5. Car Rental:-

If you are booking, or about to book, car rental now, be aware that prices have gone up, especially in Spain, France, Portugal and here in Ireland.

For example, at Easter 2009, the cheapest rate for a mini economy class car (i.e. Fiat Punto or similar) for the week was €101, now it's €233, a 131% increase. (Research by travelsupermarket.com)

The hikes seem to be a re-adjustment in the cost of car hire, and look set to be long term. Falling demand and the absence of cheap credit mean fleets have been culled, so supply has fallen.

The advice is to book far in advance and go for a bigger car, as larger, less popular models can be cheaper. In Malaga airport, where that Fiat Punto was €233, the larger Ford Fiesta was €170 for the same week!

Information on Flight Cancellations due to Volcanic Ash Cloud:

Today air passengers are facing long delays and cancelled flights, as Dublin Airport closed at midday. UK airports (and air space) are closed as well as airports in Scandinavian airports.

In all this pandamonium, what rights do you have?

Air passenger Rights:-

The law that protects you when flights are delayed or cancelled is EC Regulation 261/04.

The first thing to note is that because all delays / cancellations are out of the airlines' control and due to "extraordinary circumstances", you are NOT entitled to any additional financial compenstion, which is normally between €250 - €600.

Exceptions to the Compensation Rule:-

Passengers are NOT entitled to financial compensation if the following have caused the delay or cancellation of the flight:

. Political instability
. Bad weather
. Security risk
. Unexpected flight risk
. Strikes

The carrier does not have to offer compensation in relation to a cancelled flight if the passenger has been informed of the cancellation in advance of the departure date.

Cancellation:

You are entitled to a choice between a refund of the ticket or rerouting to your final destination on the next available flight or at a later date more suitable for you.

Duty of care entitles you to:

. Free meals and refreshments as well as two phone calls/emails.
. Overnight accommodation if needed and transport to and from it.

Delay:

Your rights kick in at the following times:

. Delays of two or more hours in the case of flights of 1,500km or less;
. Delays of three or more hours in the case of all intra-Community flights of more than 1,500k, and of all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500km;
. Delays of four or more hours in the case of all other flights

In the event of such delays, you should receive the following duty of care:

. Meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time
. Hotel accommodation where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary
. Transport between the airport and the place of accommodation
. Two telephone calls, faxes or emails

If your flight is delayed by 5 hours or more and you decide not to travel, you are entitled to look for a refund for the part or parts of the journey not completed.

If you decide to accept the refund, you may not receive any further care from the air carrier, such as meals or accommodation.

However, if you have already started your journey and the purpose of your original travel plan is no longer attainable (e.g. connecting flight missed as a result of the delay of a flight in your itinerary) you can request to return to the first point of departure at no extra cost and the refund for the part of the journey already made. In such a case, the air carrier also has to give you your right to care.

Complaints:

If you are not offered this "duty of care", keep your receipts for any expenses and apply to the airline later for a refund of those expenses.

Further information and unresolved complaints to:

The Commission for Aviation Regulation: www.aviationreg.ie

Additional Information for Current Travel Update:

Aer Lingus: http://www.aerlingus.com/cgi-bin/obel01im1/bookonline/initialiseHomepage.do

RyanAir: http://www.ryanair.com/ie

Dublin Airport: http://www.dublinairport.com/index.asp

Irish Aviation Authority: http://www.iaa.ie/

Live Travel Updates on RTE Website: http://www.rte.ie/news/2010/0416/transportupdates.html


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