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Tina's Travel Advice

Friday, 21 May 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.

6. Insurance:

The usual standard travel insurance does not cover cancellations at all, although generally offers some cover for delayed flights. In order to get cover for cancelled flights, you'll have to buy a premium policy or an 'add-on' that specifically covers cancellation.

However, even if your policy does cover cancellation there will always be exceptions to providing that cover. Most often these exclusions are when the cancellation was caused by 'adverse weather conditions', when flights are cancelled due to an order from a government or aviation authority and even if you haven't checked-in for the flight. These exclusions may apply in the current situation which means that most people are finding that they are not covered at all.

Some policy providers are waiving the exclusions and others are providing some cover on a case by case basis, but you can't say there is a particular provider that will always provide cover if your flight is cancelled due to the ash cloud.

The best advice is to read the details of cover carefully, including all the exclusions or to go to a broker who will be able to find the best tailor made package for you.

Also, bear in mind that the safest way to book a holiday is now though a travel agent, as if the worst happens, they will be responsible for either refunding or rearranging both the flight and accommodation aspects of your holiday.