Making Cents: Travel insurance will really lessen the stress load

Many Irish air passengers will have felt a flutter of nerves last week when news broke that airlines were cancelling a number of flights to and from France as a result of air traffic control strike action. 

There was strike action in German airports earlier this year and there are fears that internal strike action could lead to Ryanair cancellations if issues between the company and its cabin crew are not resolved.

This all comes less than a year after hundreds of thousands of passengers were impacted when the same company cancelled flights because of roster changes and annual leave requirements.

The recent cancellations are a reminder that holidaymakers are at the mercy of numerous outside forces when it comes to holiday plans. 

Flight cancellations are not uncommon, a recent survey of more than 1,000 people in Ireland found that 61% have had a flight significantly delayed or cancelled.

“Booking that summer holiday is one of the highlights of the year for many, and a major flight delay or cancellation would be the last thing on your mind when thinking of your trip,” said Deirdre McCarthy of Insuremyholiday.ie

“It’s something that doesn’t seem likely to happen very frequently, maybe just the once, maybe more if you were very unlucky.

“But I think people might be surprised to learn that as many as six in 10 people have experienced the frustration of a significantly delayed or cancelled flight.”

Despite this, according to their survey 11% of us don’t bother buying travel insurance. Another 5% get it at the airport or a day or two ahead with a further 18% buying a week or two beforehand. 

All of those people are at risk of financial loss if their flights are cancelled more that a fortnight before they are due to leave.

This is a risky business, and leaves them much less protected than the 47% who purchase insurance at the same time as they book their holiday.

The good news for those affected by cancellations is that they have passenger rights they can invoke with their carrier should problems arise.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) is the Irish authority with responsibility for passenger rights and their site flightrights.ie gives detailed information on what to do in the event of a cancellation.

When it happens, your air carrier must offer you the choice between re-routing as close as possible to the original departure time, re-routing at a later date or a refund of the cost of your ticket. 

Whether you are entitled to compensation depends on which option you choose and the length of notice you received. 

Flightrights.ie offers a detailed breakdown of the various scenarios and it is worth making a note of the site so you can understand the options in whatever situation you may find yourself in.

One thing to bear in mind, in particular, is not to assume that the air carrier will cover your costs if you make other arrangements yourself. 

They may choose to but it is not a given and ideally you should stick with the same carrier, if you find yourself in difficulty while away from home. 

That way they remain responsible for providing you with food and accommodation until you eventually get on one of their flights. 

If you go off and make your own arrangements you are cutting your ties and may have difficulty recouping costs.

Passengers who find themselves with expense and/or compensation claims because of cancelled flights have to first deal with the airline directly. 

CAR will expect you to have given the carrier a reasonable time to resolve your case, say 6-8 weeks, before they will step in.

It is also important to note that CAR only deal with flights that were due to leave Ireland. 

If the flight was from an airport outside this country, you have to deal with the relevant authority in that country if you run into problems with the airline. 

CAR link to a list of authorities throughout the EU on their website.

In addition to flight delays, they can also deal with issues relating to long delays, downgrades or being refused boarding.

It is good to have CAR as a port of call to access help but for real peace of mind, book travel insurance. 

The cost is miniscule in comparison to the potential benefit when things do go wrong.

Deal of the week

The Leapcard Kids Go Free offer has returned for the start of the summer holidays.

From now until Sunday, July 15, Child Leap Card holders can travel free on almost TFI Leap Card enabled services.

Simply use the Child Leap Card as normal and you won’t be charged.

Any card (5-15 or 16-18) can be used to get free travel provided it has at least 1 cent credit.

You can get a card from Leapcard.ie or there is a limited stock of free Child Leap Cards for 5-15 year olds at most of the main Bus Éireann stations around the country.

The promotion is available on all the following services — Dublin Bus scheduled services (excluding Airlink and Nitelink), Luas, DART, commuter rail services in Dublin’s “Short Hop Zone”, on the Cork to Cobh/Midleton train lines and Bus Éireann services where TFI Leap Card Validators are available.

This includes Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Waterford cities, Sligo and Athlone towns and Bus Éireann services in Dublin and surrounding counties (excluding Expressway).

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