Friday, 16 April 2010

European airport closures and flight cancellations

As most of you probably know already, the cloud of ash from the eruption of a volcano in Iceland has forced the closure of airports across a large portion of Europe, and the cancellation of flights to, from, or via the affected area. Even after flights resume, aircraft and crews that are out of position and the backlog of stranded travellers are likely to disrupt air travel in much of the world for at least several days, longer if the airport closures continue.

My FAQ about changes to flights and tickkets (first published 11 September 2001 when airports in North America were closed, and updated many times since then), discusses what you can do if your flight has been cancelled or rescheduled.

It’s your choice whether to accept whatever the airline offers as an alternative. In cases such as this, which are likely to fit any definition of an “act of God”, “force majeure”, or “events beyond the control of the airline”, airlines are not generally obligated to provide anything other than a refund.

Airlines will offer you some alternative flight(s), eventually, and perhaps some additional accommodations or compensation, but it is entirely up to you whether to accept their offer, or whether to insist on your right to a full and unconditional refund of the fare paid for any flight which is cancelled or for which the schedule is changed. If, for example, you are travelling simply within Europe, it may be better to get a refund of your airfare and go by train instead.

Train tickets on some European routes are now sold out for the next few days, or available only at the highest fares. I’m lucky that I had already bought a ticket and reserved a seat on the train from Berlin to Strasbourg on Sunday, and I’m not booked to fly back to the USA until a week from today, after the monthly plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. See my recent article on European rail routes and tickets for advice on how to find trans-European rail routes and schedules, and how to buy tickets and make reservations.

Everyone’s experience is likely to be different. Feel free to share yours in the comments.

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 16 April 2010, 09:47 ( 9:47 AM)

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Posted by: Edward R Hasbrouck, 17 April 2010, 08:57 ( 8:57 AM)
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