Hassle-Free Flights

Published Wednesday, 08 May 2013
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Last year there were seven million air passenger journeys to and from Northern Ireland. The majority of flights are hassle free but we all know when things go wrong it can ruin a family holiday or business trip.

All passengers have rights if their flight is delayed or cancelled or if they require special assistance when travelling by air because of a disability or reduced mobility.
Here is the Consumer Council's guide on how to make your flight hassle-free:

Booking flights
When comparing the price of flights, it is important to add up all additional charges, such as baggage fees and payment method fees. Before confirming a booking you should double check all your flight details including; passenger name/s, route, flight time and date of travel. Airlines often charge expensive administration fees to make changes after a booking has been confirmed.

Booking connecting flights
If you book connecting flights with different airlines, make sure to leave plenty of time between the flights. If you miss your connecting flight because your first flight is delayed or cancelled, neither airline is obliged to reimburse you for your missed flight. However, if you book connecting flights on a single ticket and flight disruption causes you to miss your connection, the airline is responsible for rearranging your flight to the final destination.

Weigh your luggage
Before you travel, weigh your bag to ensure it is within the airline's luggage weight limit. Airlines often charge high fees if you exceed this limit. If you wish to carry liquids as part of your hand luggage each must be in a container no larger than 100 ml.

Travel Documents
Check with your airline to ensure you have the appropriate form of identification for your flight. If you check-in online, print your boarding pass and bring it with you. Make sure your passport is in good condition and valid for six months after your return date.

Travel Insurance
Buying travel insurance will help protect you from losing out if your holiday plans are affected by flight disruption, if you have an accident or are a victim of crime when abroad. Shop around and buy travel insurance which provides adequate cover for your needs.

Protect your holiday
With a number tour operators going out of business recently, it is more important than ever to protect your holiday against your airline or tour operator going bust. When booking a package holiday or charter flight with a tour operator or travel agent, always make sure the booking is ATOL protected. Under ATOL, if your charter airline or tour operator goes out of business before you go on holiday you will get your money back. If the operator goes bust when you are abroad you will be able to continue your holiday and alternative arrangements will be made to get you home.

Delayed or cancelled flights
By law, your airline must inform you of your rights if your flight is delayed or cancelled or if you are denied boarding because the flight is overbooked.

If your flight is delayed by two hours or more for a short-haul flight (less than 1,500 km) by three hour of more for a medium-haul flight (between 1,500 and 3,500km) or four hours or more for a long haul flight (more than 3,500 km) you are entitled to free meals, refreshments and telephone calls or emails plus hotel accommodation if you have to wait overnight.

If you are delayed by more than five hours: you are entitled to a refund if you decide not to continue your journey.

If your flight is cancelled: your airline must offer you a choice between a full refund or an alternative flight plus free meals, accommodation and telephone calls or emails while you wait.

You may also be entitled to compensation, the level of which depends on the length of your flight. However, if the reason for the cancellation is beyond the control of the airline you will not be entitled to compensation. You are also entitled to the same assistance provided to delayed passengers as outlined above.

Denied Boarding
If you are denied boarding because the airline has overbooked the flight you are entitled to immediate compensation. The level of compensation will vary depending on the distance of the flight. You are also entitled to a choice between a refund or alternative travel arrangements.

Flying with a disability or reduced mobility
All airports and airlines in the European Union are required to provide assistance to passengers with a disability or reduced mobility. You are entitled to assistance at all stages of your journey, from the arrival at the airport until you leave your destination airport.

What you need to know:

Before you fly: you need to request special assistance at least 48 hours before travelling to guarantee it is provided. If you are travelling with liquid medication or medical equipment in your hand luggage make sure you have a doctor's letter confirming you need this.

At the airport: If you have a disability that prevents you from using flight information screens, the airport may make an announcement or arrange a member of staff to notify you when its time to board the plan. Assistance staff will help you access toilet facilities but will not provide toileting assistance.

Boarding the plane: passengers with a disability or reduced mobility are often called to board the plane first. An air bridge may be used to allow level access from the boarding lounge onto the plane. If passengers board from ground level the airport will use a special lift, stair climber, stair lift or boarding chair.

On-board the plane: The airline is required to provide you with appropriate seating (remember to contact the airline before you travel), assistance in storing baggage in overhead lockers and providing safety information concerning flight delays in a range of accessible formats.

Assistance is also provided to help passengers disembark the plane and provide assistance at the destination airport.

The Consumer Council has produced a new collection of flight guides aimed at equipping air passengers with information on their rights and responsibilities when they travel.

- Plane Facts - Your essential Guide to Air Travel,
- Access to Air (for passengers with a disability or reduced mobility),
Access to Air - Easy Read (for passengers with a learning disability).

All of the publications are available to download from the Consumer Council website: www.consumercouncil.org.uk , Facebook: Consumer Council Northern Ireland, Twitter: @ConsumerCouncil or if you would like a hard copy sent out by post, contact 0800 121 6022.

'Plane Facts' and 'Access to Air Travel' are also available to download as an audio file. You can download these onto your smartphone or tablet device before you travel.

© UTV News
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Consumer Council
Consumer Council

The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland's consumers.

They aim to make consumer voices heard and make them count.

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