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UK air passengers may be hit by airport parking charges follow ash cloud delays, warns law firm Gullands

It is estimated that there are more than 150,000 UK holiday-makers and travellers trapped abroad following the prolonged eruption of the Iceland volcano and many could find themselves with a hefty airport car-parking bill when they finally return, warns Kent law firm Gullands.

EU regulations offer some protection and support for passengers trapped abroad, but the regulations do not extend to costs associated with airport parking, which in some instances can cost more than £25 per day.

Jacqueline Beadle, a solicitor at Gullands, said: “Passengers who may have been trapped for almost a week may come home and find an unexpected bill for £200 or £300 with little choice but to pay.”

Passengers who have flown from an EU airport, with an EU airline or are flying into an EU airport are offered some protection under EU Regulation 261 introduced in 2004.  The airline has to inform passengers of their rights, make available means of communication – such a phone or email – to allow passengers to keep in touch with loved ones at home, and where possible, make available alternative flights.  The regulations provide that the airline must also provide accommodation and food and drink for stranded passengers.

Jacqueline adds: “If passengers decide to take matters into their own hands and find their own accommodation the EU regulations still apply and they should make a claim against the airline for ‘reasonable costs’.  The regulations also allow for compensation to delayed travellers, but such claims are unlikely to succeed as the regulations include an exclusion for “extraordinary circumstances” which could include meteorological events.

“Interestingly, the regulations do not apply if passengers check into the flight late, if a passenger is travelling free of charge or if they have paid a low fair not freely available to members of the public.”

Extra protection is offered to passengers who have booked their flights or holiday with a credit card, where the Consumer Credit Act will apply.  “It may be possible to claim against your credit card provider for the refund of the cost of the holiday and the flight paid for on credit card,” adds Jacqueline.

Whilst some travel insurance providers, notably Saga, are paying out some claims for disrupted holidays and travel, most insurance policies again do not cover ‘Acts of God’ and are going to be of little support or comfort to trapped travellers.

Says Jacqueline: “Whilst some insurers are settling claims now, it is difficult to see them continuing to do so if eruptions continue for some time as many are predicting.  It is also unclear as to how the EU regulations are to be interpreted for extended delays and how long an airline must continue to provide support.”

Gullands also recommends that people about to go on holiday with a package tour operator contact that operator before travelling.  “Tour operators must refund the customers for the whole holiday if trips are cancelled and they cannot get to their destination.  In practice, tour operators generally allow holiday-makers to defer the date of their holiday, accept an alternative holiday package, which is unlikely to be appropriate in the current circumstances, or receive a full refund,” says Jacqueline.

For those who have parked their car at one of the various airport car parks Jacqueline offers this advice: “EU travel regulations, travel insurance policies and the Consumer Credit Act do not cover extended delays to cars parked at the airport and we would suggest that travellers trapped abroad contact the car park operators individually and see if they would waive any fees incurred due to the extended delay.  If you leave it until you return you may have little or no choice but to pay up.”

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Gullands is one of Kent’s premier law firms, offering city expertise at provincial rates.  Founded more than a century ago, the firm has a well-established and expanding commercial and private client base.  From its offices in Kent’s county town, Maidstone, the firm’s 11 partners and 49 support staff have expertise in all areas of law including corporate, construction and employment.

For further information contact:

Matt Baldwin, Coast Communications
Tel: 01233 503200 / 07930 439739

Jacqueline Beadle, Gullands
Tel: 01622 689700