Last week Which? reported on the French air traffic controller strikes that grounded hundreds of European flights, stranding thousands of people. I was one of the many travellers affected, stuck in a foreign country.
After four days sunning myself on a beach in Gran Canaria, I was all set to come home on Tuesday 11 June. But arriving at the airport two hours before my 12.10pm Ryanair flight, I found it had been cancelled.
Without any further information obviously available, I headed to the Ryanair desk, where I had to wait in a queue for around one hour. Through overhearing broken conversations from other English-speaking holidaymakers, I realised that affected Ryanair passengers had been sent an email.
Checking my emails on my phone (which cost me money), I had been sent an email at 6.40am that morning informing me that the flight had been cancelled due to the strike, and that I would be able to transfer to the next available one, or get a refund.
Finding my way home
Well, the next available Ryanair flight to my original destination, London, was on Saturday 15 June! There was a flight scheduled for the next day, but this was a little risky as it was still during the planned strike action. Wanting to get back to the UK sooner, I opted for a flight to Bristol on the Thursday instead.
I was lucky compared to a lot of other travellers – staying with friends who live there meant I didn’t have to fork out for more nights in a hotel. But I did have to pay for transport to and from the Gran Canaria airport, a train from Bristol to London and general living costs that I hadn’t budgeted for.
Do I have a right to claim?
So will I get any of this money back? According to the Denied Boarding Regulations, if your flight is cancelled you are entitled to ‘assistance’, ie food, refreshments and, in the case of not being able to fly until the next day or later, accommodation and transfers to and from the airport.
But I wasn’t told about my rights when I transferred my flight. Not having had prior warning about this assistance, and because I was staying with friends, I didn’t get receipts for everything. If you’re ever in a similar situation, make sure you do.
In addition, I didn’t talk to Ryanair about financial help with the train from Bristol to London. Airlines sometimes agree to help with onward travel costs, as it can mean saving on the accommodation and assistance costs they have to pay while you wait. I’ll have to see what Ryanair says when I send a letter explaining the situation and expenses.
My insurance policy regrets
On top of ‘assistance’, you can sometimes claim compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight. But, if the airline can prove ‘extraordinary circumstances’, such as strike action, compensation is not payable.
I also checked my travel insurance policy to see if I could get further help. But because my cover is basic, I’m not covered for strike action. Looking at our unexpected event insurance cover ratings before I bought a policy would have been handy.
Were you affected by the strikes? Are you planning on trying to claim back the extra money you spent while you were stranded?