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Volcano claims: A cloudy issue

by Access Legal

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As planes are grounded for another day due to volcanic ash, the number of people stranded abroad is increasing dramatically.

We're hearing about how flight cancellations are affecting the economy and big business, but what about those individuals affected and their consumer rights?

Some are making long and exhausting journeys across Europe by train or car, while others are simply having to stay put and wait for the next available flight home.

Getting back to the UK is the first concern for most, but what help is being given by the tour operators to do this, and who pays the bill for rescheduled flights and additional nights of accommodation?

Under an EU Directive, all UK tour operators arranging package holidays usually have responsibility for not only the safety of their holidaymakers, but also for arranging hotels and transfers.

However, when the problems arise as the result of an 'act of God' – force majeure – they are discharged from these obligations.

Holidaymakers who've arranged their own trips are unfortunately left with very little protection. Many airlines are offering refunds, but there's no obligation for them to do this, and there's no right to compensation.

Most of these individuals have holiday insurance, but force majeure also invalidates many holiday insurance policies.

It's therefore important that the terms and conditions in insurance policies are read to establish whether or not you're covered. If you're not, regrettably you'll have to pay for the alternative arrangements, and increased expenses arising from the chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud emanating from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

Whilst it's the case, then, that tour operators and insurance companies are under no requirement to assist or to pay additional expenses, many are, in these unusual circumstances, trying to help where they can.

However, the uncertainty of the situation is only adding to the confusion already experienced by those who find themselves stranded.

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