Q: I cannot help you get your luggage back. I can help you reduce the chance that your luggage will go astray in the first place, and the effects of any loss.
A: These are my top tips:
- Don’t check anything in. British Airways and easyJet have very generous cabin baggage policies – allowing you to carry on board a piece of luggage measuring 56 x 45 x 25cm (a maximum volume of 63 litres and a weight of 23kg (BA) or anything you like (easyJet). Even if your bag is taken from you at the gate and put on the hold, there is an extremely good chance it will appear at the far end.
- Don’t allow anything to go in the hold that you cannot afford to lose. if you are going “hand luggage only” and your case is taken away, take out valuables such as your laptop, iPad or jewellery.
- If you have to check in baggage, consider paying a premium to fly non-stop. Whether you are heading for Bangkok, Boston or Buenos Aires, changing planes along will certainly save you money. But it will also significantly increase the chance that your bag will not make the same journey that you do, with all the stress and hassle that involves.
- Checked-in baggage should always contain your name and address inside the case; if every identifying tag gets torn off in the tender mercies of the baggage-handling system, a big label inside the bag is a fairly foolproof way of getting it back to you.
- When packing, assume that anything you check in will be lost without trace, and imagine how you will feel if it does.
Q: What does Brexit mean for travellers?
A: Our most intense engagement with Europe is when we holiday there.
With the peak travel season about to begin, millions of British holidaymakers are set to discover the immediate effects of the Leave vote in pushing up prices abroad. Longer term, there will be more big changes.
Q: I’m planning to go to the Canaries/Croatia/America next week, but my passport expires in three months. Do I need to renew it?
A: No. The passport is valid up to and including the date of expiry for travel anywhere in the EU. It is also good for travel in the US up to expiry date providing you have an “ESTA” (esta.cbp.dhs.gov) or a visa. It appears that the suggestion to the contrary has been spread by some lazy holiday companies, who wrongly insist on six months remaining simply because it’s easier than telling customers the right information.
Some key holiday nations – notably Turkey and Egypt – stipulate a certain amount of time must be remaining, and if you are travelling anywhere outside the EU and US you need to check (just search online for “FCO” and the name of the country and you should get the Foreign Office view). If you need to renew your passport, use this link gov.uk/renew-adult-passport rather than one of the many scam sites that will add cost but no value.
Q: My flight was delayed by over three hours – can I claim compensation?
A: That depends. To qualify for compensation of €250 to €600, you must be flying from an EU airport or flying from a non-EU airport on an EU airline. You must have arrived (as opposed to departed) at least three hours late. And the cause of the delay must be within the airline’s control, rather than an “extraordinary circumstance” such as weather, strikes or a security alert. (Whatever the cause of the delay, though, airlines must provide meals and accommodation as appropriate.) Some airlines will readily pay out for delays, but others will defend claims robustly. If your airline isn’t paying, and you are sure you have a reasonable case, then you can take legal action through moneyclaim.gov.uk or go through one of the claims handling firms – though they will typically keep one-third of the compensation you receive.
Q: I’m going to Croatia/Turkey/Egypt – should I get currency in advance?
A: No. I recommend that you use cash as much as possible, in order to be fully aware of the rate of exchange and not subject to bank fees – as you would do if you use a debit card. But do not get Croatian kuna, Turkish lire or Egyptian pounds in large quantities in the UK; you will get a significantly worse rate than you can find locally.
Q: My partner can no longer travel, so I want a friend to take their place on the flight. But the airline says I have to cancel and rebook at a cost of hundreds of pounds. It’s the same plane, same seat, just two words need to be changed on a computer system. Surely this is unfair?
A: At the time you booked you will have agreed to a “no-refund or name-change” stipulation, which most airlines apply to cheap tickets sold well in advance. On a typical flight of 300 passengers, the range of fares paid will be very wide. People who book at the very last minute are generally price-insensitive, and will tolerate a high fare. Others, who are prepared to commit a long way in advance, are looking for low prices. If easy name changes were allowed, then some unscrupulous travellers would buy tickets as soon as they go on sale, 11 months in advance, and sell them to passengers at the last minute for much higher fares – a practice known as “tariff abuse”.
Q: I bought a return flight on British Airways (BA) to Europe, but my plans changed. I bought a separate one-way ticket outbound on easyJet, but when I arrived at the airport to fly back with BA, I was told my reservation had been cancelled and I had to buy another ticket. Why?
A: British Airways did exactly what the vast majority of airlines do, and cancelled your entire itinerary as soon as the check-in deadline expired on your original outbound booking to Europe. While some low-cost airlines, including easyJet and Ryanair, do not apply such a rule, if you need to vary your plans then check with the carrier what the effect will be.
Q: I am taking my two young children on holiday. My travel agent told me I would need to pay extra to make sure we sit together. Is that right?
A: No, and it is one of the most scurrilous claims made by travel firms – driven by the airline’s greed for making more money by selling seat reservations. The Civil Aviation Authority is clear: if you are travelling with under 12s, then each of them must be sat with a responsible adult (which could be adjacent seats separated by an aisle). If the airline provides you with boarding passes that break this rule, then it’s their problem, not yours, and the flight crew will need to sort it out.