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Traveller advice: How to handle the problems of cancelled flights and lost luggage

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Airport view of a plane loading passengers

International travel is a true adventure. Travelling to foreign lands lets you experience new cultures, different tastes and more. Sometimes travel can even be weather related, with the British heading to sunny Spain while Americans head down to equally sunny Mexico.

Adventure travel is an exciting option, allowing you head off into the wild blue yonder to climb mountains, hike rainforests and dare to paddle down white-water rapids. African holidays can include anything from a beach experience to an exciting safari in the wild bush.

All these options make us long to travel the world again, but sometimes things go wrong. How do we handle these situations as they happen?

Flight delays and cancellations

Imagine this. You’ve booked flights for the whole family, confirmed your hotel accommodations and are already packed for your holiday a week before. Your company has given you the required leave despite staffing pressures. Meanwhile, the kids are beside themselves with excitement, and the parents are also longing to get away on their family holiday.

This is when one of the worse travel situations can arise. Your flight is either delayed, or even worse, cancelled until further notice. Flight cancellations are happening a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic era, but they also happen during normal times. Naturally, this truly messes with your hotel bookings, your arranged leave and more. The kids only have a few days left of their school holidays, meaning it is the only time you can travel together.

People queuing at the airport for their flight

EU regulation No. 261/2004 to the rescue

What a lot of people living in the EU don’t know, is that they can receive compensation for flight cancellations. EU regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 set by the European Parliament lays out common rules. These relate to compensation and assistance for passengers whose flights are cancelled, or delayed for a long period.

Not only does the EU261 regulation protect passengers, however. It also holds airlines accountable for each flight disruption caused by them. Meanwhile, the regulation also gives airlines a strong incentive to improve their future performance.

What situations apply?

Passengers are due to receive compensation from the airline in several circumstances. This includes being denied boarding, due to the flight being overbooked. This is a common problem when airlines are trying to keep their budget in the black. The regulation also applies when a flight is cancelled and the airline hasn’t given you at least 14 days warning in advance. Another situation is where the flight does take off as planned, but suffers lengthy delays, landing at your destination more than three hours late.

Lost luggage

There is nothing worse than standing for hours at the luggage carousel, watching the odd suitcase go round and around, but with no sign of your own luggage. Everything you need is stored inside the lost suitcase, including your carefully selected holiday clothing, toiletries, books, DVDs and more. If it is a return trip, all your carefully selected souvenirs are tucked inside.

I personally suffered such a loss when flying home from a business trip. I worked for a travel agency at the time and we wore a uniform. This meant all my various outfits were inside my suitcase. Shortly before leaving to fly home, I went to the luggage room at the hotel, only to find my suitcase was gone, while a similar dark red suitcase remained. The owner must have been in a hurry and grabbed the wrong one.

In the result, my suitcase enjoyed a world tour and definitely flew further than I ever have. It travelled all over Asia before finally arriving back home. I was lucky. Everything was still stored safely inside the suitcase.

Lost luggage

Experts reckon that around 85 percent of lost luggage does return to its owner, but there is always that darn 15 percent that doesn’t. According to the citizens’ advice bureau, the airline has 21 days to find your luggage and return it to you. As long as you promptly report the loss to the airline, you can receive compensation for the lost luggage should the airline not manage to find it.

There are also a number of precautions you can take with your luggage. Ensure that it is firmly locked and clearly marked with your name and flight number. If this doesn’t work, make sure you have adequate flight insurance to cover the loss of any valuables in your suitcase.

Here’s hoping for worry free travel in the future, where everything goes smoothly. However, should things go wrong, at least you know you have some recourse.

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Latest update: November 17, 2020