Summer travel 2022: your questions answered by expert Simon Calder – The Independent

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Plenty of hurdles stand between you and the beach this summer.

Tens of thousands of British Airways flights have been cancelled this summer; Heathrow airport has capped passenger numbers; and easyJet has made a loss because of all the disruption – especially at Gatwick.

On the roads, rails and seas there are a host of problems.

Yet even so, millions of travellers are seeking to get away – and the travel correspondent of The Independent, Simon Calder, tackled questions from some of them.

Flight disruption

Q: If I have a flight from Manchester to London Heathrow to Los Angeles and the Manchester-Heathrow part is cancelled, and the airline can’t find anything else suitable, can I insist they cancel the Manchester-Heathrow bit and insist on keeping the Heathrow-Los Angeles segment, finding my own way to Heathrow?

Cheesemason

A: It looks as though you are booked to fly from Manchester to London Heathrow to Los Angeles with a good connection, but fear that British Airways – which has grounded around 30,000 flights so far this summer – might cancel and not be able to offer a reasonable replacement.

In that hypothetical case you must not drop the Manchester-Heathrow segment without express agreement from BA – otherwise you risk being classed as a no-show and losing the whole itinerary.

Your options rather depend how you define “suitable”: for example an earlier flight with a four-hour connection at London Heathrow, rather than a comfortable 90 minutes, is far from ideal. If that is the situation, you will need to speak to someone at BA to discuss the other options open to you. Perhaps the airline could buy you a rail ticket from Manchester to London and onwards to Heathrow.

If, however, there is no way of getting you on the same day from Manchester to LA using British Airways, then you can argue that the carrier must find you an alternative that allows you to travel on the original day.

The obvious choice would be Aer Lingus from Manchester via Dublin to Los Angeles (also allowing you to clear US Customs and Border Protection while at the Irish airport). The two-hour stop is convenient, and the overall journey is 14h 20m – probably quicker than going via Heathrow.

For future planning: flying from Manchester to California via London strikes me as counter-intuitive, since it involves flying 150 miles in the wrong direction and then flying back over Manchester on your Los Angeles departure. Going via Dublin adds only 35 miles to the direct path between Manchester and the Californian coast.

Q: I booked through Opodo to fly with KLM to Nice last December but due to the French government travel ban had to cancel my trip. I am still waiting for a refund with the Opodo app saying “waiting for airline approval”. KLM say it’s not their problem. It is impossible to speak to Opodo. Can you help?

Craigman

A: I really wish I could help. When Opodo was first set up in 2001 by a consortium of airlines, including British Airways, I used it frequently for good value and service. Since Opodo became a Spanish online travel agent (based in Barcelona), though, its reputation has deteriorated and I would never consider using it unless there were an astonishing price saving.

Unlike a human travel agent who you feel is on your side, online travel agents tend to say it’s the airline’s fault – while the carrier says, you booked through an agent, you must go through them.

All I can suggest is that if you booked because Skyscanner directed you to Opodo, the customer service department of the flight-comparison website may be able to help.

Q: If we miss a connection at airport (Leeds-Dublin-San Francisco) are the airline liable to put us on next available flight? Both flights with same airline.

Samshoe

A: I assume that you have wisely bought a through ticket Leeds Bradford-Dublin-San Francisco (and possibly back). In such as case, standard airline practice – as well as European air passengers’ rights legislation – is on your side.

On the day, if it looks likely that you will miss the connection at the Irish capital because of the late arrival from West Yorkshire, ideally Aer Lingus staff will already be looking at options to get you there on the same day which could involve a later flight from Dublin to Chicago or New York, with onward connections on American Airlines or another Aer Lingus partner.

Having said that, the standard connecting time between the Leeds Bradford arrival at 9.50am and the San Francisco departure at 12.35pm should give you more than enough time. Staff are very focussed on getting UK regional flights to Dublin on time in order to safeguard connections.

The only significant concern I have about time: passing US Customs and Border Protection. Don’t hang about after arrival from Leeds before beginning the formalities.

Q: My wife and I have flights booked with Air France in November to Japan, to visit her family. Air France have rebooked our return flight from Wednesday to the following Saturday. I am trying to move the flight to a better date online. But I just get an error message, and it says to call them. I tried the phone line repeatedly yesterday and today, but it is always too busy to even leave us on hold.

We’re at a loss for what we can do. Please could you tell us our rights?

J89

A: As Air France knows (and is supposed to tell you explicitly), it must find you a solution to return you and your wife from Japan on the same day as originally planned if that is what you want to happen and there are seats available.

The carrier is required to sort this out before you travel. The solution might involve flying some or all the distance to Paris via Seoul on Air France’s partner Korean Air, or even transferring you to a nonstop British Airways flight to London Heathrow.

Right now and through August I don’t expect you will be able to get an answer, though; the call centre is evidently very short staffed at a time of peak demand. I suggest you take a holiday from calling and start pursuing your options again in September. That will still give you a couple of months to sort out a solution.

In your position, though, I would happily keep the rebooked flight and have three more nights in Japan at the airline’s expense. Since Air France has chosen to cancel and extend your stay, under European air passengers’ rights rules it should pay for your hotel and meals (though no alcohol) while you are waiting. Just check that the airline will do this and invite it to book a hotel for you.

Australian flights for Easter 2023

Q: We are hoping to go to Adelaide net Easter. Any tips or strategy for finding a bargain ?  adults and 2 children… Considering an overnight stop on the way for no more than 24 hours. Any suggested routes?

Bill H

A: The sort-of-good news is that Easter (in 2023, Sunday 9 April) is not a particular peak for UK-Australia travel. (Yes, there is a “but” on the way.) But since the coronavirus pandemic air fares to Australia are roughly 50-100 per cent higher than they were in the halcyon days of 2019, which was the all-time peak for low-price opportunities.

I have priced up a London-Adelaide itinerary going out on Saturday 1 April for two weeks, and it is looking like £1,600-£1,700 return via Singapore (always worth a stopover, incidentally).

Fares are partly high because the bargain options – Chinese airlines such as China Eastern and China Southern – are nowhere to be seen. And Cathay Pacific, which for decades was a gold-plated choice for Australia is also much diminished. So don’t book yet. Instead, hope that they will reappear, leading to an increase of competition – or that others will add capacity and help to reduced fares.

Rail disruption

Q: We are flying from Manchester to Guernsey, but are returning to Exeter airport with a train booked from Devon to Manchester on 18 August – one of the rail strike dates.

We have to cancel our hotel a week before to avoid being charged. Our flights with Aurigny are non-refundable. So do we cut our losses and lose (a lot!) of money on the flights? Or go as planned, hope for the best and try and stagger home on the train a day later?

Elin 2011

A: Rail strikes are falling thick and fast, with all three railway unions taking action over the next three weeks. Today and again on Saturday 13 August, train drivers belonging to Aslef who work for a wide range of train operators will walk out. The next action by the RMT union, largely representing other trades, will be on 18 and 20 August – augmented by members of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association working for a number of train operators.

The key disruption on those latter dates will arise from a walk-out by Network Rail signallers who belong to the RMT.

Yet you should still be able to get home. Your flight arrives at Exeter good and early at 8.30am. That gives you the whole day to do battle with the railways. No timetables have been published yet for 18 August. CrossCountry is unlikely to be running trains from Exeter via Bristol and Birmingham to Manchester, but I believe a journey between the southwest and the northwest will be feasible.

Great Western Railway is likely to run trains from Exeter to London Paddington between 7.30am and 6pm. There is no London Underground strike (that happens the following day) so you can smoothly travel from Paddington to Euston Square on the Circle line. Avanti West Coast is likely to be operating one or two trains an hour from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly. The journey will be more cumbersome than you anticipated, but should still be manageable in seven hours or so.

Will your CrossCountry ticket be valid? It is not clear yet, but I believe staff on GWR and Avanti West Coast will accept it (you will probably have to pay the Underground fare across London).

Finally, you might want to explain the situation to Aurigny and see if there is any scope for moving you to the Guernsey-Southampton flight. If that were possible, you would save a great deal of hassle because there is a station right next to Southampton airport, with an hourly service to London Waterloo. Personally I would pay £30 or £40 for the easier journey. Again, there is no clarity about accepting your rail ticket, so I suggest you simply explain the problem and solution.

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