✉ My wife and I had booked an Aer Lingus flight from Manchester to New York on New Years Eve, which was canceled due to a lack of crew; the Omicron Covid variant has been implicated. We were re-bused to Heathrow for an American Airlines flight but on arrival we were told there were no seats and after one night in a hotel we flew out the next day. I submitted a claim in early January for compensation of £500 per person for the 10pm delay. Aer Lingus has taken until the end of March to respond and refuses to accept my complaint, citing an exemption from Regulation EU261/2004 under “extraordinary circumstances”. I took my complaint to the CEO of the airline to no avail and I am stepping it up now through the Civil Aviation Authority. Do I have a valid claim?
Surely you have a valid claim under UK law, as do all travelers whose flights have been significantly delayed or canceled at short notice due to staff shortages in recent weeks. While Aer Lingus could claim the “extraordinary circumstances” exemption for situations beyond its control, such as adverse weather conditions or air traffic control strikes, staff illness does not fall into this category. When I sent the details of your case to the airline, they quickly agreed to pay the £500 per person compensation you are entitled to for a long distance flight delayed for more than three hours. He apologized for “any inconvenience caused”.
Last year’s Grand Prix in Imola, Italy
✉ My husband loves Formula 1 and I would like to take him to Imola, near Bologna in northern Italy, as a birthday present in June. Is it possible to take a tour of the circuit and could you recommend a good hotel nearby? Ideally there would be a spa and tennis courts and I hope not to have to pay more than £1000 for a three night stay.
No doubt your hubby will be glued to the Imola Grand Prix this weekend and he can expect a tour – by minibus – that does two laps of the track as well as stops at the starting grid, the Tamburello corner and the Ayrton Senna Memorial. There is also a visit to the control room and the podium for the obligatory selfie (magnums of fizz not provided). It costs £25 pp or £32 pp if he fancy the tour plus a ride in an F1 simulator to see if he can beat Lewis Hamilton’s lap record (imolafaenza.it).
Stay in the nearby Bolognese hills at the swish Palazzo di Varignana, a favorite of F1 teams. The resort and elegantly decorated villas, converted from abandoned farm workers’ cottages, are spread over a sprawling estate. There’s an award-winning spa, tennis courts, numerous outdoor pools, three restaurants, and a maze to get lost in. Tastings of local wine (the pinot noir is particularly good) and olive oil can be arranged, and you might attend a classical concert in the amphitheater. Three nights’ B&B starts at £1,055 on June 9, including access to the spa (palazzovarignana.it).
✉ Booked a family trip to Amsterdam with Expedia worth just over £1000 to celebrate my wife’s 60th birthday in May 2020 which was canceled due to Covid travel restrictions . Expedia would only give me a voucher to use at the same hotel and after some arguing I accepted it as we still wanted to do the trip and booked for October 2021. But again I was forced to cancel as Dutch government regulations prevented travel from the UK then. At this point Expedia said the voucher had been redeemed and refused to honor another reservation or refund me. Eventually after months of back and forth he agreed and I tried to book for May 2022 but now he has a new tactic. Every time I get in touch I am promised a call back to arrange the booking, but it never comes.
Research last fall found UK consumers received £4.7billion in credit for canceled trips and events due to the pandemic. Travel Doctor’s virtual mailbag is full of complaints from readers like you who still can’t redeem the vouchers they’ve accepted from travel agencies. Expedia said it was ‘disheartening’ to hear about your rebooking issues, processed the refund and offered a £200 discount on future travel. “Our team has contacted the Pughs to confirm their reservation and we are also offering them a goodwill gesture for the inconvenience,” a spokeswoman said.
Canal houses in Amsterdam
✉ We are in our early eighties and would like to have a relaxing but interesting vacation somewhere we have never been before on our last big trip. We have done cruises on the Rhine, Danube, Nile and Mekong, and would consider another one on a small boat (but not a basic cabin). Up to three weeks in October would be perfect and our budget is a maximum of £15,000.
Hopefully this won’t be your last big trip, but a harvest-time cruise along the Douro in northern Portugal in early October would be a spectacular enough finale (with the added bonus of no jet lag ). Scenic offers a 16-night itinerary on the 96-passenger Scenic Azure that includes dizzying wine tours as well as stays in Lisbon and Madrid; it costs from £6,224 pp in a balcony suite (scenic.co.uk).
Alternatively, while you’ve no doubt been to France before, you might consider seeing it in style on Uniworld’s 14-night wine and art-soaked cruise from Bordeaux to Paris. This combines two of its French itineraries and is split between two ships, with TGV transfer between the two and excursions including the 17th-century citadel of Blaye, Pauillac (home of Château Latour) and the Normandy beaches; there is also plenty of time to relax on the terrace. It costs from £7,399 pp in early October in a balcony suite, including flights or Eurostar (uniworld.com).
✉ We booked a Disney cruise from Barcelona in May for our family of five adults and two children. When we booked, Disney’s vaccination policy stated that children not eligible for the vaccine had to provide a negative PCR test before the cruise. As the UK now offers vaccination for children aged 5-11, our two grandchildren, aged five and six, will receive the first shot, but find it impossible for them to be fully vaccinated by May. Our travel agent has repeatedly asked Disney if we can travel and since the cruise is only a few weeks away, we need a definitive answer.
The new vaccination rules have saved many family cruises booked for the summer holidays but unfortunately not those for the middle of May. Disney Cruises’ vaccination rules are clear: it insists that all passengers aged five and over are fully vaccinated, so you won’t be able to make the trip. You should be able to get a refund if you cancel now.
● Where can I travel with unvaccinated children?
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