As Hurricane Sandy is set to hit the North East coast of the US, it is expected to be one of the worst in decades and will inevitably disrupt travel for some time to come – 7,000 flights are already cancelled.
So what can you do if you are affected by a cancellation?
A state of emergency has been declared in New York as winds of up to 80 mph have been predicted for at least 24 hours, along with all the accompanying heavy downpours and high tides. Major carriers are cancelling flights in out and out New York's airports. BA and Virgin Atlantic have cancelled all their flights to and from New York, Washington and Boston – Baltimore and Philadelphia are also experiencing a large number of cancellations already. All of this will bound to have knock on effects within the US – but also to Europe too as planes and crews will be in the wrong places to service timetables on schedule.
If you are directly affected by the cancellations, all the airlines are operating what is known as a 'flexible travel policy' which lets you change your reservations (or to cancel) without paying a fee. If you contact your airline direct it will help you through the process.
Good news if you are with an EU airline and you are stranded overseas, as they have to follow stringent rules and cover reasonable meals and overnight accommodation until you can secure a flight out. The fact that cancellations are due to 'exceptional circumstances' means that they don't have to pay compensation, but they do have to look after you. However, you will also have to follow local safety advice so you can still expect a certain level of local disruption.
If you are with a US airline, there is no blanket policy, each airline operates its owns rules. You need to contact the airline – don't be tempted to go to the airport to do this, make contact via the phone or through your agent.
Contact your travel insurance company – let them know the situation and alert them to the fact that you will be making a claim. If you have used a professional company, such as Westhill Insurance Services, we will do all that we can to help you. If you have booked via a comparison site you may find you situation a little less clear. The dedicated team at Westhill Insurance Services will be able to advise exactly what you are covered for and then make sure what you arrange is within the rules, and we will offer such tips as making sure you keep receipts for anything you want to claim for. We are on your side and when the going gets tough, that counts for a lot.
If you are affected by knock-on effects when flying within the EU or with an EU carrier, you will not have the same cancellation rights, but you will be entitled to assistance if you are stranded at the airport. It depends on the distance of the journey, but after three or four hours you will be entitled to refreshments and two free phone calls. If you are stuck overnight, you are entitled to comfortable accommodation. If you are flying anywhere in the next few days, double-check that there are no cancellations before you head for the airport – this could save you much discomfort and time.
If your outgoing flights are cancelled, there are different issues to face. If you booked a package, you should have the opportunity to rebook. If you booked separate flights and accommodation, you need to speak with your airline to work out whether their rebooking policy works for you, or whether you are better off cancelling. You will then need to contact your hotel and any car hire company or other business you have made a booking with. Cancel these at all costs otherwise you will end up paying the full amount outstanding. Check with your travel insurer for whether they cover 'irrecoverable costs' as this pays for any cancellation fees you incur.
Seek insurance advice for business and pleasure travel
Clearly the storms are going to cause travel chaos for some time to come and many thousands of people will be stranded or disappointed. Seek help as soon as possible and you may avoid losing too much time and money. If you want help with travel insurance (business or pleasure), call Westhill Insurance Services and take our advice: as an independent insurance company we will shop around to find the best deal to suit your budget and will make sure you get the right sort of insurance to meet your travel needs. If you do get into stormy waters, then our helpful staff will do all that they can to help you: the last thing you need at a time of such stress is to be left with no help or advice – one call to Westhill insurance is all you need to ensure your peace of mind.
Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.