However, if the worst should happen and your journey is delayed or cancelled, you may be able to claim a full refund or compensation.
If you’re left stranded, follow our guide to any claims and refunds due.
Travelling by train?
Rail companies all have individual rules on refunds and compensation, therefore you’ll need to take a look at your train company’s website to confirm exactly how much you would receive if your train has been delayed or cancelled.
For example, Virgin Trains start offering 25% (of a single fare) compensation in National Rail vouchers for delays between 60 to 119 minutes, whereas Southern Rail give passengers 50% compensation of a single fare (again in National Rail vouchers) if their delay is between 30 and 59 minutes.
How to claim compensation for a delayed rail journey
When you have found out the refund policy of the rail company you are travelling with, take a look on their site for online forms you can fill out as well as a print-off version to send in the post. Sometimes these are available to pick up at railway stations and even on trains too.
The form will ask you to fill in details such as your scheduled departure time, when the train actually departed and how long you were delayed for when you arrived at the destination. Be sure to write down as much information as possible, it'll only strengthen your case for compensation.
You'll also have to send your original tickets in the post, so make sure you save copies – online refund forms will require you to scan your tickets and attach a picture.
If you're not getting anywhere, there are ways to complain further. You can always write a letter or phone the customer services department of your rail provider if you believe the service is unsatisfactory. If you are still unhappy with how your complaint is being handled then you may take it to an Ombudsman. There are various bodies you can contact. Take a look at the Office of Rail Regulation site for further information.
Season ticket holders
If you have a season ticket, there are two ways of getting compensation. Most operators offer refunds on either a delay/repay method or discount on renewal.
The delay/repay scheme allows passengers with annual, monthly or weekly season tickets to claim compensation for delays as if they had bought a single or return ticket. This means you could be entitled to much more than what you actually paid for travelling that day, given the discounts on season tickets.
Discount on renewal is very much the old way of offering compensation to passengers. Season ticket holders can receive a discount if the average punctuality and reliability of a service, over a period of time, is not within specified targets. You'll be lucky to get a discount with this kind of system though as every train company seems to average a better level of service each year.
Travelling by air?
In the event of a flight cancellation, your airline must either offer you a full refund for your ticket or rebook you on to a later flight subject to their rebooking policy.
If you're left stranded by a flight cancellation or delay and you decide to still travel, then your airline has to offer some form of package until the next scheduled departure. This tends to be food and drink, two phone calls, hotel accommodation (if overnight stay is necessary) as well as travel to and from that hotel.
The costs of these are either covered straight away by the airline or refunded at a later date – it all depends on the airline’s policy, so make sure you request a receipt for every payment made. Before you make any arrangements, contact the airline and find out exactly what will be refunded, this way you are clear on how much to spend.
If you've booked flights and accommodation independently then, unfortunately, you're on your own with sorting out and cancelling any other travel arrangements such as accommodation or car hire. After accepting a full refund or rescheduling the flight, you'll have to sort out rebooking your accommodation and paying any incurring costs, so this is where travel insurance is useful.
If, however, you booked your flights as part of a package holiday, you can expect any issues to be protected by the ATOL scheme. This means your tour operator will make new arrangements as and when is necessary. These can range from covering extra accommodation costs if flights are delayed to a full refund. Speak to your travel operator to find out their policy.
Compensation for delayed flights
At the end of last year, an EU court judgement clarified that passengers travelling by air could claim compensation if their flights were delayed by three or more hours. However, if the delay is caused by “extraordinary circumstances” - these are mainly issues outside of an airline's control, such as extreme weather – you will not be able to claim compensation.
Therefore, you will not be able to claim compensation if a flight is delayed or cancelled because of the forecast snow, but your airline is required to look after you.
The value of travel insurance
These issues highlight the importance of taking out travel insurance when you book any break, especially if you aren’t booking a package holiday.
When you buy a policy, look out for clauses covering travel delays, cancellation and curtailment paying particular attention to whether additional costs such as cancelled hotels or missed flights will be covered.
It’s worth noting, however, that if you don’t already have travel insurance for your trip in the next few days and you buy it knowing that snow is forecast, you are unlikely to be covered.
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