How to make a claim when your holiday goes wrong

Plenty of people were in trouble over the Bank Holiday

airliner against sunset sky

Holidaymakers had a frustrating bank holiday weekend and for once it had nothing to do with torrential rain or traffic jams on the motorway.

A computer system failure at British Airways led to massive disruption at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and had knock-on effects worldwide.

See also: Overbooking flights helps us save cash

See also: Odd reasons for flight delays - what if it happens to you?

Most who were caught up in this will be owed compensation.

But, this kind of disruption can happen at any time, so it's important to know your rights whether you were flying BA this weekend, or your upcoming holiday gets affected by a similar situation.

What are you entitled to?

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you might be due compensation. But this depends on the kind of flight and how long you were delayed for.

For short-haul flights you need to have been delayed for at least two hours, three hours for medium-haul and four hours for long-haul.

The amount of compensation you're entitled to for cancellations and delayed flights depends on the type of flight and length of delay.

If you're delayed overnight, the airline must provide you with a hotel room and transfers between the airport and the hotel.

You can find out more about how this works on the Civil Aviation Authority website.

This does not apply for disruption caused by things outside the airlines control, such as a strike.

How do I make a claim?

You will not get this compensation automatically. You must write a letter of complaint to the airline.

A lot more information about claiming compensation from airlines is available on the Which? website.

If the airline accepts this letter, then refunds must be paid within seven days. You might also be offered re-bookings for flights cancelled at short notice.

You are also entitled to refunds for food, transport and accommodation during your delay, so make sure you keep hold of your receipts.

But there are other things you can do while you're booking to give you some added protection.

Get protection

ATOL protection is one of those things we've all heard of at the end of adverts, but are not really sure what it is.

It stands for Air Travel Organiser's Licence. Simply put, if your tour operator, airline or hotel goes bust, you will get all your money back.

You should make sure everyone who you are booking with is covered by ATOL before making any payments.

Travel insurance is also worth considering (although this is certainly not a replacement for ATOL). This can cover you for many eventualities, but there are a lot of different policies available so you need to do your research.

Added protection

Getting extra protection when you book your holiday is easy. Simply pay using your credit card.

Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you are covered for all purchases over £100 up to £30,000.

This way, if your flight is cancelled, or your tour operator goes bust, you'll get all your money back.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule, like booking flights through a third party, such as a travel agent.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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