Flights resume after ash cloud cancellationsBut problems could soon return

25 May 2011

Flights have resumed after last weekend's volcanic eruption

Flights have resumed after last weekend's volcanic eruption

British airports have started operating normally after this week's volcanic ash disruption, but experts say the cloud could still cause problems over the bank holiday weekend.

According to the Met Office, which issues long- and short-term forecasts about the spread of the ash cloud, debris from the original eruption could be present over the British Isles by noon on Friday. 

But researchers have stressed that it's still too early too make accurate predictions, and that even if the ash is there, it's only likely to be found in high concentrations in upper regions of the atmosphere (between 35,000-55,000 feet).

No blanket ban on flights

A Met Office spokesperson told Which? Travel: 'The news we're hearing at the moment is that there doesn't appear to be more ash coming from the volcano. But lots of things can happen between now and Friday, and the next 24 hours are crucial.'

The fear is that, with higher than usual passenger numbers expected over the bank holiday weekend, the ash cloud could leave thousands of holiday plans in tatters. If you're due to fly in the next few days, make sure you read our guide to dealing with problems caused by the .

The government has said there will be no blanket ban on flights this time around, so it's worth keeping an eye on Met Office forecasts to see which areas are affected. Check with your airline and airport before setting off.

Flight cancelled or delayed?

If your flight is delayed or cancelled you do have some protection under the Denied Boarding Regulations. If your flight is delayed the airline should provide you with:

  • two free phone calls, faxes or emails
  • free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay
  • free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if you need to stay overnight
  • a refund on your ticket (if the delay if 5 hours or more and you choose not to fly).

If you have had a flight cancellation or delay, you can use our template letter for compensation

Travel insurance 

If you're due to travel and have travel insurance already in place, you'll need to check the fine print of your policy to see if it excludes adverse weather conditions. In our latest Which? survey, of the 82 insurers who responded, 27 said they cover adverse weather, including ash clouds, as standard. Ten insurers said you can add cover for eventualities like an ash crisis as an optional extra.

If you've yet to purchase travel insurance for a holiday in the upcoming days, you're highly unlikely to find an insurance company who will cover you for insurance claims related to the ash crisis as it is now a known risk.

However, you may find your flight is simply delayed and you can make your journey, in which case, not having travel insurance will leave you vulnerable for the remainder of your holiday so be sure you've a quality insurance policy in place.

Unless your current policy specifically states that it excludes delays caused by ash clouds, you may be able to make a claim. The Financial Ombudsman Service recently ruled that the ash cloud counts as 'bad weather'- so if you have your claim turned down, you may be able to make a successful appeal to the Financial Ombudsman.

Travel tips

1. Download our free iPhone Consumer Rights app so you've travel rights information at your fingertips.

2. Take a photograph of the departure board detailing your delay or cancellation. It might prove helpful when complaining to an airline or making an insurance claim.

3. If your airline's website confirms they're not flying, take a screen shot or print out so you've a record of this.