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August 10, 2007 4:45 pm

Whinge on the web if you feel let down

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Millions of holidaymakers are suffering appalling travel conditions this summer, with crammed airport terminals, slow security checks and delayed air and rail services fast taking the gloss off their trips.

If you have experienced delays or poor service with any travel plans, you may jump at the chance to voice your grievances. There are a series of websites you can log on to that permit you to channel your grumblings and, more importantly, help you gain some compensation.

Which?, the consumer advocacy group, offers an informative section on your rights as an airline pass-enger on its website, www.which.co.uk.

The group says specific European Union regulations were introduced in 2005 to set out what sort of compensation is available to airline passengers if their flights are cancelled or delayed.

The European Union Denied Boarding Regulation law applies to flights where your reservation has been confirmed, you have checked-in at the right time and you are departing from an airport within the EU. Flights departing from airports outside the EU are also covered if they are taken on an EU airline.

Neil Fazakerley at Holiday Which? says the level of compensation due depends on how late your flight is.

If your flight is cancelled, airlines are required by law to offer either a choice of a refund or re-routing to your final destination. If the flight is delayed, Which? says you have a “clear-cut, statutory right to food and refreshments”. Accommodation must be provided if you have been re-routed, and financial compensation may also be demanded depending on the length of the delay and the distance covered.

Unfortunately this legislation has largely been ignored by airlines, according to Which?. The group is campaigning for the regulation to be upheld so consumers receive appropriate redress when things go wrong. Which? offers links from its website to letter templates you can use to reclaim money lost on a cancelled flight.

Fazakerley says airlines also have a legal obligation to compensate you if they lose your baggage. Claims should be made directly to the airline, which is liable for about the first £800 or so of lost luggage.

Another website to turn to with airline complaints is Skytrax (www.airlinequality.com/index.htm). This offers links to forums where you can voice opinions on how different airlines and airports stack up. Skytrax gives star awards to airlines it considers superior such as Gulf Air and Thai Airways.

Managers of airlines have not looked kindly on complaint websites in the past. Just two years ago, Ryanair launched a legal battle to shut down websites aimed at encouraging passengers to criticise its services. Two of the most popular Ryanair complaint sites, Ryanair.org.uk and Ryanaircomplaints.oneuk.com, were closed.

One still in operation is Ryanaircampaign (www.ryanaircampaign.org), a site that provides standard addresses and e-mails for complaints and attempts to address incidents involving flight mishaps on the budget airline. The site’s founder set up the website after a poor flight on Ryanair in September of 2003.

Register with Traindelays.co.uk and you are offered the opportunity to report delays experienced on One Railway, First Great Western, First Capital Connect, South Eastern Trains and 20 other national railways as well as links to claim forms for various train operators, which can be downloaded or e-mailed.

One Railway has seen 1,135 delays so far this year while Virgin trains has reported just 77, according to the site.

Chris Davy, founder of Traindelays.co.uk, reports that one subscriber to the site has claimed £1,200 in a year while another has claimed £900. On average, claims range from £13 to £50 per month. “That’s quite a lot of money,” says Davy.

Martin Lewis, founder of moneysavingexpert.com, a pro-consumer website, sees the movement to make efforts to reclaim money lost due to poor transportation links as a good one. But he hopes the trend does not turn litigious.

“The growing number of people in the UK who are looking to reclaim money from service providers is phenomenal,” Lewis says. “But there is a strong dividing line between reclaiming and compensation. We don’t want to get into a litigious state like in the US.”

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