Consumer rights expert Martyn James of Resolver has run through all the things you need to be aware of before you jet abroad this summer – from passport delays to Covid rules…
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Holidays are back!
But before you rush to book some much-missed time in the sun, there are a whole new range of things to be aware of since the last time you jetted off abroad.
I’ve been flooded with complaints from people struggling with booking issues, voucher problems, passport problems and much more.
The fact is there are lots of things you need to watch out for these days when booking a holiday – including price rises and Covid rules for your destination.
Here’s my guide on what to watch out for to make sure you’re not left out of pocket.
There have been so many things for holidaymakers to worry about that one of the most obvious problems has been forgotten.
The Passport Office has been hit by huge demand, which means long delays to get your passport.
Now many of us might be thinking we still have a year to go before the deadline for renewal comes up. Only there’s a twist…
When the UK left the European Union, there are some benefits we had as a member state that no longer apply.
One of those benefits relates to the expiry date on your passport.
If you applied to have your passport renewed early, the rules allowed the UK Passport Office to add on the extra months you would have lost.
So if you had eight months left on your passport, that means your expiry date would be ten years and eight months from the point of renewal.
Not only that, but you must have three months on your passport before expiry based on the date you leave the country you are visiting.
Confused? Most people are.
Imagine you are leaving Spain on June 1, 2022. Your passport must have an issue date after September 1, 2022 or you may be refused boarding by the airline when you leave for your holiday.
Even if your passport says it expires in June 2023, it’s the issue date that matters.
Though complaints about refunds dominated the last few years, vast numbers of people accepted vouchers in lieu of travel, on the understanding we’d be able to get away soon.
The majority of the airlines I spoke to extended their vouchers deadlines to allow for the fact that holidays weren’t ‘bookable’ – but be warned, those vouchers may be just about to expire.
In many cases, people have reported vouchers expiring without a clear reminder from an airline or holiday firm.
Before you book, log on and locate the vouchers, find out how to use then and when in the booking process this occurs – and ask about any other quirks.
I recently discovered one major airline only allows you to use one voucher per booking – and if you try to book separate flights, it will only let you book in the currency the voucher is in.
Restrictions may have ended in the UK, but Covid rules still apply in many countries around the world.
Some countries are still effectively closed to holiday makers, so check before you book.
The rise of the highly contagious Omicron variant means Covid can not only ruin your holiday plans at the last minute, it can drastically reduce numbers of airline staff, airport security and baggage handlers.
That’s why it doesn’t hurt to ask in advance if you can get a refund or new date if your holiday can’t take place.
Check with the hotel or apartment too in case you need to shift your dates.
Airport queues and airline cancelations
Pre-pandemic, complaints about flight delays and cancellations regularly topped Resolver’s ‘most complained about’ lists, with hundreds of thousands of complaints.
Though the Government has announced that post Brexit, some changes may be made to the rules, for now, they are more or less the same. I’ve got an all-new guide here.
The key issue for many people is when you might get compensation.
As a general rule, if your airline could have anticipated the problem then they usually have to compensate.
That includes technical problems – or even their staff going on strike.
If the situation is out of their control, like air traffic control strikes, then you probably won’t.
In recent months, we’ve seen airport chaos where people couldn’t get through security or check in due to massive queues.
We’ll have to see how airlines handle this, because in theory the situation is the responsibility of the airport.
Most airlines seem to be allowing people to rebook but make sure you make some noise (nicely) if you’re waiting in line and running out of time.
Oh, and don’t forget the old rules about liquids still apply.
Airport staff have told me that hand luggage searches are increasing dramatically due to people forgetting what they can and can’t pack.
Price rises are back
Over lockdown, many of the annoying extra costs that airlines and holiday firms could apply were suspended.
But many of them are back – and the only way to know for sure what you might pay is to look before you book.
By far the biggest source of teeth gnashing is the cost for changing a booking, from moving it forward to correcting typos.
Unfortunately, airlines can charge these fees, which means you need to be absolutely sure about your dates and details before you book.
Airlines learned before the pandemic that people pushing the cabin bag limits were costing them time and money due to problems getting everyone on the plane and items in the overhead lockers.
Restrictions on bag size and weight are much stricter now so get that tape measure out or face a hefty charge at check in.
Watch out for ever increasing charges for seats too, with some legroom options pushing £50.