Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q. I was on holiday in Mallorca in April last year, when the volcanic ash emergency struck. My hotel was booked via I was to have stayed from April 13 to 20, paying £133.35. Because of the eruption, we had to extend the stay via Alpharooms until April 29, at an extra £147.97.   But easyJet put on extra flights, so we flew home on April 27.   Alpharooms and the hotel have refused to refund the unused element of the accommodation which cost us £37. JB, Surrey.

A. We had difficulty contacting your insurer, Columbus Direct, who eventually told us that your policy did not provide cover in these circumstances. We then spoke with Alpharooms, which is definite that under EU regulation easyJet has an obligation to meet your additional travel costs of the extra eight days accommodation – covering the nights you stayed and the additional nights that you booked, but ultimately did not use. However, as a gesture of goodwill Alpharooms has agreed to pay the two nights’ accommodation that you did not use. Despite the apparent legal responsibility lying with easyJet, you have declined our offer to request the airline repay the cost of the eight nights. You believe it is unfair to expect airlines to meet the costs in these circumstances and are not prepared to ask easyJet for the money.

Q. I purchased in February last year a return ticket from London Gatwick to Accra, Ghana with Ghana International Airways, buying the e-ticket through an online travel agency, paying by BACS transfer. I was to have flown out on 17 April last year and returned on 30 April. Because of the ash cloud, the outward flight was cancelled. In May last year, Ghana International Airways wrote to me advising that I could either have a refund via the travel agent or an alternative flight later in the year. Before I had decided, GIA suspended all flights. Local contacts in Accra tell me the GIA offices have closed and my phone calls and correspondence has gone unanswered. Last September, I spoke to the Ghana High Commission in London which told me they were waiting for the ‘green light’ from the Ghana Government to authorise refunds to passengers. Subsequent requests for further information have been ignored. My emails to the British High Commission in Accra, and to my MP, have been ignored. SG, Blackpool.

A. It has taken us several months to make contact with all the parties involved, trying to obtain a refund – without success. Ghana International Airways has ceased trading. A spokesman for the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority says: “I am afraid his only option is to seek compensation through his insurers. ATOL is not an issue here and by all accounts the airline is as good as defunct, so he has no one to pursue for Denied Boarding Compensation. This case really does highlight the need to book airline tickets and holidays with a credit card. Whatever subsequently happens, passengers have a level of protection through the Consumer Credit Act. It cannot be emphasised enough that paying by BACS or in cash for airline tickets is a very high risk strategy.” While some travel insurance policies would have covered this loss, your policy did not. A spokeswoman for the policy’s underwriters, A2Z, says: “The travel insurance that he bought through the Quote Banana price comparison is a budget policy provided by A2Z which does not include airline financial failure and while delay and cancellation of flights is covered, it is for a range of specified circumstances – these are explained in the policy document.  It is worth pointing out that several other policies – albeit costing more – are also offered on Quote Banana which do however, include more comprehensive cover that would have provided some recompense.” The policy underwriters also recommend that in future that you use a credit card to make any large air ticket purchases and also that you ensure that the travel insurance policy you buy does cover financial failure of the airline. It also suggests that you consider only using ATOL-bonded airlines and ABTA member travel agencies. Ghana International Airlines was reportedly majority-owned by the Ghana government. We attempted to discuss the situation with its High Commission in London, but it referred us to its ‘welfare office’ where calls were not answered.

Q. My brother lives on a caravan site near Chichester. On May 20 he purchased an Indesit washing machine from Curry’s, paying £20 for express delivery for the next day, when my husband and I were to visit him and plumb it in. When the machine arrived in the late afternoon, we found two transit bolts were loose. We were told this was always the case. But after the delivery van left we found the other transit bolts were very tight and the upper bolts could not be removed at all. We removed the top of the machine and it was clear the machine had heavily dropped causing the top mountings to be fractured from the drum moulding. My brother immediately phoned Curry’s. When he eventually spoke to someone, we were told to phone a number – which turned out to be the same one he had already called. When I phoned it again, an automated message said the office was now closed and that we would need to phone back the next day. When I did so, I was told we had to resolve the problem with Indesit – which was nonsense. I emailed Curry’s and two days later I was told my brother must go to the branch. There he was told to provide the machine’s serial number – which I had already supplied. He has gone back to the store and was told they were sorting it out – but nothing is happening. This is costing my brother a lot of money as he has to keep using his mobile to phone Curry’s. SB, Chichester.

A. Curry’s has agreed to urgently replace your brother’s washing machine and, as a gesture of goodwill, to install it free of charge.

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