Ash-cloud payout fears for operators ‘exaggerated’

Claims that small operators will be forced out of business by expense payouts to consumers stranded during the ash crisis have been exaggerated, according to Travlaw senior partner Stephen Mason.

A rash of claims is expected to hit small-claims courts in October as passengers seek to recover accommodation, travel and living costs following the ash cloud.

Guidance from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) appears to make operators liable. However, Mason argues that other government advice clearly places the responsibility with the airlines.

BIS has claimed that if a flight is delayed, consumers are entitled to have basic necessities including accommodation and meals paid for by the operator, which can then claim back money from the airline.

However, advice released by the Trading Standards Coordination Group on Package Travel says operators “should provide prompt assistance, but this may not be the same as paying for all eventualities (accommodation, meals, taxis etc)”.

The advice then tells operators to refer customers promptly to the airlines for compensation.

While Mason does not believe the conflicting advice is enough to exempt operators from paying compensation, he added it would certainly help any legal defence.

He added: “With the Trading Standards advice, the judge is much more likely to say he will make his own mind up. Operators could use it not as a defence but as an argument.”

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