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Travel disruption

Publish date: 08/05/2014

Tags: Stress

Information and guidance for travellers affected by travel disruption.

If you, or someone you know is stranded abroad, consider the following:

  • If you have booked a package holiday, check with your tour operator for information about how your journey might be affected by the disruption. For more detailed guidance relating to package holidays, please see the information below.
  • Keep your receipts. If you think that you are entitled to assistance from your airline but you have had to pay for accommodation yourself keep the receipts to follow up later with your airline.
  • If you have run out of money. Ask a relative or friend to transfer money via a commercial money transfer service. The British Embassy can advise you how to do this.
  • If you are running out of medication. See if this is available at a local pharmacy or go to a local hospital or doctor. If you need help to find a hospital or doctor check the website of the British Embassy for this information or call the Embassy. If you are admitted to hospital, contact the British Embassy.
  • You will need to check with local doctors or pharmacists on how much consultations or the charge for a prescription will cost while abroad. Your travel agent or insurance company will be able to advise you on whether you can reclaim these costs.
  • Is your NHS prescription valid overseas? A prescription issued by a UK GP or Dentist will be valid in the EEA or Switzerland, but not in other countries. If you don't know the name of the medication you are taking, or what the dosage should be, then it might be helpful to have someone fax or email this over. Then the local doctor or pharmacist has all the relevant information to make decisions on what drugs to prescribe you.

Contact your tour operator or the British Embassy for advice.

For more information on flight disruptions and advice for those stranded aboard, visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at

Package holidays, disruption and your rights

If you bought your holiday as a package, in addition to your usual consumer rights, you will have some protection under the Package Travel Regulations 1992.


Your travel brochure should contain information about what will happen if there are travel delays. The tour operator will then be responsible for making the arrangements. If they do not you may be entitled to compensation for breach of contract.


As a general rule, if the tour operator cancels the package holiday before you leave you can choose either to:

  • Accept an alternative at a similar or better standard; or
  • Accept an alternative at a lower standard and claim the difference in the price between the original and the alternative; or
  • Have a refund from the tour operator.

But they do not have to compensate you for any damage if:

  • Unusual and unforeseeable circumstances happened which were beyond the control of the tour operator or retailer and which could not have been avoided, or an event which could not have been foreseen. An example of these would be where delays or diversions were caused by unusually bad weather (volcanic ash may fall within this category); or
  • They couldn't carry out the contract because of the failure of a third party, unconnected with the package holiday arrangements, and the cause was unforeseeable or unavoidable by the tour operator or supplier of the service; or
  • Not enough people booked the holiday and you were notified in accordance with the contract.

However, where unforeseen, unusual circumstances or events happen, the Package Travel Regulations state that the tour operator should give you assistance quickly. If this does not happen you may be entitled to compensation for breach of contract. Assistance includes catering, communications and overnight accommodation if necessary.

Once you have started your holiday, if it becomes clear that the tour operator can't provide all of what you have contracted for, the operator has to try to make alternative arrangements so that you can continue your holiday and must compensate you for the difference between what you contracted for and what they actually provided. If it is impossible to make other arrangements, or if you don't accept them, the tour operator is responsible for getting you home.

Useful websites:

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Direct Gov 

Civil Aviation Authority 

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