Volcanic ash disruption: What are your rights if Mount Agung, Bali erupts?

November 27, 2017

By Joey Tyson

If you’re looking forward to for a winter sun break in Bali, news of Mount Agung’s recent volcanic activity may be of concern. Ash clouds have already led to airport closures in Bali and Lombok, while local authorities have raised the alert level to level 4 (the highest level).

So what happens if you have plans to travel to Bali, or are already on the island?

What’s the volcano doing at the moment and should I reschedule my travel plans?

Mount Agung has been erupting since November 21 and according to the FCO: “ash clouds emitted by the volcano have caused disruption to flights and airport closure in the region.”

If your travel plans are imminent, keep an eye on local news and stay in contact with your tour operator or airline. The FCO advises that travellers “confirm your travel arrangements directly with your airline or travel agent before travelling to the airport.”

An exclusion zone has been established, which extends between 8 and 10 kms from the crater, to keep people away from the danger area. It is important to remember that the main tourist areas on the island’s south coast are far outside the volcano’s exclusion area.

If you’re already in Bali, you should stay well away from the exclusion zone, continue to monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities.

What happens if my flight is delayed?

If you are travelling to Bali with an EU airline (one that has its headquarters in Europe) or out of any EU airport, you will be protected by the EU261 rules in the event of a delay. Under this regulation, airlines must offer you a “welfare package” – including food, drinks, two phone calls and possibly overnight accommodation – after a certain number of hours. This article Am I entitled to compensation for a delayed flight? contains all the information you need to know about what you are entitled to.

Does the airline have to compensate me for the delay?

As volcanic ash falls under the category “extraordinary circumstances”, airlines are not required to offer compensation. Other than your welfare package, your airline isn’t responsible for anything else under EU261 rules.

What happens if I’m travelling with a non-EU airline?

If you’re travelling with a non-EU airline to a non-EU destination, which is likely to be the case with flights to Bali, the EU261 regulation only protects the leg of your journey from an EU airport (if your first leg flies from London to Dubai, for example).

It won’t cover your return journey from outside the EU – so you’d have to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with for this part of your trip.

What about my other travel arrangements – hotels and car hire, for example?

If you’ve booked an Atol-backed package holiday (the government scheme covering holidays and flights), you’ll be financially protected should volcanic ash disrupt your trip. If you find that your flight is cancelled and you are no longer scheduled to leave the UK, you’ll receive a full refund (or the option to rebook the same holiday again at the same price, when it’s available).

If you’re in Bali and the volcano leaves you stranded abroad mid-holiday, your extra costs, such as accommodation, will be covered and your holiday company will work to get you home as soon as possible.

However, if you’ve put your trip together yourself, your airline doesn’t have to compensate you for any other elements of the holiday you might miss, such as accommodation, car hire or tours. If you lose money after cancelling these elements, the only way to claim compensation is through your travel insurance policy.

So, will my travel insurer pay out for volcanic ash disruption?

That depends on the T&Cs of your particular policy. Check your travel insurance small print for clauses relating to ash cloud disruption or catastrophe cover to see what you’d be able to claim for.

If your policy does cover this eventuality, check whether there’s a limit on how much you can claim as a result of the disruption. If you aren’t covered, you may be able to add volcanic ash cover to your policy.

I’m worried – can I cancel my travel plans now?

If you decide to cancel your holiday purely as a precaution, you’ll be subject to your travel company’s normal cancellation policy.

Anything else to be aware of?

Emma Grimster, spokeswoman at TravelSupermarket said: “If you have a flight or holiday to Bali booked, or indeed a trip to Australia which may fly directly over the island, the most important thing to do is stay in touch with your travel provider. If you are travelling in the next week or so, your provider will be able to share with you any options available for either refunding or postposing your trip – if applicable.

"However, the further away your trip, the less likely it is your will have any options to change your booking. If the FCO is not warning against travel to Bali, travel providers are not obliged to provide any refunds or alternative holidays.”


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