Information on planning and booking your trip

Travel documents


You will need a current passport if you are travelling abroad, It is your responsibility to ensure your passport is up to date. Some countries require passports to be valid for at least six months after the date you are due to leave their country.

If you need to  passport shortly before you depart it will cost you more.

You may also need a valid visa if you are travelling to a country which requires one.

Travel to the USA

The United States now require passengers to purchase an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) to enter the country. You can find out more from the  ESTA website.

Buying tickets - Flexibility

If you can be flexible on dates and times, your flights will probably be cheaper. Flights are also likely to be cheaper the sooner you book. However, this may not always be the case with package holidays.

Check times

Be aware of airlines that use the 24 hour clock when showing available flights. You may want to travel at 2.30pm rather than 02:30am.

Cheaper deals

It is important to shop around to get the best deal on flights. Consider the  extra charges that airlines may add to the headline price for baggage and meals. With so much choice, it can be difficult to decide which is the best flight for you. You can look at what airlines fly from the airport nearest to you by visiting airport websites or price comparison sites. Some airlines do not appear on price comparison websites so you may need to visit individual airline sites to view their flights.

Some airlines offer loyalty schemes for frequent flyers or use promotional codes for discounts so look out for them.

Be careful

Double-check the dates and times you want to book, and double-check the names you are booking in are exactly the same as on the passenger's passport. It will usually cost to change the names on tickets, and the times and dates of flights. Keep an eye out for, and read carefully, text messages and emails from the airline as these may let you know schedule changes which could affect your journey.

Checking terms and conditions

Terms and conditions are attached to almost everything; invoices, press advertisements, credit cards and bills, just to name a few.

When you book your flights for your holiday or business trip, your terms and conditions will outline your obligations and the airline's obligations, and you agree to abide by them when you purchase your ticket. 

Things to consider before booking your holiday 

  • Check in arrangements
  • Baggage allowance
  • Your rights if you are delayed or the flight is cancelled
  • The process for cancelling or amending your booking
  • Does the fare include all taxes, fees and charges?
  • What happens if you miss your flight?
  • What does the airline do with your personal information?

Information from the airline on these issues is often buried in the terms and conditions and what you are looking for will not always be easy to find. The terms and conditions will not necessarily give you all the information you need as much of it may be set out elsewhere on the website.

Comparing prices and charges

Should I be aware of taxes, fees and charges that I pay in addition to my air fare? 

Taxes, fees and charges should be included in the price of your ticket. These consist of the fees that the airline must pay.
Airlines must by law always display prices that include all the compulsory taxes, fees and charges, so you will always know the price of your flight.  Airlines should also clearly display the costs of any optional extras on their websites at the start of the booking process so that you can see which optional extras are available how much they cost.  

Refunds of taxes, fees and charges

If the ticket is not used you should be able to get refund of taxes, fees and charges.

Arranging special assistance

When should I ask?

You should ask for assistance either when you book or at least 48 hours before travel, whether it is through a travel agent, tour operator or airline. This information will then be passed to the airport and the service provider

If you don't give advance notice you could experience delays and may not receive the service that you need.

How can I request help?

It is up to you to find out how to request help. Airlines, travel agents and tour operators should provide a free method of requesting assistance when you book (or at later stage). You may be asked about about special assistance during the booking process but this isn't  standard practice so you may need to make a request.  

If you are booking on a website, look out for a special assistance link for information on how to get the type of help that you need.

Your travel service provider may ask you to telephone them or their agent or complete a web form. Many airlines provide a Freephone or local rate number for you to call to notify them of your assistance needs. Some airlines also offer a free call-back option.

Note: Request and keep written confirmation of your assistance.

What can I ask for?

It is important that you are clear about the type of help that you need.  This will help avoid delays and ensure that you receive appropriate support.

This could include:

  • the use of an airport wheelchair to get to the gate,
  • assistance with boarding the aircraft and getting seated.

Airlines will need to know:

  • you are taking an electric mobility aid (e.g. an electric wheelchair or mobility scooter) 
  • your condition means that you need extra care and attention

Questions that you may wish to consider in advance include:

  • are on-board wheelchairs available on all aircraft? These are used to move people to the toilet during the flight.
  • what are the walking distances to departure gates? Airports should provide this information on their websites.
  • does the airport uses air bridges or steps for passengers to board aircraft?
  • the number and type of accessible toilets at the airport and on board aircraft.
  • what restrictions (e.g. safety, weight, space, battery type) apply to the carriage of electric mobility aids.
  • the airline's policies on carriage of oxygen.
  • the airline's policies in relation to compensating for damaged mobility equipment.
  • the types of seats available and how the airline allocates these.

Connecting flights

If the flights you are booking involve a connection between the legs of your flight, there are some things you should bear in mind.

  • Are your flights booked with the same airline on the same ticket? If so, and you miss your connection, the airline may book you onto a later flight. This may not happen if the connecting flights are not on the same ticket.
  • Check whether your connections are at the same airport. For example, there are at least five airports local to London but getting between them can take some time.
  • Have you left enough time between flights for your baggage to be moved onto the later flight? If your flights are with different airlines, you may have to retrieve your baggage from one flight and check-in with the later flight.
  • Do you need to add in time to get through immigration and customs between flights?
Missed connections

Many air journeys involve passengers connecting between two or more flights to reach their final destination. If you have a number of connecting flights on the same reservation, also known as a ‘through ticket', and you are flying with two or more airlines, you are generally entitled to be looked after by the first airline on the ticket. For instance, if you miss your flight connection because the first flight was delayed, the airline operating the first flight should arrange and pay for meals and accommodation. 

The entitlements set out above are only available to passengers on a “through ticket” i.e. one reservation reference. If you have separate tickets / reservation references - either because your travel agent has booked your flights or you have put together your own “connections” using separate reservations - these are separate contracts and you will probably have to buy a new ticket if you miss the connecting flight. Some airlines advise of the dangers of this on their websites. 

But it can be considerably cheaper to make your own connections. If you do, consider building in extra time to allow for delay, if possible.

If you missed your connection due to a delay on a previous flight, if it was on the same ticket, then you may be entitled to compensation
if you arrive at your final destination more than three hours late, unless the delay was completely outside the control of the airline. 

If you missed your connection due to a problem in transiting through the airport, for instance due to very long queues at security screening, you will not be entitled to financial compensation under Regulation EU 261/2004. 

You should make sure you have receipts for anything you buy and may be claiming for later.

Airline alliances

Airline alliances are agreements between airlines which allow them to co-ordinate schedules and to collaborate on fares and marketing. They enable passengers to book one ticket which covers their flights with multiple airlines.

Code share

A code share is when tickets to one flight are sold by two or more airlines. The flight will have more than one flight code depending on who is operating it and who sold the ticket. 

You should be made aware when you buy a ticket that your flight will be operated by another airline. This important for a number of reasons, not least because you need to check in with the airline that is operating the flight, which may be different to the one that sold you the ticket. 

Buying a ticket for a flight operated as a code share can affect which rights you have in cases of delays and cancellations. You will have more rights with an EU airline when flying into Europe. For instance, if you have a code share flight, and your inbound flight is with a non-EU airline and is delayed, you will not be entitled to the same rights as you would have if you were flying with an EU airline. Also, you will need to know whose terms and conditions apply when you are travelling, the airline you booked with or the airline that is carrying you. You will need to know this as for example, the baggage allowance may vary. This information is not always clear from the small print, or may not even be included in the terms and conditions. Ask your agent or airline before you book. 

If you have booked to travel with a global airline, their website may have details of who they code share with. 

When booking flights, consider the following:

  • Check before you book if the airline you are booking with is the airline you are flying with. This should be advised to you on the website or by your agent
    • Will you receive the same leg room?
    • Will your baggage allowance change?
    • Whose terms and conditions will apply when you travel?
    • Who will you need to contact if you need to make any amendments or changes to your tickets?
  • If you are going to be carried by another airline, check what the differences will be:
  • Be aware that on journeys outside of Europe, you generally have more rights when there are delays and cancellations if you are flying with a European airline.


Think about why you need to be insured

If you have the appropriate travel insurance it will pay for any medical treatment you need in case of illness or injury. If applicable it will also pay for you to get home.

It can cover you for

  • Delay A cash sum will be paid after a specified length of delay, such as eight hours, up to a maximum amount set out in the policy.

  • Missed departure - Should bad weather prevent you from getting to the airport, check with your travel insurer for advice.

  • Abandoned trip - Where cancellation or delay forces you to abandon your travel plans when leaving the UK, policies may also pay a lump sum..

What you are covered for varies depending on the small-print of the policy that you pay for.

It is important to consider what insurance you need  before booking flights and holidays. If you have an existing medical condition, you should check that you will be able to obtain insurance before booking your flights and holidays.

If you are taking part in sports whilst away, you may need this to be covered by your insurance. Not all standard policies will cover treatment/travel home if you injure yourself during some sports.

You may already be insured on an annual travel insurance policy. Sometimes travel insurance is supplied as part of a bundle of other services alongside a bank account or other forms of insurance. However, these kinds of insurance are more likely to require an annual declaration of your health in order for you to be properly insured. If you travel a few times a year, it may be cheaper to get an annual policy.

Declare your medical history

You must tell your insurer about existing medical conditions to be covered for them. You must also disclose any changes to your health during the policy term. Be aware, if the insurer does not ask you about any pre-existing conditions that you have, the condition is almost certainly not covered by the policy. Make sure that you read the policy conditions to ensure that you have the right cover to meet your requirements. You should note that this also applies to travel insurance provided with some credit cards and bank accounts.

Information required when you make a claim

If your flight is delayed or cancelled and you claim on your travel insurance you will need to provide the following minimum information:

  • Flight date
  • Flight number
  • Scheduled departure time
  • Actual departure time
  • Specific reason for delay (you will need to be more specific than just saying technical reasons and you can obtain this information from your airline)

If the airline loses your bag, it is damaged or it is delayed on your arrival you can claim from the airline.

Tickets, fares and schedule changes

After you purchase your ticket, you may need to amend or cancel your flight. You can be charged for making any changes to your ticket.

Should I book a flexible fare?

There are many different ticket types, but the key difference is whether you have booked a flexible fare or a ticket or a fixed fare / ticket.

A fixed ticket allows you to travel only on the date and time you chose when you booked. If you are likely to want to amend these, you might want to consider purchasing a flexible fare which is fully refundable and you might not be charged for any changes that you wish to make. Many airlines offer this and it may cost you more than your standard airfare, but after you purchase your fare you won't have to pay any extra to make any changes.

What if I have not booked a flexible fare?

If you decide not to purchase a flexible fare, but you need to make some changes, you may incur additional charges.

Will I be charged for making changes to my booking?

Some airlines will allow small corrections to names for a few hours after you book your flight, sometimes for a fee but other airlines will not charge. If you need to change your details at a later date, you might be required to pay for a new ticket or the increase in the fare price, plus any amendment fees. The cost of the amendment fee will be a fixed price or the price may vary depending on the proximity of your departure date from the date you have requested your change. The charges airlines can make for changing your booking can vary from around £50 - £160. The amount will depend on the airline you are travelling with and the type of change or amendment you are requesting. In addition to any fees, you may also be charged an agent fee (if you booked through an agent).

The following might be useful to bear in mind when booking your ticket:

  • Consider whether your plans might change, as this might mean that a flexible fare would be appropriate.
  • Make sure that you spell all passenger names as they appear on passports – you may be charged for making a correction.
  • Check if the changes can be made online, as this might be cheaper than using the telephone.
  • If you need to make changes to your journey due to exceptional circumstances, e.g. bereavement, the airline may waive its fee.

Where can I find information about charges to change my flight?

  • Many airlines publish a fees and charges table on their website, which will advise a passenger of the different type of charge attached to each change. On other airlines' websites, there won't be a table as such, but it may be placed in the small print. If in doubt, or if you cannot find the information, you will have to call the airline.
  • If you opt for a refund, the amount refunded will not include any debit or credit card charges you incurred at the time of booking; it might not include any extras you have paid for either.

What changes can an airline make to my flight?

Where an airline has made a change to your flight (the flight time for example) it is known as a schedule change. This is not the same as cancelling flights. Schedule changes should always be notified to passengers at least 14 days in advance, and the change should only be to the time or the date and not the flight number.

Airlines typically advise in their terms and conditions that the time of the flight does not form part of the contract and that it may be subject to change.

What can I do if the time is significantly altered and the new time does not work for me?

What is a significant change? This has not been defined in any legislation or court of law and may vary from case to case. However, if the change is significant to you but does not fall within the airline's definition, we suggest that you advise the airline why the change is significant.

If the airline changes your flight time significantly, you may be entitled to a refund or a more suitable alternative. In many cases airline terms and conditions set out this right, but even if they do not you can still request it. If you have used a part of your flight (i.e. if you are using your return leg or a connection flight) and you ask for a refund, you will only be refunded the amount for that part of the journey.

What if I have booked a hotel or hired a car but I am affected by a schedule change?

Airlines have no responsibility for any losses you may incur through schedule changes. So if you've booked a hotel, and can't stay in it due to your airline changing their schedule, then the airline is not liable for the costs of the hotel. Check if your insurance covers you for this.

Check the terms and conditions as not all airlines will provide you with the same alternatives, some airlines will provide you with a credit rather than a refund.

We suggest that you should check the following:

  • Before you accept a schedule change, check that the flight number has not changed. If the flight number has changed, it might be a cancellation.
  • If it is a cancellation within 14 days of your departure date you might be entitled to compensation and a refund.
  • Check the airline's small print; they might not be offering you what they are obliged to, such as a similar but alternative flight to the one you booked or a refund if this cannot be arranged.
  • Check if you are entitled to a refund or a credit voucher of some sort.

Airlines should tell you about the changes to your flight schedule. So that this message can reach you, make sure you give the agent or the airline correct contact details. Just in case the message has not reached you, it is important to check that your flight times are still the same as you get close to departure. You may have to buy a new ticket if you turn up at the airport and your flight has left.

Providing up to date contact details to the airline helps them to keep in contact with you and let you know about any schedule changes. Check your junk or spam email folder for any updates from the airline.

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