Flybe launches ‘volcanic ash insurance’ to let travelers book with more confidence

Following the massive ash cloud disruption which led to the closure of the airspace over much of Europe for five days in April, as many as 150,000 British travelers were left stranded overseas and thousands more were forced to cancel their trips and remain in the UK. The Telegraph reports that in the past week package holidays bookings in the UK have increased 20 percent, and bookings made through high-street travel agents have risen by 12 percent. A major reason for this may be that during the disruption most stranded holidaymakers who booked a package holiday with a licensed tour operator were offered free accommodation and meals until flights resumed. Many independent travelers, however, were left to cover the cost for hotels, food, and transport home themselves.

In a move to restore confidence among travelers (for example, today flights in and out Ireland have been grounded again), UK low-cost carrier Flybe has just introduced a ‘volcanic ash insurance’, which it says is the first in the world. The GBP6.99 (EUR8, USD10.50) per person policy is underwritten by travel insurer Chartis and will reimburse passengers for costs for delays of more than 24 hours caused by closure of airspace. If passengers are stranded away from home, Flybe will pay for any reasonable unplanned-for costs incurred for additional accommodation and travel expenses up to GBP150 (EUR170, USD230) for each 24-hour period with a maximum of GBP1,050 (EUR1,200, USD1,600). The option to purchase the insurance is available with online bookings made between 28 April and May 10th 2010 for travel up to October 30, 2010.
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Brazil’s national aviation agency to introduce legroom-rating label

Starting March 2011, airlines in Brazil must inform passengers how much legroom their economy class seats will have on their flights. Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) has developed a five-tiered ranking system that assigns a letter grade and color to seat pitch and seat width. The label is modelled on those used in the sale of white goods and cars. The airlines will have to inform passengers the available seat space at the time of purchase. The rankings will also be displayed on a label right near the seat. ANAC says the aim of the label is to prepare people for what to expect when it comes to their in-flight comfort.

The ratings range from A — indicating at least 73 centimeters (28.7 inches) from headrest to headrest — with each category going down in two-centimeter increments. An E rating indicates less than 67 centimeters (26.4 inches) between seats. Exit and bulkhead rows are excluded from the rankings. The initiative was created by ANAC after Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, who is 6 foot 3 inches (1.92m) tall, complained publicly how he tried to squeeze into an economy seat. The agency believes Brazil may be the first country to introduce such a system.
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