The American way of following European consumer protection laws

If I’ve seen Lee Wendkos’s case once, I’ve seen it a hundred times. Delayed on his way to Europe, he tried to invoke EU 261, the legendary and often misinterpreted European consumer protection law. And he failed.

Yes, this feature is called Case Dismissed, but there’s a lot to be learned from our consumer missteps. With the busy summer travel season just around the corner, here’s one lesson you need to take with you: Airlines hate EU 261. Get every promise in writing or you’ll end up with nothing.
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Don’t be a chip-and-pinhead!

If you happen to drive down the Brenner Autobahn between Austria and Italy this summer, here’s a little advice for crossing the wind-whipped Europabrücke, or Europe Bridge: keep a little cash on hand to pay the toll.
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What to do when your river cruise turns into a bus tour

It was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime for Pat and James Frost — a river cruise in France on the Viking Europe, from Avignon to Chalon-sur-Saône. The retired couple from Concord, Ohio, even added three days in Paris to round off their bucket-list getaway.

But when they arrived at the port, a cruise line representative informed them of a change in plans. Flooding along the Rhône and Saône rivers had made the waterways impassable, and their cruise tour had turned into a bus tour.

“I understand that an act of God causing rain and the rising river isn’t Viking’s fault,” said a disappointed Pat Frost. “But they’ve been cruising this river for years, and I expected that they would have an idea when the river would be navigable.”

All she’d expected was a call to her or her travel agent before she left for France, offering her a chance to re-book the $12,000 cruise.
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Did Carnival do enough for these Destiny passengers?

gary yim /
gary yim /

Frank and Lucy Pirri are unhappy with their cruise on the Carnival Destiny, and they’re even more unhappy with how the cruise line responded to their complaint.

Sound familiar? Given Carnival’s recent Triumph troubles, it probably does.

But this wasn’t a short island-hopper with a bad ending. We’re talking 18 days in Europe, which was “poorly planned and poorly executed” from start to finish, says Frank Pirri.

How so? Let’s count the ways. (Warning: laundry list ahead.)
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Is a burned-out clutch automatically my fault?

Question: My wife and daughter recently rented a car through Hertz in London. They purchased the Super Coverage insurance so there would be no hassle with any potential damages.

They did not get more than 10 miles from the airport when the clutch in the car malfunctioned, leaving them stranded in the middle of the road. She was pushed off the highway, and in doing so damaged the front tire and wheel going up onto the curb.
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Headed to Europe this summer? It could be a riot

If you’re looking for a little adventure this summer — a strike, a riot or maybe even a revolution — skip the Middle East and visit Europe.

Traditionally quiet and predictable Western Europe, a magnet for many American tourists, hasn’t seen this much political and economic uncertainty in a while. As reports of economic bailouts, work stoppages, unrest in the streets and fluctuating currencies find their way back to the States, travelers wonder whether it’s safe.

I do. I’m headed to Europe twice with my family: on a Mediterranean cruise in July and a tour of Italy in early September. While none of the experts I spoke with advised me to cancel, they did caution me to monitor the situation carefully.
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Surprise! Fall bargains will abound — and here’s where to find them

Tired of high hotel rates and airfares this summer? Just wait. Travel prices may be about to go into a tailspin — again.

But doesn’t this happen every year, as fall approaches? No. Not like this.

When I talk to travelers who are making plans this autumn, I hear about dramatic, unexpected bargains. Connect the dots with what I’m hearing from travel companies, who are telling me that some rates will be on par with last year’s record-low prices, and you might reasonably conclude that things are about to get interesting.

And then there’s this: The feeling that the worst is yet to come. Know what I’m talking about? It’s like the pit in your stomach right after the first drop on the rollercoaster, that premonition that you’re about to go freefalling off a precipice. I don’t know why I feel that way, other than the fact that the pundits have been talking about a double-dip recession for the last few weeks.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. Airfares, car rental rates, cruise prices and hotel rates should be recovering from their record lows in 2010. And for a while, it looked as if that was happening. But one ash cloud, an oil spill and a wobbly recovery later, room rates are basically on a par with last summer’s record low rates and air fares, which are up slightly now, are already starting to head south for the fall in selected markets.
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Flying to Europe? It pays to know EU 261

EU 261.

Mention the word to an airline employee, and you’re likely to get one of the following responses:

“We’re not going to talk about that.”

“No comment.”

“Sorry. Try getting in touch with IATA.”

Those are actual answers, the latter referring me to the International Air Transport Association, a trade association for the airline industry. But my all-time favorite reaction came when I was touring the operations center of a certain airline that shall remain nameless. As we passed by the department that handled EU enforcement issues, I asked if I could talk with them about EU 261.
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Oh when oh when will that pesky volcano stop erupting?

Here’s a story that’s familiar to anyone traveling to and from Europe in the last week: Erupting volcano. Canceled flight. Nothing to do but hit the Internet for some help.

Thanks to my friends over at Google for suggesting this. I had a blast creating my search story.