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Dan White: Air traffic controllers have cost us a fortune

Dan answers your financial questions

I was due to fly from Dublin Airport on last Wednesday, but my flight was cancelled due to the air traffic controllers' dispute.

I was offered an alternative flight by my airline. Unfortunately, it was of no use to me because I was travelling to my destination for a family gathering, which I missed due to the air traffic controllers' walkout. Thanks very much lads. Am I entitled to a refund on the cost of my ticket and if so how can I go about claiming it?

Derek

Unfortunately, Derek was not alone. Last week tens of thousands of air travellers at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports had their plans disrupted when the air traffic controllers downed tools at just one day's notice.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue it was an extremely cynical act by the air traffic controllers and totally out of proportion to any grievance, either real or imagined, they may feel that they have.

So what are Derek's rights in a situation like this? Under normal conditions, if after arriving at the airport a passenger discovers that his or her flight has been cancelled they are entitled to either a refund or an alternative flight to their destination, subject to availability. But what happened last week doesn't fall under the category of "normal conditions". A quick glance at the Ryanair website tells you why. It says that the budget airline "does not provide monetary compensation ... in cases of political instability, meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, security risks, unexpected flight safety problems and strikes".

And this just isn't a case of Ryanair being Bolshie. The words on the Ryanair website are a straight lift from the EU directive governing compensation to air passengers whose flights have been cancelled.

Unfortunately the directive specifically excludes "extraordinary circumstances", including strikes, as reasons for compensating affected passengers.

What this means is that Derek can forget about receiving a cash refund due to his flight being cancelled last week. I suspect that, depending on the airline, the best that he can hope for are flight vouchers.

For once it's hard to blame the airlines. They didn't cause last week's chaos, the overpaid, underworked air traffic controllers did. Maybe they should be made to pay for the costs of their delinquency rather than leaving stranded passengers out of pocket.

My family goes to Greece every summer for our holidays. One of the attractions of Greece is that, like Ireland, it uses the euro so we don't have to change our money when we leave or return. Now I am reading that Greece might either depart from or be kicked out of the euro. Does this mean that we will have to change our money again and will I be able to use Greek euro notes and coins in this country?

Kate

Unable to rein in runaway public spending, Greece has replaced Ireland in the eurozone's sin bin. As Kate has written, there are growing doubts that Greece will be able to remain in the eurozone.

While this would mean the return of the inconvenience of having to change your money every time you travelled and returned, this would probably be more than offset by the fact that any new Greek currency would devalue rapidly against the euro making holidays in Greece far cheaper.

The validity of Greek-issued euro notes and coins, if the country is forced to quit the euro, is an interesting issue. In practice, unless you bring back an enormous amount of cash with you, tourists are unlikely to be affected. Even so, it might be a good idea to spend your Greek euros quickly after you return.