These days you will often see several rates for the same car park or hotel, and one or more of these rates is likely to be ‘non-flexible’.
A non-flexible booking will be non-refundable and non-amendable if you do not use it for any reason. The only change available to you free of charge is to alter the registration number with the car park. As there will be a flexible product available to book at a higher price, they are usually pretty strict about the terms and conditions, and don’t tend to make exceptions even for illness, a death in the family, a personal emergency or a flight cancellation. This will also be the case for airport parking and hotel reservations.
As a note of caution: I recently booked an airport hotel but accidentally booked the wrong night! When I turned up there was no booking, I lost my money and had to pay a lot more for a last-minute stay elsewhere. Check and recheck you have entered the correct dates on the website!
There are often reasonable savings to be made, so a non-flexible booking may be a good idea if:
- You are travelling within 24 hours of booking, as the booking will already be non-refundable
- Your travel insurance may cover you for holiday cancellation and that will include all aspects of your booking
This option may be a good idea if:
- You think you might need to change dates or times later
- You are booking months in advance, and there is a possibility of something happening in the meantime which requires you to cancel your trip
- You have a flexible booking option on your flight and may wish to change the travel date
What happens if my flight is diverted?
There are many reasons, out of our control, for sudden changes and cancellations at the airport. Usually the issues are weather-related: hurricanes, snow, ice, fog (especially at Gatwick). These can cause short delays but can still result in being diverted from your airport. In this case you are usually transported to and from your original destination to retrieve your car, albeit rather late! The ‘ash cloud’ back in 2010 caused the biggest airport shutdown since the Second World War and affected hundreds of thousands of passengers. Although this was a very unusual event, it is worth bearing in mind.
The latest disruption to travel was a ‘drone’ at Gatwick Airport which caused 2 days of disruption. If, with all these cases, you end up with a cancelled flight, you will lose the chance of a refund or amendment unless you booked flexible parking.