If you have booked a holiday through a tour operator with travel and accommodation booked together as a package, you will be protected by the Package Holiday Regulations. Under these regulations, you are able to claim compensation from the tour operator in the event that something went wrong, was not as described or was not stated, which led to additional expense, disappointment, or mental distress of any kind. This means any problem with the flight, the hotel or the excursions, even if it could not have been the fault of the tour operator directly. It also includes situations whereby the reality was not what was depicted or described in the brochure or on the web.
In the first instance, your complaint should be taken to the tour operator, not the travel agent (unless your complaint is related to something you were told which turned out not to be the case). You will probably have to follow the complaints procedure required by the tour operator and certainly put it in writing. Any statement should be backed up where possible by supporting evidence such as photos, statements from other holidays-makers and receipts for additional expenses. The crucial thing is that you do it quickly – this means immediately after (if not during) the holiday.
Damages / Compensation
If your complaint is genuine, you have the right to claim compensation from the tour operator, although it must be seen to be reasonable and fair. If you are offered a sum of money which you feel does not reflect the distress suffered, you may reject it and press for more. If your complaint is not ultimately dealt with to a reasonable level of satisfaction, you can then contact the trade body – ABTA, who will look into it further via their dispute resolution service.
If the airline goes bust
This is a slightly different matter and one which you will need to turn to the CAA’s consumer protection scheme, ATOL for remedy. ATOL will ensure you are protected if your flight was booked as part of a package through a tour operator. This is also the case if the tour operator itself collapses. You will also be protected if you bought your ticket from a travel agent, but only if you DON’T receive the ticket within 24 hours. You should also ensure you are presented with an ATOL receipt which states that you are protected – best to check this with the travel agent before you buy.
Making a claim for those who are protected
If the airline collapses before your flight departure date, but you have already paid for the ticket, you should make a claim via the CAA (ATOL) website. If the airline collapses while you are at your destination, and cannot get home, the CAA will inform you as to whether they will put you on an alternative carrier, or whether you should purchase an alternative ticket and claim a refund once home.
If you are an independent traveller and have booked travel and accommodation separately or directly via the airline’s or hotels websites, you will not benefit from any of the above protection and should look instead to your travel insurance which may provide financial cover. If you have paid on credit card, irrespective of whether or not this is a package, you will also have the added protection of the Consumer Credit Act which imposes equal liability on the credit Card Company, in the event that something goes wrong and you need to make a claim.
For all travellers who experience flight delays are automatically entitled to monetary compensation for overbooking (where they are ‘bumped off), and compensation ‘in kind’ for delays due to late arrivals and technical faults – these are refreshments, free telephone calls etc. For further details on this go to the CAA website (www.caa.co.uk)