Your holiday rights
What do you do if things go wrong on your holiday. Read on for some information and advice.
Thanks to the 'Package Travel Regulations (1992)', package holidaymakers enjoy much better protection than independent travellers. They will also find it easier to claim against their tour operator if things do go wrong.
Tour operators must:
- Provide you with a holiday with safe accommodation that is exactly as described in their brochure.
- Notify you of any proposed price increase at least 30 days before departure.
- Arrange financial protection so that either your money is safe or you will be returned home if your tour operator goes out of business whilst you are on holiday.
- Give you notice of any proposed major changes to your holiday, allowing you to cancel without being out of pocket. In some cases (but not all) they must also pay compensation.
Whether on a package of travelling independently, if things go wrong your should:
Before your holiday:
- Any pre-departure problem should be dealt with by your travel agent.
- If you cannot resolve it you can contact ABTA's Pre-Departure Department on 020 7307 2044.
Whilst on holiday:
- Speak up immediately - you have a legal duty to 'mitigate the loss' - and that means giving the tour operator or their agent the chance to resolve the problem as soon as possible. If the problem is serious put this complaint in writing and keep a copy to prove that you have done this.
- Ask the tour rep, hotel management or property agent to sort out the problem. Be polite but firm - these people will usually have the ability and authority to sort things out.
- If they cannot quickly resolve the problem quickly, ask to be moved to alternative accommodation that is at least the same standard you have booked and paid for.
- Complete a Complaints Form if one is available and keep a copy.
- Keep a diary of events and take photographs or a video record.
- Note the names and addresses of any witnesses, your tour rep and anyone else you spoke to about the problem (such as the hotel manager.
- Keep receipts for any expense you incur, such as taxi fares, doctors bills and telephone calls.
- Don't cut your holiday short unless you absolutely have to - in our experience it is rare to receive the level of compensation that makes up for the loss of a holiday.
- Consider any offer of on the spot compensation very carefully - you will usually be asked to sign a disclaimer, which will rule out any additional claim when you return home
When you get home:
Write to the tour operator, hotel or property owner within 28 days of returning home. Set things out clearly and include photographs where relevant, remembering to keep a copy. Be thorough and honest, and try not to whinge. Send it recorded delivery.
Your letter should:
- Be headed with your name and address, your booking reference, holiday details and dates.
- Deal with the problem in date order - using your diary as your reference.
- Detail any discrepancies between the contract, brochure and the actual holiday.
- You might send two or three relevant photographs to support your claim.
- Let them know that witnesses are available if required.
- Indicate the amount of compensation you are claiming - be reasonable here. You can claim for the difference in cost between the holiday you paid for and the one you received, plus out of pocket expenses and an amount for loss or enjoyment. So, for example, if you are booked into a 3 star hotel rather than the 5 star hotel you booked and paid for, you can claim the difference in the cost between the two rooms. If the hotel is further away from the town centre you could claim for taxi fares. You can also claim an amount for the time taken to try to resolve the problem. In addition you can claim for the general loss of enjoyment, which is very subjective.
The holiday company's reply:
ABTA members must acknowledge your complaint within 14 days and provide a full response within 28 days. Any reputable travel company will welcome the opportunity to resolve genuine complaints. They rely on repeat business so they have a vested interest in resolving your dispute.
Hopefully they will offer adequate compensation. Don't be rushed into making a decision and don't bank a cheque unless you are happy to accept it in full and final settlement.
If you are not happy with the reply:
- Persistence pays - don't give up and don't accept an offer that your consider is unreasonable. Send another letter. A dogged but professional approach will usually pay off.
- In the very rare cases where it does not, you have two options:
(a) ABTA run a low cost arbitration scheme that is legally binding. It is a documents-only scheme - there is no hearing and you don't have to turn up in person - and the maximum award is £5,000 per person or £15,000 per booking. You can get further details via the ABTA website, or contact ABTA on 020 7307 1907 or via email@example.com
(b) Or you can use the Small Claims Court. It's simple, informal and inexpensive, and you can argue the case yourself without the need for lawyers. The maximum sum you can claim is £5,000 except for cases involving personal injury, where the maximum is limited to £1,000. You can get further details via the Court Service website.
What if your luggage is damaged?
The problems of lost and damaged luggage are covered by the Warsaw Convention, a 50 year old international agreement. If your luggage arrives open, damaged or in pieces log a complaint immediately with the airlines staff or local agent before you leave the airport. You will need to complete a Property Irregularity Report. Get a copy of the report, or at least the reference number, you will need it when you make your insurance claim.
If your luggage is lost tell the airline staff or local agent immediately and fill in Property Irregularity Report form and get a copy.
Whilst you wait for your luggage you are entitled to buy and claim for essential items to tide you over. Many airlines will make an interim payment if you ask for one. Either way make sure you keep receipts. Seek advice from the airline staff, but you can normally expect to be reimbursed for expenses of £50 - £75 for a 12 - 24 hour delay. You should not be expected to return to the airport to collect your luggage when it does arrive. It should be delivered too you.
If it does not arrive you should be aware that compensation from the airline is based on the weight of the lost luggage, not the value of the contents. You'll get a measly£15 per kilo. This may be topped up by your travel insurance policy, depending on the type of travel insurance you have. (For cheaper travel insurance see our travel insurance page).
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