01622 689700 / 01474 887688

Holiday heaven or hell?

Many people plan their summer holidays over the winter months, but holidays can be very expensive and where do you stand if things go wrong?

The most important thing that differentiates a holiday from any other purchase is that you can’t see it or inspect it before you buy and you can’t take it back and exchange it for another one.

Unless you organise your own holiday arrangements, your holiday contract is usually with the tour operator and not with the travel agent as most people think. Both the tour operator and the travel agent are liable under the Package Holiday and Package Tour Regulations 1992.

Make sure your travel agent or tour operator is a member of ABTA or ATOL or a similar organisation. Check in advance your holiday documentation, flight tickets, dates, passports, inoculations, visas (if applicable) and holiday insurance are in order.

Once you get to your destination if a problem occurs, it is important to immediately bring the problem to the tour operator’s notice or report it to the local representative. If you leave it to complain when you get home, you are technically in breach of contract.

Representatives are supposed to give you a copy of any complaint form you complete. It is important to ask for a copy if one isn’t offered. Record dates and times and make a note of names of anyone (hotel managers, staff etc) that you speak to.

Take photographs or a video. This is very credible evidence. Keep receipts if you incur unnecessary expense ie taxi fares because transfers did not turn up.

If you become ill or have an accident, try and obtain medical evidence. Make sure you get names of any doctors who treat you and the address of the clinic or hospital.

When you arrive back in the UK you must put your complaint in writing to the tour operator. Booking conditions usually specify a time limit. It may be anything from six to eight weeks from the date you return to the UK. Some operators might initially respond by using a standard paragraph letter. Let them know this is unsatisfactory and you want your complaint dealt with in detail.

Generally, if you wish to recover damages under the holiday contract, then you can sue the tour operator for breach of contract. It is possible to bring a claim for what is known as loss of bargain, ie what you actually received compared to what you contracted and paid for. In holiday contracts, the law has recognised a claim for loss of enjoyment. This may include anxiety, distress and inconvenience. This is very important in respect of holidays involving honeymoons and anniversaries.

In many situations it is a case of negotiating with your tour operator a level of compensation. Remember though a tour operator is a business and it will not pay any more than it has to. If you feel particularly aggrieved and feel that you are getting nowhere, you have the choice of pursuing your claim through the court system.

Jonathan Haines can be reached at