Many people will spend a lot of time looking for their perfect holiday and will make sacrifices in order to pay for it. Glossy brochures will show you the dream and travel agents, tour operators, airlines and various intermediaries are all too happy to take your money. But where do you stand and who is responsible if it all goes wrong?
If you book two weeks in paradise and find yourself in the middle of a building site or next door to a noisy or smelly factory, then you may have a claim. Such a claim will typically be made against the agent or broker who sold you the holiday for breach of contract or for the tort of negligent misstatement or misrepresentation.
Claims in respect of the holiday itself will usually fall into one of three categories: poor quality, personal injury or food poisoning.
With the exception of a claim for personal injury, a successful claim must be able to demonstrate a reduction in the value of the holiday, out of pocket expenses, or loss of enjoyment. It should be noted that however disappointing the holiday may have been, it is generally not found to have no value at all and the holidaymaker is under a duty to mitigate their loss.
Some may never even arrive at their chosen destination as a result of flight cancellations, volcanic ash from Iceland or travel agents and airlines collapsing. If the holiday was purchased as a package holiday then you will be protected under ABTA (The Association of British Travel Agents), who can assist in any disputes, or ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing). ATOL member firms will protect you from being stranded abroad and will ensure your money is returned if the airline collapses.
If you purchase a flight only then you should check to see if there is ATOL protection. Flights purchased directly from an airline are not afforded ATOL protection.
In addition, The Package Travel Regulations also offer some comfort for those unhappy with their holiday by holding responsible those selling more than one component of a holiday for all parts of the package. For example, if an operator sold a package consisting of travel and accommodation it would be liable for the accommodation if it was not as described. If the accommodation provider went into liquidation, the operator would cover you against this loss and would potentially be liable to pay compensation.
Paying for a holiday or flight by credit card may give you protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which provides that where you have a claim against a supplier for breach of contract or misrepresentation you will generally have an equal claim against the credit card issuer.
There can be no doubt that the public would benefit from far greater clarity of the various bodies and regulations which may offer them protection in the event that their holiday goes wrong. The sensible traveller should take steps to ensure that they have protection, including travel insurance, in the event that their holiday fails to go to plan. If they are in any doubt as to what their rights and entitlements are or encounter difficulties in pursuing a claim for compensation, then they should seek legal advice upon their return home.