Don’t lose out through holiday problems
The vast majority of people have trouble-free holidays, but when things go wrong it can be very distressing.
Whether you are booking a package holiday or making your own arrangements it's important to ask the right questions at the time of booking and keep all the relevant paperwork to reduce your chances of things going wrong.
Companies selling package holidays must offer protection to prevent customers from losing money and help to sort out any practical problems if they, or the airline, goes bust. Tour operators selling package holidays by air must hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
When booking a package holiday, do consider the following:
1. Check whether your tour operator has an ATOL licence by checking the Civil Aviation Authority's website at www.caa.co.uk/atol
2. Check whether your trip counts as a package holiday - Some airlines offer holiday packages and should therefore provide financial protection. Other airlines offer flights and accommodation or car hire, sometimes through website links to other independent sites. These are often separate purchases from a different company so will not count as a package holiday and won't include package holiday protection. You should check whether either company offers protection and, if so, what this covers.
If you are abroad on a package holiday and your airline fails, your tour operator should take care of you at no extra expense. If an airline fails before you travel, your tour operator must offer a replacement holiday or a refund. If the tour operator fails, and it has an ATOL licence, the CAA will either bring you home if you are already on holiday or will make sure you are given a full refund if you have not travelled.
If something does go wrong whilst on holiday or the facilities are not as promised in the brochure make a complaint in the resort at the time of discovery. If the complaint is not dealt with satisfactorily at that time you may decide to take the matter further on your return home. Keep records and if possible take photographs to back up your complaint which should be put in writing to the tour operator as soon as possible.
Where you incur additional costs, for example if your luggage does not arrive on time, then keep all receipts for reasonable expenses incurred as a result. As before make your complaint at the time of discovery.
If you book a flight with the airline, you will not be covered by ATOL if the airline fails. However, you can protect yourself by booking with a travel firm that protects flights under its ATOL. When booking check that you receive confirmation of your ATOL protection or that you are provided with a Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI) policy.
If you book direct with an airline, you may wish to pay by credit card as this provides financial protection under the Consumer Credit Act (1974) for purchases over £100 and up to £30,000. If you don't use a credit card, it may be worth considering appropriate travel insurance. Some policies cover airline failure, usually by including SAFI. However, many policies don’t include SAFI and some insurance providers may exclude particular airlines so you need to check carefully.
Chairman of the Office of Fair Trading Bill Henderson MHK said “Problems with holidays are very distressing and you can lose a lot of money if things go wrong. It is very important that you make sure you have the necessary financial protection in place before you go. Without this protection your dream holiday could become a disaster. Also make sure you have the right travel insurance to cover these eventualities, but most importantly of all make sure you have adequate health insurance – this is vitally important.”