Rushing off to a well-planned or last-minute holiday can be a much-needed break from everyday life. With the influx of online travel agencies and metasearch sites offering hard-to-beat pricing for all-inclusive getaways and package travel deals, it’s hard not to take the bait. In many cases, these package holidays deliver on everything they promise, from flight times and seats to hotel accommodations and rental transport. However, there are times when holiday package deals don’t quite live up to the hype.
A handful of travelers each year have a less than enjoyable experience during a holiday when it was purchased through an online travel agent. These bad experiences range from a different hotel than what was promised to an overbooked flight with no confirmed seat. While one might think its easy to go back to the website to get some remedy for a botched holiday, that isn’t always a simple task. This often has to do with the terms and conditions strategically placed in fine print, in more legalese than most can stomach. Fortunately, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has put together a campaign for online travel agencies and holiday package booking websites to help clear up the confusion surrounding their terms.
If you’re planning a holiday and considering purchasing a holiday package, here’s what you need to know.
Breaking Down Holiday Packages
Buying a holiday package online can offer a significant amount of savings. Instead of purchasing a flight from the airline, accommodations from a hotel chain, and transport from a car company, travelers can do it all in one, easy transaction. However, not all holiday packages are deemed packages under the law.
According to a travel specialist at Money Pug, a website used to compare package holidays, travelers need to recognise the difference between a holiday package deal and a linked travel arrangement. This is because package holidays provider certain rights and protections under the law, while linked travel arrangements may not. A package holiday purchase includes one or more of the following:
- Two or more purchases in a single transaction, such as a flight and hotel room
- The purchase was advertised as an all-inclusive or package deal
- After booking one portion of the holiday, the website prompted you to purchase another portion without requiring you to input your payment details again
Online travel agents and holiday package websites may also provide access to linked travel arrangements. These differ from a protected holiday package deal in that you only purchase one portion of your holiday through the site, or you purchase more than one part but have to enter payment details for each. Linked travel arrangements do not have the same provisions or legal protections as holiday packages through online providers, so it is important to know what you’re getting.
Clear Terms and Conditions
When a holiday package is purchased, you have certain rights under the law as well as access to specific information about your trip. Your online travel agent or booking website must provide clear terms and conditions of your package, including cancellation fees, cancellation procedures, and how to remedy issues that arise during your getaway. Prior to booking a holiday package, you must also be given a lengthy list of details to verify and confirm before making a payment. These specifics include the dates of your travel, what’s included in your booking, any passport or visa requirements, and contact information for the travel agency. If these items aren’t present or the terms of your holiday package aren’t clear, you could be facing a holiday nightmare.
There are times when things don’t go as planned, and the reasons behind changes aren’t always avoidable. However, you have certain rights as a traveler using an online travel agent or website to book your holiday package if your trip isn’t what you expected or what was sold. If you get to your destination and the hotel accommodations are different than anticipated, you may have the right to go back to the booking agency for help. The online travel agency or website you used is required to make suitable alternative arrangements, at no additional cost to you. If they do not, you may be entitled to compensation for your troubles.
Resources if Something Goes Wrong
Your first recourse when your holiday doesn’t go off as planned is your online travel agency or the website you used to book your flight, accommodations, or transport. Get in touch with them first to see if there are any remedies to the issue. When they are unwilling or unable to help, you can use the resources through CMA to check if the terms of your holiday package are unfair. You may also visit Citizens Advice for help with a formal consumer complaint. While these remedies may not make your holiday everything you wanted, they will provide you with direction on how to manage the issues with your online travel agency or booking website.