The sale and provision of package holidays is controlled by new laws introduced in July 2018.
What the law says
The sale and provision of package holidays is controlled by the new Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018. This was introduced on 1 July 2018 to replace the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.
You should always be told at the point of purchase if you have bought a Package Holiday or Linked Travel Arrangement. This is important information, as the different types of holidays offer different protections if something goes wrong.
A ‘package’ means a combination of at least two travel services for the purpose of the same trip or holiday.
A travel service is:
- A carriage of passengers – like flights, trains, coaches, for example;
- Accommodation (other than for residential purposes);
- Vehicle rental; and
- Any other tourist service that is not essential to the services above, but forming a significant proportion or necessary feature of the package.
You have probably booked a package holiday if:
- It has been advertised as a package or all-inclusive holiday;
- You bought the holiday for one price, even if you are paying off the total cost with a payment plan; and/or
- After booking and paying for one part of your holiday on a website, you were prompted to buy another travel service on a linked website, without having to re-enter your personal and payment details again and you did this within 24 hours.
Linked Travel Arrangement (LTAs)
A Linked Travel Arrangement is when an agent or operator assists you in making separate payments for travel services.
You have booked a Linked Travel Arrangements if:
- You buy a holiday through a travel agent or online retailer, and combine separate travel services, but pay for them separately. Or;
- You make bookings within 24 hours from multiple website traders via targeted links, but your personal and payment details are not transferred over.
When purchasing a flight inclusive package holiday, your money must be protected under the ATOL scheme. When you book your holiday the agent or operator must give you an ATOL certificate confirming this. If you buy a non-flight inclusive holiday (e.g. a cruise) your holiday must be protected either by a bond, insurance or trust account.
Linked Travel Arrangements do not have the same level of protection as a package holiday. You will however benefit from insolvency protection. This means that if the trader from whom you bought the arrangements goes out of business, you will get your money back.
How to complain
If something goes wrong when you are on holiday, you should contact the agent or operator to give them a chance to put things right. It is useful to keep a record, like photographs or receipts, to use as evidence in case you need it.
If you are not happy with the outcome with the agent or operator, you should contact the company, providing evidence of any issues when you return from holiday.
If you are not satisfied with the company’s response, check if they are members of a Travel Association (ABTA) or the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) or whether the trader offers an alternative dispute resolution scheme. You should always complain to the agent or operator before taking your complaint further.
Linked Travel Arrangements
If you have an issue with a flight or non-flight Linked Travel Arrangement, contact the company who is responsible for the aspect of the holiday that is affected. If you are still not happy when you return home, contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.
ATOL (the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) is a financial protection scheme for air passengers. ATOL is managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). All companies selling flight inclusive package holidays in the UK are legally required to hold an ATOL.
If a tour operator goes out of business before you are due to travel, on an ATOL protected holiday you can claim a full refund. If the tour operator goes out of business while you are on holiday, you will be able to remain there and arrangements will be made for you to fly home at the end of your holiday.
Travel agents and tour operators are required to supply an ATOL Certificate when selling an ATOL flight-inclusive package holiday. The Certificate is a standardised document issued by all ATOL holders or their agents.
There are some exceptions, however. Linked Travel Arrangements are not ATOL protected. Also, ATOL does not give protection if you buy your flights directly from the airline. If you buy flight-only deals from agents of operators, you should always check to see if they are ATOL protected.