The Package Travel Regulations can tell you all you need to know, but they’re not always the easiest to understand. In the current state of COVID, being able to trust and have confidence in the people you are paying to supply your travel plans is more important than ever. Knowing your holiday consumer rights is vital in order to protect yourself from possible and unexpected problems, and to get the best certainty out of your time and money. Here you will find everything you need to know about your holiday consumer rights as detailed by the 2018 Regulations on Package Travel and Linked Package Arrangements.
Types of Travel That the Package Travel Regulations Do Not Cover
- Any travel arrangements that are under 24 hours in length may not follow these regulations, unless an overnight stay is included.
- Any travel arrangements made as business travel, will also not likely follow these regulations.
- Packages and arrangements sold or offered for sale outside of the UK, do not come under these regulations.
- Services booked individually will most likely not be covered by the Package Travel Regulations. Bookings made separately entails booking services (transport, accommodation, tourist events) from different travel companies and paying for them separately. For example, booking a journey with an airline directly, and then separately booking accommodation on the hotel’s own site. This sort of booking can be protected in other ways not covered by the package travel regulations, such as via good travel insurance, or by booking with debit or credit cards. We highly recommend that you check for this kind of protection before booking, which you can do by contacting your service provider directly. They will be able to tell you the legal and financial protection you are entitled to under their services, as levels may vary.
Your Consumer Rights When Booking a Package Holiday
Within the regulations, a “package” simply refers to all the travel services with more than one element and booked from one company at one price. The elements this includes are:
- Tourist events
This could be a pre-made package that is offered at one price, or on some websites, a custom-made package where you select all the elements you want, and the travel company charges you one price for the whole package. Booking a holiday in this manner is the safest way for your financial and legal protection, as both are provided under these regulations. You will be fully protected in the case that:
- The travel company fails to perform all they agreed to in the arrangement
- The travel company provides a service worth less than what you paid for; or
- Unexpected, or unavoidable circumstances prevent you from attending your holiday (including pandemic, weather conditions, lack of disability measures etc)
Via the protection provided by the Package Travel Regulations, you are entitled to a full or partial refund, travel home from your destination, or a refund credit note (RCN) if a refund in the allocated time is not possible. A refund credit note contains a reference to your original booking and any financial protection that covered it. This allows you to either rebook a holiday with the same level of financial protection, or to receive a cash refund at a later date.
Your Consumer Rights When Booking a Linked Travel Arrangement
A linked travel arrangement is, in essence, the same as a package holiday in its contents. It is still an arrangement containing more than one element, and, as per the name, the elements are still contained as part of the same holiday contractually. Where this differs is in how it is sold to you and, as a consequence, the level of protection from the Package Travel Regulations. A linked travel arrangement consists of elements booked separately, whether you book them online, over the phone, or in person. An example of a linked travel arrangement would be as follows: –
- You book a plane ticket online
- You get a confirmation email for that order
- You receive another email marketing accommodation for the same date and destination as your flight
- Within 24 hours of booking the plane, you book the accommodation
You have bought two elements, thus creating an arrangement, but you have bought them from separate suppliers. The link here is the travel company you booked the plane through, and that advertised the accommodation to you. In this situation it is the legal duty of this travel business to inform you that you have been sold a linked travel arrangement. The second difference from a package holiday comes under the protection you receive from the Regulations. There is no legal protection from the Regulations for Linked Travel Arrangements, and the financial protection is limited. For clarity, the financial protection only applies if the leading travel company goes bust (this is the company you book through). There is no financial protection if a supplier or travel service provider goes bust, or if a supplier or travel service provider does not perform adequately. However, some protection can come from other elements, such as completing transactions with debit or credit card, having excellent travel insurance, or through providers that work through trust accounts, where your money is best protected.
The Travel Business’s Obligations To You
Please be aware that this section does not apply to any contracts completed outside of the EU. Whether you book your holiday online, over the phone, or in person, under the rules of the Package Travel Regulations, any travel companies making these arrangements are required to provide you with all the same information. This consists of:
- Holiday dates
- Hotel accommodation
- Flight times
- Transfer details
- The payment schedules
- General information about the booking status and visas
- Links to appropriate parts of the Package Travel Regulations
- What kind of arrangement your booking is
- An ATOL Certificate (this must be provided immediately after your payment, and if you have booked any flights, it is vital that you have this)
You can request to be given a copy of any of this information and the travel business must provide it. They are also required to give certain types of information by your request, if they did not have to give it outright. This includes information on service’s suitability to consumers with disabilities.
If Your Arrangement Is Changed Or Cancelled
If the travel company decides to make a change to your booking, they must inform you of this change and give you a reasonable period to decline or accept. If you do not accept the change then you are entitled to a full refund of your agreement within 14 days. In this vein, there are also differing obligations depending upon whether you cancel an arrangement before the contract start, versus if the travel company cancels. In the circumstance that you make a cancellation, there are a few things to consider.
- The travel company is within reason to provide a cancellation fee based on how close to the start of the package you cancel and expected complications with costs. You may request a reason for these costs and the travel company is obliged to provide them.
- If you must cancel due to unpredictable reasons that affect the destination or the ability to perform the agreed services, you are entitled to cancellation without a termination fee and with a full refund, but no further compensation.
- In the circumstance that the travel company must cancel your arrangement because the number of people listed for the arrangement is smaller than the minimum, they are obliged to notify you within a certain time depending on the length of the holiday:
- for a 6-day trip, 20 days in advance
- for a trip of 2-6 days, 7 days in advance, and
- for a trip of 2 days or less, within 48 hours preceding the start date.
In unavoidable circumstances, they must notify you without delay when the circumstances arise. As with the consumer cancellation, they must provide a full refund, but have no obligation to provide further compensation.
Remain Reasonable When Dealing with Your Travel Agent
Though the Package Travel Regulations are set in place, it is always good to remain reasonable through this process and to harbour a good relationship with the travel companies that are providing you with a service. To the best of their capability, these regulations will protect both your holiday consumer rights, and the travel company alike. However, there are circumstances that they cannot account for. Especially during COVID, travel companies may have reason to delay a refund past when it is supposed to be paid to you. The Package Travel Regulations declare that a refund is often due in 14 days, but they could contact you to inform you that it will take 28 days because of complications. This could be due to many things, including:
- Heavy traffic in their systems
- A flood of requests that are above what they can deal with as swiftly; or
- there could be issues they’re dealing with entirely separately but impact the rate of delivery.
Being reasonable in these situations is important, and when you are dealing with a good travel company, they will extend the same courtesy to you so that you can maintain a good relationship. There is also the offer of RCNs (refund credit notes) to consider. There are a few points that you should be aware of regarding RCNs:
- As the consumer, you have no legal obligation to accept an RCN
- If the travel company is struggling to get anything back to you, an RCN is a guarantee that they will
- RCNs will give you a finite date for when you will receive a full refund
- It will come with an ATOL certificate attached if you booked a flight
- An RCN should be for the exact amount you paid. It should not have a % increase even if offered to you as incentive. The value must match the amount paid.
- An RCN is not a voucher. If a travel company offers a voucher instead of a refund or RCN, you have no obligation to accept – especially since this will not be equivalent to the full value of the holiday you lost.
This allows for you to work together with the travel company and build a good relationship that will be a great strength when you do come across issues with your arrangement or details of the Regulations.
How PTS Protect Your Holiday Consumer Rights
All holiday bookings made through a member of PTS are protected by the agreement the member has with PTS, and by the secure trust account system. In case of issues, your financial protection is guaranteed, whether your issue comes from supplier, travel agent, or tour operator. Please rest assured that PTS will always respect your holiday consumer rights!
The protection you receive from booking with a PTS member is like no other in the industry. Both PTS Members and PTS will happily ensure you have complete peace of mind through trust. Take a look at our infographic below, and keep an eye out for this infographic and the PTS logo to make sure you book with a PTS travel company. Not all travel companies are members of PTS, so please ensure you check what associations the company you book through has, so that you can be confident in your rights and enjoy your holiday with peace of mind. The most important piece of advice we can give any UK consumer when booking your next holiday, is to book with an excellent travel agent or tour operator – a human being – someone you trust and can speak with. It is incredibly important, as so many have learnt throughout COVID, that you have an excellent relationship with your travel agent or tour organiser. Booking online may seem quick, but it is impersonal and will inevitably lead to difficult communications if you have any issues. For more information on how PTS guarantees you holiday consumer rights, please visit our consumer protection page. If you are looking for a local PTS member close to you, please email our friendly team at firstname.lastname@example.org and we shall happily recommend one of our wonderful members.