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What to do if your dream holiday turns into a nightmare?

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Jonathan Haines, a Chartered Legal Executive at QualitySolicitors Martin Tolhurst specialising in dispute resolution and having worked in the travel industry for 12 years explains;

“Holidays are not cheap despite competition. Some of us save for many years for a 'once in a lifetime' holiday or a special event such as a honeymoon or anniversary. A factor that differentiates a holiday from any other product is you cannot see it, experience it or inspect it before you buy it. If it all goes wrong you cannot take it back to the shop and exchange it for another one. You can only rely, therefore, on what you are told over the phone, by a travel agent or what you may see from a holiday brochure or on the Internet. This is all fine until things go wrong…

So what if your dream holiday does not meet your expectations - who is responsible for the holiday and what should you do?

  • Unless you book and organise your own holiday elements individually (flights, accommodation and transport) your holiday contract is usually with the tour operator and not with the travel agent as most people think. Both the tour operator (and travel agent) are however liable under the Package Travel, Package Holiday and Package Tours Regulations 1992.
  • For financial protection, check that your travel agent or tour operator is  a  member of ABTA  or ATOL  or  similar organisation offering security in the event of insolvency.
  • Check well in advance all holiday documentation: flight tickets, dates, passports, inoculation requirements, visas (if applicable) and holiday insurance. Remember, the people that book your holiday are human and mistakes can (and do) happen.

What should you do once in resort if things go wrong? Whatever the problem, it is important to:-

  • Bring the problem immediately to the tour operator's notice or report it to the local representative. If you do not and you only complain when you get home, you may be in breach of your holiday contract.
  • If your complaint is acknowledged by the representative obtain proof by getting a copy of the complaint form. Tour operators have their own terminology for such a form e.g. 'Client Liaison Form' - the name of this form can be found in the booking conditions. Resort representatives must give you a copy of the form when you register your complaint.
  • Record dates and times and make a note of names of any persons (hotel managers, staff and representatives) that you speak to.
  • Take photographs or a video. This is crucial if you feel you have a complaint. Video and photographic evidence is very credible evidence and is easy to take with mobile phones.
  • Retain receipts if you incur unnecessary expense, e.g. you end up paying for a taxi because there were no transfers at the airport as booked.
  • If you are ill or have an accident try and obtain medical evidence. If you are too ill, try and get a friend or relative to obtain this information for you. Make sure you get names of any doctors who treat you and the address of the clinic or hospital.

What should you do when you arrive back in the U.K?

  • You must put your complaint in writing to the tour operator.
  • Some tour operators might initially respond to your complaint by using a standard paragraph letter. Tell them that this is unsatisfactory and you want your complaint dealt with in detail.
  • There are strict time limitations in which to pursue a claim through the Courts. The limitation period can vary depending on the type and nature of claim. You should always check this at the earliest opportunity to save your claim being time barred. Also check the booking conditions because before issuing Court proceedings a contractual obligation might exist to use alternative dispute resolution such as the ABTA arbitration Scheme.

How much compensation should you expect?

Generally, if you wish to recover damages under the holiday contract then you can sue the tour operator for breach of contract.

  • It is possible to bring a claim for what is known as “loss of bargain” i.e, what you actually received compared to what you contracted and paid for.
  • In holiday contracts, the law has recognised a claim for loss of enjoyment. This may include anxiety, distress and inconvenience. This is very important in respect of holidays involving honeymoons and anniversaries.
  • You may also be able to claim out of pocket expenses, for example, the cost of a taxi fare when airport transfers have not been provided.
  • In many situations, it is a case of negotiating with your tour operator a level of compensation. Remember though, that a tour operator is a business and it will not pay anymore than it has to. If you feel particularly aggrieved and feel that you are getting nowhere, you have the choice of pursuing your claim through the Court system.”

[The above is intended to give a general idea to rights & remedies and does not constitute legal advice. If you experience a bad holiday, individual case specific advice should be taken on the issues concerning you]

If you are in need of specific advice on how to pursue your claim, ask our Legal Experts within your own no obligation, 45 minute fixed-fee advice session for just £99 inc.VAT. Simply speak to a member of our First Contact Team to arrange your appointment on 01474 546013.