It is that time of year where if you haven’t already booked a summer holiday abroad, you are probably thinking of looking for a late, cut-price deal.
Increasing numbers of people now book online and source their own holidays, rather than using a specialist tour operator, with many choosing to travel to exotic locations and even take part in dangerous and thrill-seeking sports activities and events.
However, with the increased ease of booking alone comes the increase in risk of mistakes being made, mistakes which can prove costly, particularly with regard to ‘package holiday deals’.
In our work at Hudgell Solicitors we have seen many people who believed they had bought a package holiday from a reputable supplier, but in reality they had what is termed a “Flight-Plus” deal.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) describes these as holidays where an individual requests to book a flight with accommodation and/or car hire at the same time or within a day, but the way in which it is sold means that is it not classed as a package.
Instead, it is made up of multiple contracts of two or more, such as one for the flights, one for the hotel and one for the car hire.
Such a situation means a holidaymaker does not have one overall body to claim from should anything go wrong either prior to or during their holiday, and should any contract provider cease to trade then this can, and has resulted in difficulty for individuals attempting to claim refunds and compensation.
We also see scenarios where people have flights with a certain airline, a hotel via a specialist hotel website and then a taxi from the airport to the hotel via a local taxi firm abroad. These are three separate elements provided by three separate suppliers and therefore not a package holiday – even though they may all have been booked at the same time.
This situation has resulted in people not being able to claim compensation for a holiday when they have suffered injury, illness, when the provided holiday did not match up to its description or when certain providers of individual contracts have ceased to trade.
Equally, situations like this can leave people who are seriously injured in an accident or taken ill on holiday due to poor hygiene standards, having to deal directly with a foreign hotel operator rather than a company or insurer based in England.
New regulations will offer greater protection
To counteract these problems, the new Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 will come into effect on July 1 and will apply to holidays booked on or after this date.
Generally speaking, the purpose of the 2018 regulations will be to broaden the scope of what can be defined as a ‘package holiday’, thereby offering greater protection to holidaymakers
One of the major changes is that ‘Flight-Plus’ deals will no longer exist, becoming package holidays or Linked Travel Arrangements (LTAs).
A package holiday will be redefined as a “contract on a package as a whole or, if the package is provided under separate contracts, all contracts covering the travel services included in the package”.
An LTA will be where several contracts have come into existence at the same time or within a day, and any company which facilitates an LTA, and is established in the United Kingdom, must have insurance or other similar means in which to make a refund or compensation should the company cease to trade.
The new regulations will also have scope to now apply to package holidays booked through companies that are not situated in the UK, again offering greater protection.
It remains to be seen what will be classed as a package in practice when the new regulations come into force, and I expect there will be a number of test cases at court, but if you are booking a late summer break abroad over the coming weeks, take care to assess what your ‘package’ holiday includes, and who will be responsible if something does go wrong.
Maybe, if you can wait until after July 1 then do so, as you’re likely to be afforded better protection from any holiday offer which isn’t quite as good as it appears.