What to do if your holiday doesn't go to plan

When going on holiday, there are certain protections the consumer has
Stuart Gilmore

THE holiday season is almost upon us, and while many will enjoy a relatively stress-free trip, for others things may not go quite according to plan.

We have all heard the horror stories of holiday providers going bust, suffering a bereavement before heading off, or arriving at your destination only to find the accommodation is not as advertised.

In circumstances such as these, what protection exists for holiday-goers?

:: Credit card offers added protection - If your flights, hotel or holiday cost over £100, payment by credit card is recommended. Whilst paying by credit card often incurs an additional charge, it can be worth it. Transactions over £100 are subject to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act meaning the card company and the supplier are equally liable if, for example, the airline provider ceases trading. However, be warned, Section 75 does not cover package holidays, if you book via a travel agent, or where a booking is under £100.

:: Look out for ATOL - This is a protection scheme operated by the Civil Aviation Authority. It is a legal requirement that all UK companies selling holidays with air travel must be signed up. ATOL protection will ensure that you do not lose out financially should the travel company enter financial difficulties by either refunding the cost of the holiday or making alternative arrangements. It should however be noted that ATOL protection will only cover the package holiday and not any elements booked separately.

:: Travel insurance - This will cover you not just while on holiday but also for anything that might go wrong before your trip, such as if you fall ill, are made redundant or suffer a bereavement. Insurance should therefore be purchased as soon as you book with an immediate commencement date rather than your date of travel.

:: Accommodation not up to scratch - You have the right to expect the package holiday you booked and paid for. The holiday description must therefore be accurate and if not, you can make a claim under the Package Travel Regulations. If you do arrive and discover the holiday has been misrepresented, do not wait until you return home, inform the company immediately and ensure you take photos and videos as evidence to support your complaint.

:: Delays and/or cancellations - Under EU regulations, in the event that your flight is cancelled, airlines should offer a full refund or an alternative flight if the original flight was to depart from an EU airport or when an EU airline landed in an EU airport. Compensation is also due if you were informed less than 14 days prior to the scheduled departure date unless the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. If the flight is delayed, and you arrive at your final destination with a delay of more than three hours, you are entitled to compensation, unless the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances and was not within the airline’s control.

:: Injuries and sickness on holiday - Accidents whilst on holiday can lead to personal injury; expensive hospital bills; activities being curtailed or cancelled without refund and loss of enjoyment of the trip. Many people are discouraged from pursuing a claim in such circumstances as the complication of dealing with lawyers in another jurisdiction can put them off. International legal authorities have harmonised such matters across the globe, taking into consideration accidents in the air, at sea or on land. In short, if you or a member of your travelling party has been injured on holiday, you may well have a claim for compensation. It is important that you seek legal advice in this respect immediately upon your return.

:: Stuart Gilmore is director of litigation at O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors ( / 02890 321000).

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