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Unpacking the Package Holiday

You had booked a package holiday and you were looking forward to having a relaxing time, but something went horribly wrong. Now you’re back home and the question is what can I do?


How do I know if I booked a package holiday?

If you’re unsure whether your holiday actually was a package holiday check your booking document. Your booking may use the term package or alternatively if you’ve only had to pay one tour operator for the whole of the holiday then this would mean you’ve booked a package holiday. Similarly, if you booked two or more travel services from the same travel operator, for example flights and hotels, then it is more likely than not that you have booked a package holiday.


Travel Insurance

The first thing to check is your travel insurance policy documents. You may find that what happened counts as an insured incident under your policy and you are able to recover any financial loss from your insurer. This would include things like accidental injuries, food poisoning and having to cancel or cut short the holiday. It’s also worth checking whether you took out Legal Expenses Insurance as an added extra, you may be able to obtain some legal advice on your issue through this.


The Booking

The booking confirmation and documents you receive from the tour operator are essentially the contract you have entered into. The details of the booking form the basis of the contract, for example the hotel you have chosen to stay at and whether or not a transfer from the airport is included.


Who do I complain to?

If something goes wrong on your package holiday, your first port of call is to make a complaint to the tour operator / travel agent you booked with. If your complaint is unable to be resolved, you should be able to escalate your complaint to ABTA provided the agent / operator is a member. ABTA have a dispute resolution process to follow which varies depending on the cause of the complaint, for more information on the dispute resolution process please visit the ABTA website.

In limited circumstances your complaint could constitute a breach of contract.


How do I know if my complaint is a breach of contract?

If the holiday you booked did not match the description in the booking details then you may have a claim for breach of contract against the travel agent or tour operator. These need to be significant changes or alterations to the booking details to constitute a breach of contract or a case where the tour operator has failed to fulfil one of its obligations under the contract.

With a package holiday, regardless of whether the obligations were to be carried out by sub-contractors or third parties, the tour operator is responsible for the performance of the contract. If, once notified of the breach, the tour operator fails to correct the issues then this could lead to a further claim.

If you’re not sure whether your complaints constitute a breach of contract, then you can always seek legal advice.


What can I claim?

Firstly, you can claim the difference in value between what you paid for and what you received. For example, if you booked and paid for a room with a sea view but you were given the keys to a room with a view of the car park, you may be entitled to claim the difference between the value of the two rooms.

Secondly, you can claim for any consequential losses for things like distress and inconvenience, additional expenses and any physical injuries. You should be aware that compensation for distress and inconvenience are generally small sums of money. You should always keep the receipts for any additional losses you have suffered, or any losses suffered as a result of physical injuries.


Important points to note

You should be aware that the Court will expect you to do what you can to keep the losses you have suffered to a minimum. If the Court considers you have not done enough to mitigate your losses, you may not be able to recover them.

You should also bear in mind that the losses you claim must be directly linked to the breach of contract. If the losses are considered to be too remote from the breach, these will not be awarded.


Article written by Harriet Prior, Paralegal in our Contract Resolution Department.