Check your rights, holidaymakers warned
The rise of DIY holiday planning could have serious implications for travellers who need to pursue a claim for compensation after they fly home, a lawyer has warned.
Elisabeth Glover, a solicitor who specialises in consumer claims at FBC Manby Bowdler, said individual holidaymakers who book their own flights and holidays rather than a package tour should be aware of consumer rights issues before they leave.
“When it’s so easy to book online, the attraction is to create a trip that’s unique to you especially with the rise of websites like Airbnb and reviews on Tripadvisor,” she said.
“But if something goes wrong, whether it’s an outbreak of food poisoning, or the hotel is a health and safety disaster area, what happens next is likely to be a much tougher course to navigate for self-booked travellers.
“As well as having less clout to win a swift result to a complaint directed to a service provider, a DIY travel planner will not have a simple route to compensation, unlike a package holiday, where travellers use a company operating under the Package Travel Regulations.”
Package tour operators have an obligation to make sure that the hotels they use match up to international standards on food safety and facilities. If someone on a package trip is unhappy, they can complain to the company representative, and if they become ill or have an accident through the negligence of the hotel or any other service provider in the package, they may be entitled to make a claim on the tour operator.
One recent claim against tour operator First Choice was by a British holidaymaker who travelled to the all-inclusive Dreams Resort & Spa in the Dominican Republic. He successfully received a five-figure payout, after spending two days in hospital on the island and suffering long-term health issues due to food poisoning contracted at the hotel.
In another case in the Dominican Republic, £5.5m was secured in compensation for nearly 1,000 travellers who contracted serious illnesses when they stayed at the Bahia Principe Hotel with tour operators that included First Choice, Thomas Cook, My Travel and Thomson. The guests described seeing animals and vermin in the dining area and cockroaches in their bedrooms, with sewage and sanitation problems around the hotel complex.
Elisabeth explained: “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 aims to give protection to consumers who have purchased package holidays.
“If you make the bookings directly yourself, you won’t have purchased a ‘package holiday’ and won’t be covered by these. You may still be able to claim compensation, but the route to making the claim is likely to be harder and the starting point will be the booking documentation, to see what you’ve signed up to.
“Any travel services in the UK will be covered by UK consumer rights. If it’s in the EU, then European-wide rules will apply. Any claims issued after 10th January 2015 come under what’s known as ‘Brussels I’ which simplifies the process for EU residents bringing injury claims where the incident occurs outside their country of residence, but within the EU.”
She added: “If an incident takes place outside the EU, then the local legislation may apply, which can mean a long-winded process that could put off anyone except those suffering very serious consequences.
“The best advice, whatever the destination, once you’ve checked that you are booking the trip through a company regulated by ABTA and ATOL, is to check what your travel insurance covers before you take it out and to pay for flights and hotels by using a credit card, as that gives valuable legal protection if the company you’re buying from goes bust or doesn’t deliver what has been promised. And if the worst happens, document everything at the time and get some advice when you’re safely home.”