Travel agents - Poor service

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It can be very distressing to encounter poor service from a tour operator or the hotel staff at your resort, so if you experience it you should raise the issue immediately by asking to speak to the member of staff manager. 

All staff should be polite as they are there to assist and support you. As such, you should expect basic courtesy at the very least. Remember to be polite and reasonable when dealing with staff.

If you feel you’ve been poorly treated, you should submit your concern via resolver. Your complaint should be submitted to the customer services department of your tour operator.

You should know

A Travel agency's main function is to act as an agent, selling travel products and services on behalf of a tour operator or airline.  Should there be a problem with the travel or package you booked it will not normally be the responsibility of the travel agent but the tour operator.  

If you booked only transport or accommodation and you encounter an issue then you may have to complain to the hotel or transport provider direct.  Your travel agent should assist you with this.  

Some Travel Agents are also Tour Operators and often have high street stores through which they sell their holiday packages.  

  • A package holiday is where two or more key elements are provided under a single contract (flights, accommodation, transfers etc.). It can be in the UK, a cruise or travel abroad
  • Should you have a  problem with your holiday the travel agent may be able to assist you however the tour operator is likely to be liable
  • Be reasonable in your expectationsthe more you paid the higher your expectations should be
  • Allow 28 days for an initial response to your complaint

If your complaint is about a flight issue (delays, cancellations, baggage etc), you should use our flights tool to complain to the airline.

When is it reasonable to complain?

It is important to bear in mind that things don’t always go to plan, so you need to remember to be reasonable with your expectations. Holidays are one of the most emotional times of the year and so we can sometimes set expectations that are higher than can reasonably be achieved.

The Package Travel Regulations

Your rights are a little different when it comes to Package Holidays – the Package Travel Regulations (PTR) give you some protection here. Your rights say that your holiday should be as it was described when you paid for it. If the tour operator or travel agent has advertised the package as including certain services, you are entitled to receive these services – if you feel that you’ve not gotten what you paid for, you can use Resolver to file a complaint with your tour operator or travel agent.

Essentially, the PTR states that everything in the package must be as described, and that the tour operator or travel agent is liable where your holiday isn’t as expected. If you arrive at the airport and find that your rooms are missing a balcony, a swimming pool or ocean views, the PTR says that you’re entitled to compensation.

A holiday is only a package holiday if the contract includes at least two of the following: transport, accommodation and other tourist services.

If the tour operator has booked a holiday that clearly shows that you have two separate contracts for flights and hotels (for example), it is not considered a package holiday and won't be covered by the PTR.

As of July 2018, the PTR has been extended to include any travel company that sells multiple bits of a holiday in a single transaction. This means that if a site puts together a hotel and a flight in one transaction, for example, they're covered under the PTR – and are liable if any part of the holiday they've included in the transaction goes wrong.

Does the holiday have to be international?

A package holiday can be a UK holiday or a cruise as well as an international holiday.

Tailor-made packages

Tailor-made packages are also covered by the regulations.

Separate contracts

Even if you have booked the hotel and flights from a single provider, such as a website, if they are separate bookings then these are separate contracts and therefore not covered by the regulations.

If you are not satisfied

If you have experienced poor service or your holiday is not what you expected then:

  • Report it as soon as you can, report the issue to someone from your package holiday firm. Explain clearly what you want done. Remember to take down their name and the time and date you reported the issue
  • Remember to ask: what the representative of the company recommends as the next step in the complaints process and what timescales this will take
  • Get evidence: wherever you can, take photos or videos of the problem, names and email addresses of anyone else that has experienced the same problems
  • Submit a complaint formally: you should either submit a complaint when you get home or even when you are still abroad, if you have access to cost-effective internet access. resolver can help you submit your complaint.

Who do you raise your issue with?

When raising the issue, you should do so with the package holiday operator, rather than any booking agent, as they are responsible for the entire package.

What can you claim for?

The Package Travel Regulations (Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992), stipulate that the consumer should get what they booked and paid for.

Did the brochure or website accurately describe the holiday you experienced? If the tour did not match up, then you are entitled to make a claim. The operator is liable for all the services.

How to make a complaint

A successful claim must relate to important terms of the holiday contract known as ‘express or implied terms’. One of these terms must have been broken, for example an express term where the brochure promises full board or entertainment each night, which is not available, or an implied term that your holiday should be of a reasonable standard based on the price you paid.

If the Tour Operator offers a reasonable alternative to compensate for the breach, you must consider accepting this or it may appear that you have failed to try to mitigate your loss.

Generally, you cannot succeed in claiming for loss of enjoyment. Unless it was a special trip such as a honeymoon that went quite wrong, your claim is unlikely to succeed.

What is a reasonable response time?

ABTA recommends that its members should respond to your issue with 28 days. This is a lot longer than any other industry takes to respond to a complaint.

If you cannot resolve the issue

If you cannot resolve the issue with the company, then you can raise the issue with ABTA - The Travel Association or the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) depending on which organisation your package holiday provider is a member of. Both organisations offer a dispute-resolution service.

Small Claims Court
The alternative is to take legal action and take the company to Court. You can submit your claim through Money Claims OnLine (MCOL), the government’s online court. The cost will depend on the amount you claim. You can cancel your claim at any point during the process. However, you may be liable to pay the company’s legal costs if you lose the case.

Mediation
You could suggest mediation to the travel operator through a lower-cost third-party mediation service, but the package holiday company is unlikely to accept an alternative to their official resolution service (ABTA/AITO).

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