Travel agents - Representative not at airport
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The reason most people choose a package holiday is to take the stress out of organising the individual elements of your holiday. Therefore, a chaotic experience at the airport is not what you paid for and should be reported to the tour operator’s representative as soon as possible.
Ask for an official company complaint form to fill in or send a complaint via resolver and keep a record of events. If you don’t get a favourable response from your holiday rep, ask fellow travellers if they would be prepared to act as witnesses and submit your concern in writing to the holiday company.
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 expectations; the more you paid the higher your expectations should be
- Allow 28 days for an initial response to your complaint
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.
What is a package holiday?
According to the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 a package holiday is:
- A holiday that covers a period of at least 24 hours or involves overnight accommodation
- A holiday consist of a combination of at least two of the following components:
- transport (for example, flights, trains, coaches and ferries - free transfers from the airport to a hotel would not be included)
- accommodation (this should be significant - it would include a berth on a cruise ship but not on a cross-channel ferry)
- other tourist services that form a significant proportion of the package (for example, car hire)
- the holiday must be sold at an inclusive price
The rights in this section are based on a package holiday.
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 are also covered by the regulations.
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.
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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