Holidays from hell? Here’s how to get something back from a rotten time away
It's that time of year again. The kids are off school, and millions of Brits are piling into cars, onto ferries and into planes for the annual summer getaway.
Our summer holiday is a big deal, too. In fact, for many families, it's the biggest single expense of the year, equivalent to 2 months salary. And even if you've planned your break like a military operation, sometimes things can go wrong.
There's no need to take this lying down if the dream turns out to be a nightmare, though, because you are often entitled to some sort of compensation if your holiday goes haywire.
That's why we've gathered together all the hottest holiday tips and advice from my online complaint resolution tool, resolver.co.uk - to make sure you can get back what you're due if something goes horribly wrong.
We've also used our unique data, taken from hundreds of thousands of complaints in our system, to give you the lowdown on the best holiday firms for customer service, and what most Brits complain about when getting away from it all.
What to do if your plane is delayed.
Late flights are one of the most common holidaymaker hassles. A delayed flight can wreak havoc on your holiday. It can mean you miss an onward connection, turn up late at your hotel or even become stranded at an unfamiliar airport with only the prospect of an expensive taxi ride to take you to where you need to be
There is some good news, though: there are very clear EU regulations that can net delayed passengers fixed compensation of up to 450 euros per passenger. As you might imagine, some airlines aren't all that keen to give away that cash - but several court cases over the past few years have forced airlines to cough up, so these days they're a lot more ready to give you what you're owed - as long as you ask for it!
Some bad news, though: there are quite a few rules around when you can ask for cash compensation - and how much you can ask for:
When can you claim?
There are some basic rules:
• Rule 1: the flight must be delayed by more than three hours, and the delay has to be compared to the time the flight is meant to arrive and not the time that it takes off (oh, and ‘arrival’ counts as the point at which the cabin crew open the doors… not when the plan touches down)
• Rule 2: the flight must take off from the UK or European Union. If it’s a long-haul flight into the UK/EU, it must be via a UK or European airline and the flight must be longer than 3,500km
• Rule 3: the issue must be ‘within the control of the airline’ (so bad weather or air-traffic control disputes are going to leave you without any compensation)
How much can you claim for?
• If the flight is less than 1,500km and the flight is more than three hours late, then you can claim €250
• If the flight is between 1,500 and 3,000Km and the flight is more than three hours late, then you can claim €400
• If the flight is more than 3,000km and leaving the EU, or is a EU airline flying into the UK and is between three and four hours late, then you could get back €300. (If it is more than four hours late, then you could expect up to €600.
If you are struggling to claim compensation, then submit your issue via www.resolver.co.uk for free . You could use a claims management company (CMC), but they would charge you between 15% and 30% of your compensation for handling the claim and I believe this is wrong – a CMC should be your last resort.
Only when the airline rejects your issue, can you then send your case to the Civil Aviation Authority, the Retail Ombudsman or CEDR depending on the airline, which can assess your complaint and provide comment on whether or not the airline should pay out. Only then should you consider a claims management company.
Some airlines will pay you a daily amount of money to cover expenses whilst you are without your luggage, but others will expect you to keep receipts and claim for reimbursement. As any claims must be made within 21 days of receiving the luggage, you should submit this as soon as possible.
How you can claim for a train delay
Officially, you can only claim if it's the train company's fault and after an hour's delay, but in practice, many companies have a policy of paying out after shorter delays – it very much depends on the train operator.
According to National Rail’s Conditions of Carriage, if your train is delayed for over an hour, you are entitled to a 20% refund on a single ticket or 10% on a return ticket. If you choose not to travel because the train is delayed or cancelled, then you can apply for a complete refund from the train station or submit your tickets back to the train company. Remember if possible to have some proof of when the train was delayed.
Check your train company
Different train companies have different rules – the compensations levels I’ve already mentioned are the minimum standards set by Government. Over 50% of train companies will give you compensation if your train is later than 30 minutes behind its scheduled time, so it’s worth checking, and remember you can use www.resolver.co.uk to submit your query.
• All bus and coach operating companies have different rules relating to customer issues; the Bus Users Good Practice Guide sets out what you should expect from bus companies.
• You must always complain to the company direct if you have a complaint about the service and give as much detail as possible
• Check each bus companies Conditions of Carriage for specific terms and conditions
• If you cannot settle your complaint directly with the bus company you can ask Passenger Focus to follow up complaints to any bus or coach company within the UK.
• The exceptions to this are London, where you can complain to London Travelwatch and Northern Ireland where you should contact The Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.
Will Brexit affect my holidays?
Since Britain voted to leave the EU, the value of the pound has nosedived against the Dollar and the Euro. As a result, your sunny getaway to the Med could end up costing quite a bit more, typically an increase of over £200. This won’t affect anything you might have already paid for – but your beachside pint is going to cost you more. Things might not be so pricey for farther-flung holidays, though – the pound’s exchange rate with the US dollar could bounce back far quicker than with the euro.
Your rights as a holidaymaker shouldn’t change too much, though. UK tour operators will still be bound by UK law, and ABTA’s code of conduct, and will still be regulated by the 1992 package travel laws.
Meanwhile, for the more adventurous sort who don’t like the restrictions of travel packages and organised tour operators, again very little changes. If you book direct with your providers of accommodation or travel, these will still be regulated by local law in the countries in which these companies operate or are located.
Helpful hints when making a complaint about a holiday
• Get your complaint in writing - this is the easiest way of making sure it gets recorded properly
• If you do need to make a phone call, Resolver can record it for free and store it for you in your online case file.
• Record as many details as possible - who you speak to, their job titles, the dates and times of your calls with them. Resolver can do this for you, but it’s worth making the effort to record details yourself, too.
• Be polite. You might well be really frustrated and irritated about the service you’ve received, but it’s important to keep calm.
For more information, see our page on Flight Delays.