Your rights on holiday

Holidays are supposed to be a way of escaping stress. But if things aren’t as you hoped it can be devastating. Knowing your rights on holiday can reduce the upset and help you improve things on the trip or failing that, prepare a case for when you get home.

Start before you goIf you are booking a honeymoon or a trip to celebrate something special, tell the agent this when you book. As well as the possibility of obtaining upgrades and top quality service, this could strengthen your case if you need to complain later. If you have any special requirements on which the trip depends, let the tour operator know and try and pin them down to an answer in writing as to whether they can provide it or not.

Airport Misery
If you are faced with a long delay or cancellation, what you are entitles to depends on the length of your flight and the legislation changes on a regular basis.

If the flight is overbooked, unfortunately the airline is within its rights to bump you off the flight but is obliged to offer compensation. If you have checked in early, this is less likely to happen.

Compensation levels vary depending on what caused the delay. “Extraordinary Circumstances” beyond the airline’s control such as weather, terrorist threats or industrial action by staff not connected to the airline would fall under this category. Unfortunately the definition of “Extraordinary Circumstances” is ambiguous and there are loopholes under which airlines can avoid paying. Broadly speaking, crew shortages or maintenance issues are not considered “Extraordinary Circumstances” but seek legal advice if you are making a significant claim.

Note: If you have taken out travel insurance you may be entitled to claim – check your policy for details.

Emotional Baggage
Many of you will know this sinking feeling. Your fellow passengers have collected their bags and cleared customs while you watch the carousel go round and round but all that’s left is a bag of dirty nappies.

It is very important to make a claim at the baggage services desk in the airport and get a Property Irregularity Report or it will be difficult to claim on your travel insurance or receive the compensation you are entitled to. Many airlines will offer an immediate payment for purchase of essential items, others will reimburse when you give them the receipts – you will need copies of these if you claim on your travel insurance as well. The airline then has 21 days to find your bag before it is considered “lost”. The compensation you will then receive will depend on the contents of your luggage so again, hang on to receipts for anything of value in your luggage. Put your name, house number and postcode on your baggage and details of your holiday accommodation and dates to help with a speedy reunion if your bag re-appears.

If you made a connecting flight on another airline but checked your bag right through to the end of the journey, you can claim against any of the airlines that handled your bag. The airline may refuse your claim and try to shift the blame on to the other carrier, but this is a breach of the Montreal Convention. Seek legal advice for claims of this nature.

Hotel of Horrors
If you have arrived at your accommodation to find your room full of cockroaches or have a lovely view of a building site, your first point of call should be your holiday rep. Take a copy of the brochure with you so you can compare what it says against what you actually got. Take photographs and videos of the problems. If the complaint is not resolved while on holiday, write to the tour operator as soon as you get home. Keep copies of every letter you write and if you phone them, make a note of the date, time and who you spoke to. Don’t forget that a holiday booking is a contract which consists of the small print in the back of the brochure. If they have breached this contract you may be entitled to compensation – don’t be fobbed off with offers like “£20 off your next holiday with us” if that’s not what you want. Seek legal advice if you are still unhappy.

Don’t go without insuranceWhether you have missed your departure or been stung by a jellyfish, your travel insurance may help you get out of a tight spot. Take a copy of your policy documentation on holiday with you so, in the event of something happening which may give rise to a claim, you are equipped with the information you need to sort things out quickly and painlessly. With 24/7 Travel Insurance’s cover starting at less than a fiver*, can you afford to leave home without it?

Luckily the vast majority of holidays are problem-free and most complaints can be fixed on the spot. And service can only improve further when more holidaymakers are aware of their rights.

* Premium £4.76 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on an individual traveller aged under 55 taking out a Standard single-trip policy for 3 days in Europe and purchased within 14 days of departure date.