Millions of people purchase holiday travel online each year, and the travel industry as a whole has seen a significant shift among consumers toward easier, more convenient booking. Online travel agents and websites seem to pop up daily, boasting the best deals and discounts on flights, accommodations, and activities to go along with a holiday getaway. While most online travel agencies deliver on their promises made to consumers, not every traveller gets what he or she was expecting. There are instances when a holiday package didn’t live up to the hype, leaving customers stranded, with few options and little recourse to correct the situation.
Because of these unfortunate travelling nightmare tales, the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK has come up with a strategy for getting online travel agencies to abide by recently published rules. Through the Check In On Your Terms campaign, the CMA is encouraging travel booking sites to take a closer look at the terms and conditions they provide to customers, and if those are simple enough to understand and, above all else, fair to the consumer. The CMA’s efforts geared toward online travel agencies are meant to ultimately help customers who have less than ideal experiences. However, part of the responsibility for understanding the terms and conditions of an online holiday package falls on the shoulders of the consumer.
What is a Holiday Package?
The first step in knowing if a holiday package purchased online through an agency or website has fair terms is to understand the different types of bookings that are recognised under the current laws. There are two broad categories of holiday travel transactions: holiday packages and linked travel arrangements. According to a travel specialist from Money Pug, a website used to compare all inclusive holiday deals, understanding the difference between the two is a necessary part of knowing your rights as a traveller. This is because a holiday package offers more protections to the consumer than a linked travel arrangement.
A holiday package sold through an online travel agent or website can be easy to identify, fortunately. Travellers purchase a holiday package when:
- You book two or more portions of your trip with the same provider, such as a flight and hotel, with a single payment entry
- You are prompted to purchase a second portion of your holiday within 24 hours after booking a flight, accommodation, or rental car, and your payment information isn’t required again
- You purchase a holiday that is advertised as an all-inclusive package
With these features intact, you have certain rights as a consumer under the law. However, you may think you’re booking a holiday package when in all reality what you purchased is a linked travel arrangement. With this type of online booking, you secure only one portion of your trip through an online travel agency or website. You may be prompted to complete another part of your holiday with the same site, but if your payment details are needed again, you have a linked travel arrangement. You have fewer protections under this type of transaction, so be sure to pay close attention.
Ensuring Fair Terms and Conditions
Under the CMA’s recently launched campaign, a renewed focus is placed on giving consumers the fair and simple terms they deserve when booking holiday package deals online. The terms and conditions provided by an online travel agent or booking website should, at a minimum, include the following information:
- Specifics on the destination, dates, and itinerary
- Type of transport or activities purchased
- Which meals and excursions are included
- Contact information for the package organiser
- The total price, including any fees
- Cancellation details, including costs and insurance cover
Travellers should also be provided with some remedies if the holiday package booked was not up to par. For example, if your hotel accommodations are no longer available when you arrive and you are asked to stay elsewhere, you should be able to go back to your booking website and request a reasonable alternative. The online travel agency or website is required under law to provide either a fix for the problem or compensation for your trouble.
While travel nightmares can happen for any number of reasons, your online travel agent or the website used to book your holiday package should be there to make it right. When that doesn’t happen, you can get guidance from organisations like CMA or Citizens Advice to see what your next steps may be. It is important to know your rights as a traveller using online booking sites for your next holiday, as well as what to do when things don’t go as planned.