New law reclassifies ‘flight plus’ trips

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A new European Union (EU) directive will give travellers from member states better protection on both traditional package holidays and holidays where the customer chooses travel services from different suppliers via a single website, call centre or shop.

Under current rules, buyers of traditional package holidays – flights and accommodation purchased together – are given a great deal of cover. If the firm they are travelling with goes out of business, the customer will be fully refunded, or brought home if already on their trip. Additional legal protection is also offered to help claim money back if bad weather or industrial action affects their trip.

However, the growth in ‘flight plus’ holidays has left a legal loophole for holiday operations. Online travel agents will often advertise a ‘one-stop shop’ for travel needs but can avoid responsibility due to each part of the holiday technically being bought under separate contracts.

The new Package Travel Directive, which will come into effect on 1 July, uses the principle ‘if it looks like a package holiday, it should come with package holiday cover’. Vendors of these holidays will be responsible for sorting out problems for holidaymakers should they arise.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), pointed out that in the UK, the Government is still yet to publish the final regulations, meaning a tight turnaround for businesses. “ABTA is helping its members to understand their legal responsibilities and support them in making any necessary changes,” he said. “Consumers not booking with an ABTA Member will have to rely on UK Trading Standards if they are concerned [that] a company they are dealing with is not providing the correct protection for travel arrangements.”

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