Christmas is over, the decorations have been put away and the world has lost that Christmas sparkle. At Platinum World Travel HQ we over look the beautiful Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire but even here the scenery is somewhat dreary & drab.
January is the time to look forward through 2019 and many clients are starting to think about their holidays, where to go, what to do and how to travel. The internet and social media is awash with Travel Companies pedaling their wares and services. So how do you know who to book with? Do they really have your best interests at heart and, most importantly, what financial protection do they offer.
In this article we will clear up the confusion around Financial Protection so you can be assured that your holiday is completely safe and protected.
This is the most important protection that you should ensure you have. Every holiday that includes a flight should come with an ATOL certificate when you pay your deposit. However! Only UK registered Travel Companies are required by law to issue these. There is a growing number of non-UK registered companies who are recruiting UK based Travel Agents. So you may think that because they are based in the UK they offer ATOL protection. Well not always. More often than not they process the booking outside the UK. On 1st July 2018 the Package Travel Regulations Act changed to state that packages offered for sale in the UK must be ATOL protected. However, the rules state that a package is where components such as a flight and hotel are booked within 24 hours of each other. So how do these companies get around it? Well some companies will offer holidays for sale but book the components more than 24 hours apart to avoid the need to have ATOL protection. By agreeing to this you are in effect forming two legally binding contracts. One for the hotel and one for the flights. So what does that matter? Well it means you may not be protected for your holiday in the event of supplier failure.
There are really three types of holidays on offer nowadays. Package Holidays, Linked Travel Arrangements and Individual Bookings.
A Package Holiday
A package holiday has both financial and legal protection.
Legal protection means your travel company is responsible for making sure that you get the holiday you paid for. If something isn’t provided or isn’t as expected, and your travel company or its suppliers is at fault, they will need to sort this out for you – either resolving the issue, offering an alternative or providing a full or partial refund. In some instances you may be able to claim compensation.
Financial protection means that if the company you have booked with goes out of business, you will receive a refund if you are yet to travel, or be brought home if you are already on holiday and your package includes return transport.
A Linked Travel Arrangement
This only has financial protection – and this is at a lower level than if you bought a package holiday. This protection only covers the insolvency of the company arranging the sale of the services making up the linked travel arrangement (i.e Online or High Street Travel Agent) and does not protect you from the failure of the companies actually supplying your travel arrangements, such as an airline.
If you have booked your travel arrangements separately (eg – a flight directly with an airline and a hotel through an accommodation booking website), these are unlikely to have any financial or legal protection under the 2018 Package Travel Regulations. However, you might have certain protection for the individual services in other ways – either through travel insurance or through booking with your debit or credit card. Please check with your providers as levels of protection vary
The safest and best way to book your holiday is to ensure that you are booking a “Package Holiday”
What is a Package Holiday?
A package holiday can come in many different forms and can be sold in different ways – from a ‘ready-made’ package (where the different travel services are put together for you by the travel company and offered at a single price) to many tailor-made trips (for example where you select different services from a range offered before paying for them together) – however they will all have the same level of financial and legal protection.
A package holiday is a combination of at least two different types of travel services, which are listed below:
- transport (such as a flight, coach or train but not transfers from an airport)
- accommodation (such as a hotel, villa or apartment) car rental
- a tourist service (such as a tour guide or a trip to a historical attraction) where this is a significant part of the holiday either because of its value or because it is an essential part of the trip.
It counts as a package holiday if your travel company:
- Has asked you to pay a single price through a single payment
- Has let you select a combination of services – such as a flight and accommodation before you agreed to pay for them.
- Charged you an inclusive or total price for all the services you bought.
- Advertised or sold the travel services to you as a package or similar term.
- Sold you one travel service; and then transferred your details, including your payment details to another company which you then booked another travel service through within the space of 24 hours.
How Do I Know What Cover I Have?
When you book your Holiday you will be issued an ATOL certificate. These are only issued if you have a flight included in your holiday that departs or returns back to the UK. For example if you cruise from Southampton to the US and then fly back this is an ATOL protected Holiday.
At the bottom you will have your booking reference, date of issue, who is protecting the booking and their ATOL number. In the far corner you will see one of the following:
Package (Single Contract) - this is a "Package Holiday).
Package (Multi Contract) - this is Linked Travel Arrangements.
This determines the level of cover you have in the event of the provider or suppliers insolvency. Your travel company has a legal obligation to disclose their term's and conditions prior to booking and what cover you have under ATOL protection.
The Package Travel Regulations Act 1975 requires Agent’s and Travel Companies to financially protect clients funds which can be done either through ABTA or a Trust Fund.
Additional financial security can be had by booking with ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) or TTA (The Travel Trust Association) registered members. Both bodies have strict codes of conduct that their members are required to adhere to and fines are payable for breaches. They also operate independently adjudicated arbitration services that will investigate consumer complaints if they are not happy with their travel company’s responses.
Booking holidays need not be a minefield. At Platinum World Travel all holidays that we ATOL protect come under Packages to afford you the highest level of protection both financially and legally. We want you to have the very best possible experience and also to make sure your interests are protected. If you would like more information or have any queries around ATOL protection please feel free to contact us.