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Holiday problems on the rise as people don’t get what they’ve paid for

22 July 2016

Flights that don’t exist, hotels next to rubbish dumps and cancelled transfers leaving people stranded are just some of the problems making people’s holidays a misery, says Citizens Advice.

New figures from the national charity reveal a rise in people seeking advice about holiday and travel matters.

The Citizens Advice consumer service helped with 9,400 problems with package deals, flights and travel insurance between April 2015 and March 2016, up 9% from the previous year.  

Similarly there was an 8% increase in people seeking online help, with advice on solving holiday problems viewed 152,000 times over the same 12 months, up from 141,000 the year before.

Common holiday issues reported to the consumer service included poor customer service, deals being misrepresented and breach of contract, where holiday firms promise one thing but deliver another.

Issues around breach of contract showed the steepest rise, with 35% more problems reported to Citizens Advice in comparison to the year before. These included substandard accommodation, people being booked onto flights that didn’t exist and tour operators swapping people’s holidays without offering them a chance to cancel.

One traveller contacted Citizens Advice after her hotel in the centre of Corfu was swapped for one more than 40km away, leaving the family to make the 80km round trip to visit tourist attractions at her own expense.

Another called the charity while still on holiday, after finding that their flight back from Benidorm had never existed, and the next one was four days later.

As the summer holidays get underway, Citizens Advice is sharing top tips for how to prepare for the holidays, and what to do if problems arise.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:

“Thousands of people’s dream holidays have turned into a nightmare.

“Failures by travel companies and airlines mean people have ended up without a flight or transfer to their destination and stuck in hotels that are unfit to sleep in.  

“If you’ve booked a package holiday you should either get what you’ve agreed to or be told in advance if the arrangements need to change.

“If your holiday is downgraded without warning or it isn’t up to scratch, complain straight away to try to get your problem solved. You can also contact Citizens Advice online, over the phone or face to face to get the help you need to understand your rights and reach a resolution.”

Citizens Advice top tips for summer holidays

Package holidays

  • Most holiday providers don’t provide a refund if you cancel. Take out travel insurance from the day you booked the deal.

  • Tour operators sometimes need to change your holiday before you go. If the change is significant, you don’t have to accept and can ask for a full refund.

  • All flights, transfers and accommodation should be as described. If your beach hotel is in the middle of town, complain straight away to a rep. If no alternative is offered, use the tour operator’s complaints procedure to see if you’re entitled to compensation.

Flights

  • If you booked a flight that departed from the EU, or arrived in the EU on a European airline, you may be able to claim compensation if your flight is delayed. What you’re entitled to depends on the length of the delay, length of the flight and the reason for the delay.

  • Wherever you’re flying, if your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a replacement flight or a refund.

  • If your checked-in luggage is delayed, lost or damaged you may be able to claim on your travel insurance. You can claim compensation straight from the airline but they usually offer less financial compensation.

Travel insurance

  • Cheap travel insurance can keep your initial costs down but often has high excess charges if you need to claim. Compare the full range of costs.

  • Make sure your travel insurance covers everything you want to do on holiday. Some policies exclude activities such as watersports or trekking.

  • Some policies won’t pay out in certain circumstances - like having an accident while under the influence of alcohol. Read the small print before you buy.

If your travel company goes bust

  • If your holiday company goes bust but is a member of the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) then you should be able to get a refund if you haven’t travelled, or be able to finish your holiday without extra costs if you are already there.  

  • There are limited options if it isn’t covered by ATOL but you could try getting money back from your credit or debit company if you paid by card and you’re not offered an alternative option. Or you could see if you’re covered by your travel insurance.

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Notes to editors

  1. The analysis of holiday issues reported to the consumer service in England and Wales covered package holidays, flights and travel insurance. In 2015/16, the consumer service helped with 9,387 problems, a rise of 9% from 8,592 in 2014/15.
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  4. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  6. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.