Are Package Holidays The Key to Safer Online Holiday Bookings (and Easier Claims?)
Booking a holiday is hard work. You’ll spend hours trawling through brochures, looking at reviews of hotels and resorts, trying to find the best deals on flights and hotels. There’s always one person who gets landed with the task of booking a holiday for a group, whether it’s a family getaway or a couple’s break or a holiday with a group of friends.
In the best case scenario, your efforts will be appreciated, everyone will pay what they owe on time, and you’ll have a great holiday.
As your group’s nominated booking person, you have multiple choices:
You can book the holiday as a package, or you could book flights and accommodation separately, or maybe even book via a travel agent who acts for a tour operator. You might even choose your transport or accommodation separately and ask the tour operator to put the combination together.
In short, you have a lot to consider. After reading this blog post, you’ll have one more thing to think about – and that’s the holiday that’ll leave you protected in case you need to make a holiday claim due to accident, injury or illness.
I highly recommend booking your holiday as a package so that you gain a number of legal benefits. A package booking will keep your options open for making a claim if the worst does happen abroad and you or a loved one suffers an injury.
Why Are Package Holiday Claims Easier?
One of the most important thing any lawyer has to do before handling a claim is working out who is responsible. Package holidays make this part simple. If you suffer food poisoning or an accident due to the hotel’s negligence the tour operator who sold you the package will be responsible.
This doesn’t mean you will have an automatic right of compensation, but what it does mean is that if you suffer an illness or accident due to the hotels wrongdoing you can look into making a claim against the tour operator without the lengthy process of working out who to claim against and how.
I have dealt with many injured people who have suffered nasty injuries abroad, resulting in lengthy hospital stays where unfortunately the holiday wasn’t booked as a package. Nothing is more disappointing than the feeling I get after a telephone conversation with an injured client if I can’t assist them in making a claim. I’m not disappointed for myself though, I’m disappointed for that poor caller who’s suffered a nasty injury and left out of pocket after a ruined holiday.
I’d think to myself, “how unfair!” They’ve been through so much, if only they’d booked their holiday as a package.
Of course, I can’t say that if a holiday is booked as a package you will definitely recover compensation. You still have to prove breach of duty on the part of the supplier which is usually the hotel.
That breach of duty is assessed by looking at the local standards and laws of the country where the accident or injury occurred. But once we’ve proved breach of duty, you stand a greater chance of making a successful holiday claim if you booked a package!
The law which regulates package holidays is the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.
Under these regulations if a tour operator is selling a holiday as a package, they are responsible for the proper performance of the obligations under the contract, even if those obligations are being performed by a supplier, such as the foreign hotel where the accident occurred.
What this means is that there can be three parties to a contract; you, the tour operator in England and Wales, and the hotel abroad.
Even if it’s the hotel that fails to perform the contract properly, the tour operator is responsible under the regulations if the holiday comes within the definition of package. This means if you suffer an injury you can make a claim against the tour operator.
What is a Package Holiday?
Regulation 2(1) gives the following definition for a package holiday:
“package” means the pre-arranged combination of at least two of the following components when sold or offered for sale at an inclusive price and when the service covers a period of more than twenty-four hours or includes overnight accommodation:—
(c)other tourist services not ancillary to transport or accommodation and accounting for a significant pro portion of the package, and
(i)the submission of separate accounts for different components shall not cause the arrangements to be other than a package;
(ii)the fact that a combination is arranged at the request of the consumer and in accordance with his specific instructions (whether modified or not) shall not of itself cause it to be treated as other than pre-arranged;
If you look at the definition you may think that booking your hotel and flights together automatically means that you’ve booked a package holiday.
This isn’t always true. To be counted as a package, it would have to have been a pre-arranged combination and sold at an inclusive price.
This means that you have to book transport and accommodation together through one single operator.
Sometimes online holiday companies do what is known as contract splitting or dynamic packaging. In these cases, you’ll go on onto one site to book your holiday but then are redirected to another site to book your transport and another to book your holidays. If this happened the holiday company would argue that you are making two separate contracts instead of one and avoid liability by claiming that they didn’t sell you a package holiday.
How Can I Be Sure I’m Booking a Package Holiday?
The first thing to do is to check the small print online. It should state whether your holiday is being sold as a package or not. If you are asked to book your flight and hotel through separate contracts, then it won’t be a package.
If you’re in doubt, email the company and ask them whether it’s a package holiday. You could telephone them but if you have an email you have proof of whether the holiday was being sold as a package or not.
And once you have the proof that you’ve booked a package holiday, you’ll be covered by the legislation above if you ever need to make a claim.
If you’ve been involved in an accident and you are uncertain whether your holiday was a package, we can take a look at your booking documentation for you. Don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling 0333 006 4099 or dropping us an email.
Personal Injury Overseas, 20 May 2016.