The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) is the regulatory body for British Travel Agents and can be helpful to the disappointed traveller. If direct representation to the travel agent does not bring satisfaction and the agent is an ABTA member, you should then approach ABTA to seek a remedy.
As a travel industry regulatory body, ABTA maintains a strict Code of Conduct and ABTA companies agree to be bound by the Code This helps to ensure that consumers receive the best possible service from your ABTA Travel Agent and Tour Operator. However, consumers should not forget that ABTA is of the travel industry, part of the travvel industry and their salaries are paid by the travel industry. Anyone who saw their representative on BBC Brassed Off Britain a couple of years ago might be forgiven for thinking that they are more than a little smug about the performance of their members.
Full details of the Code of Conduct and the Arbitration Scheme are available from www.abta.com, the ABTA web site. In brief, this code says that consumers must receive accurate information to enable them to choose the holiday that is right for them. All legal requirements such as the ATOL Regulations and must make you aware of tall terms and conditions that apply. They also have a duty to give the consumer guidance about any health requirements and the passport and visa requirements for your travel as well as information about travel insurance. In addition, before completing a booking, ABTA Members must tell you if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued advice about your destination
After the booking is made, ABTA Members must notify you as soon as possible if it is necessary to change or cancel your travel arrangements. An ABTA Member cannot cancel your booking after the date for payment of the full price unless it is necessary to do so for reasons outside its control. If this happens, the ABTA Member must offer you the choice of having all your money back or choosing alternative travel arrangements. Moreover, if there is a significant change to your travel arrangements they must offer you the choice of accepting the changed travel arrangements or having all your money back
Finally, if they cancel your booking or make a significant changes to the travel arrangements after the date for payment of the full price, ABTA members must offer you compensation unless the reason for the cancellation or change was outside of their control.
It is a little known fact that if a travel agent/tour operator wishes to impose a surcharge, they must first get ABTA approval. A list of surcharge approvals is available at http://www.abtamembers.org/abtel/sur.htm
For full details of the ABTA Code of Practice, visit the ABTA web site at: www.abta.com
ABTA provides assistance to you if you have a complaint against companies that are members of ABTA. The first rule to ensure that you as the consumer enjoy this protection is : Only use companies that are members of ABTA. Those companies have an ABTA number that is displayed on their stationery, advertisements etc. If you do not see their ABTA number, ask for it. If in doubt go the the ABTA web site where you can check whether the company is an ABTA member: http://www.abta.com/index.shtml. The quality of the holidays and services provided by ABTA companies is crucial to the reputation of the industry - ABTA tour operators and travel agents are responsible for the sale of the vast majority of package holidays. To find out how to complain, go to: http://www.abta.com/consumer-services/travel_problems