The first action by the dissatisfied traveller must always be to contact the holiday company, airline, tour operator, or other provider of the service. Give them comprehensive details of the problems you have encountered, supported wherever possible by documentary, photographic, video, or other original evidence. (For example letter etc. follow this link)To make this possible, the dissatisfied holidaymaker should always seek to gather as much evidence as possible of the circumstances that have contributed to their dissatisfaction. Take photographs, shoot video, gather names of responsible persons and present your case in a logical fashion. Make clear the impact of the problems on your holiday and state clearly the remedy you seek. Be precise and robust, you are not writing to your Auntie. There are four main avenues of complaint.
The first is the service provider. If they do not offer an acceptable remedy, the next available remedy may be through their regulatory body. For the travel industry, this is likely to be the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) or ATOL. ABTA is the regulatory body for British Travel Agents and can be helpful to the disappointed traveller. However, there is a general failure by ABTA to recognise the full extent of the loss to holidaymaker's. Many individuals and families save for a whole year for their annual holiday which frequently represents their only break from work during a twelve months period. ABTA is of the travel agents and paid for by the travel agents and is generally biased to their view. Where they are persuaded to act they will take the view that if there is a fault with part of that holiday, compensation should be available for just that part. However, the failure of any part of a much anticipated holiday often has the effect of destroying the whole experience. Like other service providers, those who provide travel/holidays etc. should be responsible for guaranteeing the total quality of the product. If you buy a bottle of wine and it is bad, you don't just receive compensation for the glass you were drinking when you discovered the problem. At present they are not responsible for their total failure, and there seems to be no way of moving to a situation where they are. Public pressure is the only way of advancing the case for a square deal!
ATOL – which is short for Air Travel Organisers' Licensing– is managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and exists to protect the public from losing money or being stranded abroad because of the failure of air travel firms. It was first introduced in 1972 and it gives comprehensive consumer protection to 28 million people in the UK who buy flights or air holidays each year.
If you fail to get satisfaction from the travel agent, ABTA/ATOL, then the next recourse is to the law, probably through the small claims court. This can be based on contractual failure, but perhaps the most useful law in this context is the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982(amended by the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994) which applies standards that must be met in all consumer relationships involving the provision of goods and services.
A small village station on the Transsiberian railway
Unlike many legal tomes, this act is couched in simple terms and is likely to be understood by most. With regard to holidays, this act requires that the Agent/Tour Operator making the booking must do so using appropriate care and skill, taking into account any terms and conditions you may specify such as: times of travel, type of hotel, facilities for children, disabled access etc. If they fail to do so, they may be in breach of contract. Should they later make 'significant changes ' to your booking, such as changing the hotel or resort, they must advise you accordingly and offer cancellation without penalty. If they fail to do so, they may be in breach of contract.
Disclaimer. The legal information given on this site is for guidance only and should not be used as the basis for legal or other action. if you feel that you have good cause for legal action you should, having exhausted all other avenues, contact a Solicitor or your local Citizen's Advice Bureau. An angry consumer is unlikely to be his/her best adviser! If your problem involves travel insurance, there is further recourse to the Financial Services Ombudsman, details of which can be obtained at: www.financialombudsman.org/
Give a lie 24 hours start and you'll never overtake it! (ancient proverb)