/ Travel & Leisure

Ask Which? – is my agent liable if my holiday’s cancelled?

Stressed traveller

Robert asked: We recently booked a holiday with an agency, but six weeks prior to the due date, the agency told us it had to cancel the agreement because of infrastructure problems with the apartment we had booked.

We were offered the choice of alternative accommodation at about five of their properties, none of which met with our approval.

The agency maintained that they were not responsible for any compensation, nor were they liable for any extra cost we incurred by booking something more expensive. Can you comment on this issue of booked holiday accommodation from this country when it is cancelled by the agency?

We asked Which? Legal Service about your rights when booking a “package” holiday:

When you do and don’t have a package can be very complicated, but if you booked a holiday which is comprised of two or more elements – usually transport and accommodation – and you didn’t have the option to buy them separately, chances are you will have a “package”.

If you ask an agent for flights and are quoted a price and then add a hotel, then chances are you won’t have a package and will instead have one contract with the airline and another with the supplier of the accommodation. In this situation, you won’t have protection afforded by the Package Travel Regulations.

Normally travel agents just facilitate the booking of a package holiday and a contract will exist between the consumer and the holiday company for the provision of that holiday. In that instance the agent couldn’t take the decision to cancel the booking as they aren’t a party to the holiday contract – only the consumer or the holiday company could bring it to an end and the booking conditions and the Package Travel Regulations will say what happens if either do.

The holiday company may have cancelled the booking, but asked the agent to communicate its decision to consumers. If this happens, the Package Travel Regulations provide three options:

  • A full refund
  • A cheaper package, with a price adjustment (if one can be provided)
  • An alternative package that is of comparable or superior quality (if one can be provided).

The Regulations also say that “where appropriate” the consumer can also claim compensation. Whether or not it’s appropriate will depend on a number of factors, including whether another holiday can be found or whether the consumer is facing two weeks in their back garden when they should have been on the beach!

It’s not out of the question that the agent may have put a package together; if they have then you’ll have all the above rights, but against the travel agent.

Have you ever booked a holiday package with an agent, just to have part of it cancelled? Did you feel you were treated badly, or were all your needs catered for?


Robert’s question was about booking an holiday apartment in this country ( so probably no travel element) through an agent.
Which Legal’s comments are about package holidays.
Cant see how they are really relevant .

Hi rarrar, thanks for pointing that out, it was actually an inaccuracy in editing – should have said ‘from this country’, however, I’ve spoken to Which? Legal again to get some information about where you stand if you book a UK holiday – here’s what they said:

“A travel agent will usually just facilitate the booking of accommodation so that a contract exists between the consumer and the owner of the accommodation. In this situation the agent wouldn’t be able to take the decision to cancel or amend that contract as they aren’t a party to it. In practice the travel agent may send details of the cancellation to a consumer but they only do so acting on behalf of the accommodation owner so really they are just passing on the hotel owners decision. If though the agent says it will provide the accommodation (unless they actually own the accommodation in question they would then subcontract the actual provision to the accommodation owner) then your contract is with that agent and it will be responsible if the contract is breached.

As for claiming compensation, if the other party to the contract doesn’t keep their side of the bargain a consumer could potentially claim compensation, whether or not they can (and if so how much) really depends on the specifics of each case.

Holidays to be taken in the UK could still be “packages” for example a coach tour which would comprise of transport and accommodation. Even if there is no transport element it may be there are “other tourist services” which combined with the accommodation form a package e.g. an activity holiday.”

Maybe this “conversation should be deleted ,re-edited and then re-posted with the correct legal advice

It is very useful and the subject of booking holiday accommodation in this country is not often covered in advice columns

sarahloubee says:
4 July 2012

Hi, my situation is this, i booked an accommodation abroad, confirmed it and paid in full, i received an email a couple of hours later telling me that the booking had been cancelled due to the price being wrong and my card refunded, so they cancelled my holiday without contacting me to either offer me to pay the difference or an alternative. i have tried to negotiate with the company but to no avail. are they allowed to do this? It does say in their terms and conditions that they reserve the right to cancel any holiday if there is an obvious pricing error but at nearly £360 i didnt question that to be wrong just for accommodation. However since then the price has gone up to £897!!! they offered me £100 as a good will gesture. Now they also state that they price match so i found same accommo cheaper at £820 and offered them to price match that was ok but then they couldnt honour the £100 good will on top because they cannot run these in conjunction with each other!!!!! im very confused, what should i do?

Rochelle bryce says:
21 May 2014

I booked holiday to Kenya through thomsons, they cancelled my holiday due to attacks in Kenya, I have rebooked another holiday with them which is fine. But I booked a safari myself through a Kenyan company, and I booked a flight with ba from Glasgow to gatwick, both cost me £1000 but my insurance is not goin to pay out. Is there anyone liable for this?