/ Travel & Leisure

From £199! Are online holiday prices the real deal?

Hooking a hotel and an aeroplane

In the summer thousands of holiday deals appear online, tempting us all to treat ourselves to a break. We’ve been investigating these deals to find out if the price you see is the price you’ll pay.

Ever seen a late holiday deal with a rock bottom price shouting ‘From only £x!’ at you? I’d be surprised if you hadn’t. There’s plenty around at this time of year as the peak summer holiday season draws near.

When I see a ‘from’ price, I don’t always expect to get that price on the day I want. I understand that it will be available only on selected dates.

But I do expect that price to be available at some point. So when myself and my Which? Travel colleagues checked out more than 140 online holiday deals offered by leading holiday companies, I was surprised at how many of the promoted deals were not available at all. 

Unexpected charge in the baggage area

We looked at late deals and special offers for seven-day holidays, and found that nearly half were not available. Often the ‘from price’ on the initial page was just not there when we clicked through to the list of offers.

Sometimes unavoidable supplements were added as we went through the booking process. For some holidays the initial price increased when we got to the payment page, and we even found unavoidable credit card fees being added at the payment stage.

We also found that another third of offers appeared to be available when we clicked through from the opening page, but then costs were automatically added for transfers, luggage or insurance. This should not be happening, as the Office of Fair Trading and the Civil Aviation Authority clearly told travel companies in March this year that optional extras should not be pre-selected in this way.

It meant the only way for us to get the deal at the initial price was to remove these ‘extras’ and go on a seven-day holiday with no luggage or no transfers to take us to and from the destination airport. This scenario even happened when a holiday was described as a package or ‘all-inclusive’, which could reasonably be interpreted as including luggage and transfers.

Impossibly tempting prices

All in all, we could only get the initial offer price, without having to remove pre-selected extras, for just one in 10 of the promotions we looked at.

I don’t think that’s right and it goes against the OFT/CAA’s legal guidance for travel companies. The guidance stated that advertisers should not display a price that is not the final price consumers are likely to pay.

I want to see holiday company pricing become more transparent. If a deal for a seven-day holiday does not include luggage or transfers, this should be stated at the outset. The costs for these shouldn’t be sneakily added automatically later on.

What’s your experience of holiday special offers and late deals? Have you ever got a deal for the original offer price?

Ash says:
22 June 2013

I ‘m surprised no one has brought this up sooner.
The amount if times I have clicked on an email offering late cheap deals from the big tour operators only to find the headline price is no where near the final price. Also when you click the email you are taken to a page that doesn’t display the offers but the more expensive normal holidays. Then you have to try and locate the smallest looking hidden away link to get to the offers.
It’s all a con and now I just delete the emails.
It’s just like many stores who advertise items for sale then when you look for the item it’s sold out and a more expensive one is shown next to the sale item. Some people then fall for buying the more expensive one.
Like I said its all a con.

Agree, it is a practice that needs stamping down on.

Collis says:
2 July 2013

I also agree that tour companies should be made to offer the package at the price stated, I’ve often found they con you by saying that the price in the store window has either “just gone” (funny when it is there all week following the statement) or based on 5 adults sharing 1 room and you dont meet these criteria being a family of 3.
Another practice that the tour companies should stop is the inflating prices becasue of the time of year, if i want to go to the med it’s the same temperature (more or les) from May to October so why is the price double in August just becasue the school children are off, the price should be the same low price that it is at the start of the year to the end, it’s only the travel agents that inflate the prices like this not the companies at the other end (hotels/flights etc) as they are rail roaded into a fixed price per room/seat sold all year regardless of time of year.

Annie says:
1 January 2018

Anyone used viva holidays