/ Travel & Leisure

Three rights the travel industry would rather you didn’t use

holiday illustration

With an estimated two million Brits due to head overseas this bank holiday, there are a few consumer rights you can rely on when travel doesn’t go as planned. Have you ever exercised your travel rights? 

Since we launched the ‘Stop the Holiday Hassles’ campaign a few weeks ago, thousands of you have told us about problems that cast a shadow on your holiday this summer – from finding toenails on the hotel room floor to being stranded in Nigeria for 13 hours.

As this is the season for pursuing claims about late flights, lost bags and hotel rooms that didn’t match the description in the brochure, here are three rights that will come in handy.

Stuck in the departure lounge

This is the big one. If your flight’s delayed by more than two hours (three hours if the flight is more than 1,500km, and four for very long-haul) and you’re flying from an EU airport, or into an EU airport on an EU-based airline, the Denied Boarding Regulations apply. You’re due refreshments (and accommodation, if needed). You may be able to claim compensation if the delay is more than three hours and the problem was not caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’ beyond the airline’s control. The meaning of this continues to be debated, of course. But Which? member Rod Freeman recently used one of our template letters to claim £667 from Thomson after a 19-hour delay.

Where’s my bag?

If you were still waiting in hope when they turned off the carousel, use the Montreal Convention. This says airlines are responsible for the bags you check in, although liability is capped at about £950. You must report a missing or damaged bag at the airport and follow it up in writing within a week. You can make a claim for a lost bag when it has been gone for 21 days.

The hotel was a dump

A common complaint. One story sent into our campaign tells of the ‘sea view’ that turned out to be a bush. If you booked a hotel in the UK, or with a UK travel company, and it was shoddy, the Supply of Goods and Services Act applies as the service wasn’t up to scratch. The Package Travel Regulations give you similar rights if you booked a package.


Last year (March 2014) my flight from Santiago in Chile to Paris was cancelled because Charles de Gaulle airport was severely disrupted due to snow. The ground staff of Air France (my carrier) in Santiago, without any fuss, booked me on another flight for the following day back to London via Madrid using alternative carriers – Lan Air and Iberia. Air France arranged my hotel accommodation for the night … they put me up in a four star hotel in the middle of Santiago and they also arranged and paid for the taxi to and from the hotel. Air France also provided me with three gratis meal vouchers which were exchanged for lunch, dinner and breakfast at the hotel. All I can say, it was a very satisfactory outcome and I thank the EU regulations and Air France for getting me back home… I love you both! I never claimed any further compensation, I was very satisfied with my treatment and the service. (By the way, I was returning from a fabulous cruise on the Star Princess around South America from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso which incidentally stopped at the Falkland Islands …. there were a few burning tyres at the dock gates in Ushuaia when we stopped there by some “Malvinas” protesters which caused only an hour’s delay in getting off the ship – but on the whole no problems except for the cancellation of my flight home.).

The rip off here is that if they sell you a bad holiday they try to compensate you by paying for the minute problem even though they ruined your whole holiday.

We paid for an all inclusive holiday with on the beach and when we got there it was a token system that was FAR from ALL inclusive.

On the Beach offered to pay for the drinks we paid for but to avoid a large bill we did not drink and stayed in our room to avoid costs. Was the worst holiday ever.

The thing about On The Beach is that they are not selling you a package holiday, rather they are buying different bits from different suppliers and so you have less rights.

As for the reporting baggage at the airport, you will find there is no facility to do this, especially when you arrive at night. Easyjet replaced a suitcase they damaged but the replacement was very basic quality and lasted 2 flights before it was damaged beyond use.

Beware of booking rooms with a sea view. If you can hang of your window or off your balcony and see the sea, companies say you get what you paid for.

We booked the best room available for our honeymoon which was a sea view.
When we got to the hotel, it was a side view from the rear of the hotel that you had to lean over the balcony to see. Unbeknown to us, what we should have booked was a sea FRONT. The hotel was quite good and gave us a much better side view, but it was not what we had expected when we booked.

J Holland says:
18 December 2014

I have booked and paid for a holiday with Saga directly only to fine the same holiday (with Saga) being sold through a Travel Agent at £800.00 cheaper, what can I do to get my money back.

I suspect that apart from appealing to their better nature [if any] you don’t have a leg to stand on. Holiday prices go up and down like a roller-coaster from the moment booking opens to the time it is sold out or it closes according to the rate of uptake and to market competition. There is no guarantee that a direct sale will be no more expensive than via an agent. Agents have their own reasons why they might wish to advertise a lower price. It might not actually be available at that price [“sorry – we’ve just sold the last one we had for that week”] – the advert might be an enticement to get you interested. The two hoildays might not be identical in all particulars having regard to all the inclusions and exclusions, dates, times, departure airports, hotel choices, etc. Lots of things are cheaper in the supermarkets at the moment but you won’t get your money back on the cornflakes you bought in December. Saga and all the other holiday companies book thousands of bed-nights in advance of the season and then have to sell them and they start with the happy holidaymaker who wants to go to a certain place at a certain time for a certain duration at a brochure price; the purchases through this channel might not match the operator’s stock and they need to shift any unsold or cancelled holidays before it’s too late; some get resold within the trade, some end up on booking websites, and some appear in travel agents’ windows on the “Manager’s Special” board. Leave it late and you might not get the holiday you want, buy too early and you find the people at the next table can afford the dearer wine.

Mike Blandford-Newson says:
18 December 2014

BA PRICE PROMISE is another promise they would rather you not use. Have used them effortlessly in the past. This time round booked a flight on our iPad and as we could not show the date and time (easier to show on a computer) we received an email just within the cancellation time stating they would consider our claim – shortly after the free cancellation period had expired we received a message stating we were not eligible as had not provided the correct information (the date and time of the cheaper flight) so we were unable to cancel and book cheaper elsewhere. Disgraceful customer services at every level.

I am adding my comments to this thread with a request for help please. I am having great difficulty in obtaining a response to my complaint of below standard service from Thomas Cook Airlines. I really do think that the holiday and travel industry and in particular airline travel needs to have a fully fledged Ombudsman.

I have written a number of times to Mr Reto Wilhelm, the CEO of Mainstream Travel at Thomas Cook, including a recorded delivery letter in November 2014 which Royal Mail has confirmed has been delivered and signed for. However, apart from an initial cursory phone call from one of his staff, following my first letter in June 2014, which did not answer the main points of my complaint, I have not had an explanation. I have since written twice asking for answers but I am just being ignored! I need to have an explanation for their appalling service which kept me ‘on hold’ on the telephone for more than 30 minutes when I phoned from Greece, and due to the cost I had to hang up without receiving an answer. The problem was, my Son could not check in for his flight from Kalamata Greece to Manchester on 18.05.14 because the Thomas Cook Website stated that there was no facility to check in on line ‘AT’ Kalamata Airport when it should have said ‘FOR’ Kalamata Airport.

Without an appropriate Ombudsman to turn to, I have written twice to the CAA with still no response a month later. Can someone please tell me how to make this complaint more official and to elicit an appropriate response from Thomas Cook Airlines, short of taking out a legal action?

If my experience is anything to go by, and I believe it is typical, it is no wonder Thomas Cook is number 20 out of 20 and with a customer score of 38% in the latest Which Survey in the January 2015 issue!!

Thank you.

Michael Clare

My guess is that Thomas Cook don’t really know how to respond to your complaint and won’t put anything in writing in case it prejudices their position. In ignoring you they are no doubt hoping you will give up the contest. I think you should persevere with the CAA or take advice on whether or not it is worth litigating [it will depend on how much is at stake, what chance there is of success, and how much it would cost you if legal action failed]. Some insurance policies include legal expenses cover; if you have such a policy, a quick phone call might tell you whether this kind of action would be included.


I am not wheelchair bound, but use a mobility scooter to get around as I have reduced mobility, like an increasing number of people in our aging society. My major bugbear when booking hotels, or any type of accommodation, is those that advertise ‘rooms adapted for the disabled’, but when you check in advance (which I always do now, having been caught out in the past) they have a shower over the bath as opposed to a separate shower. No one with mobility problems can get into or out of a bath. Premier Inns, our largest hotel chain, are the biggest offender, but they insist, when you complain that they are not breaching the Trade Descriptions Act. Time for a campaign Which?
I have similar issues with ferry companies. Brittany Ferries are excellent in catering for disabled people whereas Stena are a nightmare. I would never travel with them again. How about Which? giving companies disabled friendly ratings?