Holiday from hell? Here's what to doWhich? provides top tips on how to claim

27 October 2006

Bucket and spade

Building chaos, non-stop noise and lost luggage can turn a trip away from it all into a holiday from hell.

But if you’ve just got back from a nightmare half-term holiday, the experts at Which? Legal Service have put together a checklist to help you take action.

Which? lawyer Peter McCarthy says: ‘Often people with a case don’t bother trying to get justice from a holiday company. But a bit of persistence can get you compensation.’

Holidaymakers should always remember that the travel company is responsible for providing you with the holiday it promised. If you paid for a ‘peaceful paradise with non-stop entertainment for the kids’ and got unexpected building chaos and no facilities then you should have a case.

Lost luggage

Similarly, if you made a special request and didn’t get it, you will have a case - if you got confirmation in writing. If you just filled out a special requests box on the booking form then you probably won’t get compensation.

If your luggage has been lost, report it immediately to the airline as there's a time-limit for compensation claims – seven days for damaged or missing bags. If your baggage is lost, delayed or damaged, you can ask the airline to compensate you for the contents.

The liability limit for each passenger's luggage is currently around £800.

Complain and claim

Disgruntled holidaymakers should write to the tour operator immediately - set out your complaint and send your evidence. If the company belongs to the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) the operator must respond within 28 days.

Tour operators may try various ‘cop-out’ lines on you. One example is: ‘It isn’t our fault, you should have taken it up with the hotel owner.’ However, the operator is responsible for all parts of a package regardless of whether it provided them or sub-contracted to someone else.

There are three basic things you can claim for:

  • loss of value - the difference between the value of the holiday you got and the one paid for
  • out-of-pocket expenses - the refund of any reasonable expenses incurred as a result of the operator’s breach
  • loss of enjoyment – for your disappointment.

Small claims court

If you’re still not satisfied you can go to the small claims court or arbitration, for example, with Abta. The small claims court is cheap, informal and designed to let people argue their case without the need for lawyers.

If you want support then Which? Legal Service can help. It provides over-the-phone legal advice to help people with all sorts of issues, including holiday problems.

Currently the service is offering six months for the price of three. You can join Which? Legal Service online or call 0800 252100.