Thousands of Britons may have their holiday plans ruined after the collapse of travel firm Kiss Flights on Tuesday.
Some 13,000 Kiss Flights passengers were overseas as parent company Flight Options Limited went bust, with a further 60,000 people due to take future flights. This follows the recent failures of Goldtrail Holidays and Sun4U.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will ensure that all people stuck in the Mediterranean and Canary islands will be flown back to the UK as planned, as the flights were financially protected by the CAA’s ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) scheme. But many customers who have booked with Flight Options may find claiming back the money for their wrecked holidays complicated and will need to rely on their travel insurance policies or Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
Kiss Flights and ATOL
ATOL is a financial protection scheme for holidaymakers, designed to ensure consumers do not lose money or get stranded in other countries in the event that their tour company fails.
Although packages arranged through Flight Options were ATOL bonded, the vast majority of the holidays sold by the firm were charter flight-only deals – and this means additional elements of the holiday, such as accommodation, may not be covered under ATOL. Consumers who booked a holiday package (including air travel on Kiss Flights) with an ATOL-bonded tour operator will be fully protected, unlike those who paid for accommodation separately.
Kiss Flights customers: what to do
Kiss Flights customers who are already abroad will still be flown home on the date their holiday was due to end and should check in as normal.
Customers booked to fly with Kiss Flights from the UK after 6pm today should make a claim for a refund from the CAA and/or try to get alternative flights. If you booked a package with an ATOL-bonded tour operator, they should arrange alternative flights.
If you have paid for a flight-only holiday with Flight Options, find out quickly whether you will be able to get another flight. If not, you’ll need to cancel the other elements of your holiday. If you have booked through a travel agent, contact them for advice. Then you’ll need to look into whether you can claim back the cost of those elements.
In this situation consumers should claim their extra expenses back using travel insurance or under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if they paid for part of their holiday using a credit card. (Find out more about how this works by reading our guide to claiming on your credit card when something goes wrong)
Problems with holiday protection
The collapse of Flight Options has highlighted problems with holiday protection that Which? experts have been concerned about for some time.
When the ATOL programme was first established, most overseas holidays were bought as package deals and therefore fully protected under the scheme. Nowadays, though, far fewer packages are bought and so fewer consumers are protected. The government is aware of this and has begun consultations to reform ATOL.
In the meantime, always ask your travel agent or tour operator how much of your holiday, if any, is ATOL bonded. If you find your holiday isn’t fully covered under ATOL, be sure to buy a travel insurance policy that includes scheduled airline failure (SAFI) cover and end user supplier failure, which will mean you are covered if your airline or hotel goes bust.
Your money will also be protected if you purchase your holiday through a travel agent or tour operator that is a member of the Travel Trust Association.
Rochelle Turner, head of research at Which? Holiday magazine, says: ‘The travel industry has never seen a year like this, with ash clouds, strikes and a number of major holiday firms and airlines going bust. The collapse of both Kiss and Sun4U in less than a week demonstrates how important it is that you make sure your holiday is protected. Make sure you find out just how much of your holiday is ATOL bonded, always take out a good travel insurance policy, and, where possible, pay for your break on a credit card.’
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