Which? exposes how websites hook you in to holiday dealsNearly half of holiday offers were not available

21 June 2013

Holiday deals

Travel companies are breaking legal guidance about sales of holidays, a Which? Travel investigation has found.

When we looked at 140 online deals for seven-day holidays, we found that nearly half were not available when we clicked through from the initial page. 

Sometimes the advertised deal was simply not there when we clicked through from the offer, sometimes it was there on the first page, but unavoidable 'holiday supplements' were added later, and sometimes the price increased when we got to the payment page.

Another third were available at the price offered only if pre-selected 'extras' like luggage and transfers were removed.

Cheap holiday deals

In all, we could get the holiday at the date and price offered without removing any pre-selected extras for only one in ten of the offers.

The July issue of Which? Travel reveals the best and worst holiday companies, as rated by Which? members. It also reports on our investigation into holiday deals, which showed some travel companies are not sticking to legal guidance issued to travel companies in March by the Office of Fair Trading and Civil Aviation Authority.

The guidance told them how to comply with the relevant consumer laws covering advertising of flights and holidays.

These legal guidelines state:

  • All unavoidable and foreseeable charges for flights must be in the headline price
  • Optional extras, such as luggage fees and transfers, must not be pre-selected
  • The name of the airline must be clear from the start of the booking process
  • Travel companies must not display a price that is not the final price consumers are likely to pay

Travel company offers

We found examples of all these requirements being broken.

For example, Jet2holidays sometimes added an unavoidable 'holiday supplement' that appeared on the second to last page and added £30 to the total price. A pop-up said it reflected 'updated hotel demand'. The company later said deal prices were updated during heavy demand and changes were presented to customers before booking.

Expedia did not give us a fee-free payment option, offering only credit cards that all had an unavoidable surcharge. Optional extras were pre-selected by several companies; Expedia, First Choice, Lastminute, Lowcostholidays, Thomson, Thomas Cook and Saga.

Holiday deal extras

Lastminute, Lowcostholidays and Mercury Direct sometimes did not make the name of the airline clear, initially saying only that we would be flying with a no-frills airline.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said: 'Holiday companies aren't being upfront with consumers about the real cost of a late deal and are hooking consumers with attractive offers that are often too good to be true. 

'It is extremely disappointing that some of our most well-known travel companies are breaking the rules despite crystal clear official guidance that they must not display a price that consumers are unlikely to pay.

'The Office of Fair Trading must now step in and investigate whether companies are taking advantage of holidaymakers.'

Which? Travel research 

We looked at offers promoted on 10 websites offering holidays bookable online, as well as Teletext Holidays, where offers are advertised online and booked over the phone. We looked at 142 deals over four weeks, checking the availability of special offers or late deals offered on the website home page. 

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