Millions of holidaymakers are unclear about the consequences of flight disruption if there’s no government aviation deal in place once the UK leaves the EU, Which? has found.
As people begin to book holidays after the date the UK leaves the EU (29 March 2019), we asked the UK’s five biggest travel companies (Expedia, Jet2holidays, On the Beach, Thomas Cook and TUI), which carried more than 13 million passengers combined last year, what they were doing to inform passengers about the possible effects on customers in the event of ‘no deal’ in the aviation sector.
Which? believes that companies should be doing more to signpost this possibility during the booking process, as well as the impact on customers’ rights to holiday refunds and compensation if the government is unable to secure a deal with the EU on aviation post-Brexit.
Which? is calling for the government to work with travel companies, airlines and insurers to ensure that risks are properly communicated to people in advance of booking a holiday. It believes consumers booking holidays from 29 March 2019 should be given clear and upfront information about the potential risks.
Lack of clarity when booking holidays
Which? found that Thomas Cook, which has changed its terms and conditions to state it will not provide compensation, will also not reimburse out-of-pocket expenses if it has to change your booking in the event of ‘airspace closures’.
The company said it would reimburse the cost of tickets if customers could no longer fly, but that it always encourages customers to take out travel insurance to cover ‘consequential losses’ outside of their package, such as airport parking, or car hire with a local provider. While this information is currently only available if you read the T&Cs, Thomas Cook said ‘as Brexit approaches, we will regularly assess how we discuss this matter with customers’.
Expedia told us it believed that passengers would be protected by the same consumer rights that are currently in place, but made no comment on consequential losses. The company is not yet marketing holidays for the period after the UK leaves the EU.
Jet2holidays, On The Beach and Tui failed to provide any reassurance that additional information would be communicated online during the process of booking a holiday.
In light of the responses, Which? is advising anyone who may be booking a holiday after the date when the UK leaves the EU to check the cancellation and refund policies for any aspect of their trip, particularly if they have booked any part, such as car hire, outside of a package deal.
Consumer Charter for Brexit
The news comes as Which? today launches its Consumer Charter for Brexit, calling on the government to deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first. This includes securing an aviation deal to keep Britain’s planes flying after the UK leaves the EU, so people can have peace of mind when booking their holiday, and clarity from the government about consumers’ rights if there are any changes that affect flights or holidays that have been booked.
The Charter sets out more detailed priorities that need immediate action from the government to make Brexit a success. These concentrate on the areas of consumer landscape, food, energy and travel – as well as making sure there is a strong system of consumer rights in place during a transition period. The Charter highlights areas where there may be risks for consumers, but also demonstrates the opportunities available to improve how our systems currently work as we leave the EU.
It sets out the framework for how Brexit should deliver for consumers, including four tests that matter most to consumers: standards, choice, rights and price. It also outlines how the UK can grasp the opportunity to forge an even better environment for consumers.
Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, said: ‘This uncertainty for holidaymakers is just one of the many issues affecting people’s everyday lives that need to be resolved as we move closer to the date that the UK leaves the EU. We want to work with government and businesses on issues such as this in order to deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first.
‘We want to ensure that people are supported by high levels of rights and protection – and with greater access than ever before to quality, affordable products and services. We must not miss the opportunity for the UK to improve consumer protections to become a world leader. With control over all aspects of consumer protection, the UK can and must do something special.’