Package holidays

When you book a package holiday, you are protected by consumer law. The European Union (Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements) Regulations 2019 amended the previous legislation (Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995) to extend consumer rights to people who book non-traditional packages or Linked Travel Arrangements (LTAs). The regulations aim to make sure consumers are given relevant information about their holiday and are looked after if something goes wrong. The law applies when you book a package holiday or LTA in Ireland or abroad, when certain criteria are met. However, an LTA is not considered a package holiday and your rights are limited to situations where the provider of the first service you book goes out of business.

Package Holidays

What is a package holiday?

Your holiday is a package holiday if:

  • it has been pre-arranged/is ‘ready-made’
  • it is bought at a single point of sale
  • it is sold at an inclusive price by a travel agent or tour operator
  • it covers at least 24 hours (or includes an overnight stay) and
  • it is made up of at least two of the following:
  1. transport
  2. accommodation
  3. car or other vehicle hire
  4. other tourist activities that are not directly linked to the above but which make up a significant part of the cost and package (e.g. guided tours)

There are other types of packages known as customised or dynamic packages. With this type of package the consumer chooses the components of the holiday, therefore, it is not pre-arranged. The booking must be made through a single point of sale, either online or offline, and all the components must be part of the same trip or holiday. In order to be classified as a ‘package’, there must be a single contract for all of the components, or there are separate contracts but one inclusive or total price is paid and the holiday is booked from a single point of sale, and all of the components are chosen before you pay.

Cruises are considered package holidays. Under consumer law the tour operator or travel agent is responsible for making sure that your holiday arrangements run smoothly.

Booking a package holiday

When you book a package holiday you are entering into a contract with the organiser – the travel agent or tour operator. The information in the holiday brochure or on their website must not be false or misleading.  You should receive all of the essential information about the holiday before you agree to the contract.

Before you are bound by any package holiday contract, the organiser or retailer, if you book through a retailer, should give you certain information about the holiday, including:

  • The total price, including any taxes or additional fees
  • Arrangements for payment, including any deposit to be paid
  • Destination and duration
  • The type of transport involved and departure times and places
  • The location, type and category of accommodation
  • Meal plan, if any
  • Cancellation arrangements for the organiser (for example, if a minimum number of people need to book in order for the package holiday to take place) and for you
  • Details of any excursions or other services included
  • The complaints procedure if the organiser fails to carry out their part of the contract
  • The trading name, geographical address, telephone number and email address of the organiser and, if the package is sold through a retailer, the retailer where applicable.
  • The contact details of the organiser’s local representative or contact point in case you need to contact the organiser for assistance while on the trip
  • General information on passport and visa requirements, and vaccinations
  • Any insurance requirements

If you buy a package holiday from an organiser that is based outside Ireland, ask them to confirm if it is a package holiday and whether it is covered under the Regulations in Ireland, as you may not be covered if you buy online through a website based outside of Ireland.

Top Tip
If the organiser offers to sell you travel insurance you don’t have to buy it from them. They can insist on you having travel insurance but you can buy it elsewhere and you may get a better price by shopping around.

Changes to your package holiday

If the organiser makes a significant change to the holiday, for example the price, dates or accommodation, or cancels the trip, they must offer you the following:

a replacement holiday of equivalent or superior quality, if they can provide this
or
a lower grade holiday, with a refund of the difference in price, if they can provide this
or
a full refund

The organiser has the right to cancel a package holiday because of factors beyond their control. If this happens, you are still entitled to a refund or a replacement package as set out above. It is up to you to negotiate with the organiser which option you would prefer.

Price changes to your holiday are not allowed within 20 days of your departure date. However, before that, the organiser can increase prices only if there is an increase in:

  • The cost of transporting passengers because of the cost of fuel or other power sources
  • The level of taxes, fees and charges including tourist taxes, landing taxes or embarkation or disembarkation fees at ports and airports
  • Exchange rates relevant to the package holiday
Top Tip
If the price increases by more than 8% you have the right to cancel without a charge being applied.

If you cancel your holiday yourself, you need to check the terms and conditions of your contract. It should outline what happens in your situation. You may lose your deposit or have to pay a cancellation fee. Usually, the closer to your travel date, the greater the portion of the cost of your holiday you will lose.

If you want to transfer the package travel contract to someone else you can do this before the holiday by giving at least seven days’ notice to the organiser. You may have to pay for any costs incurred by the organiser to carry out the transfer.

You also have the right to cancel your package holiday beforehand in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances taking place at or near your destination which would affect your holiday, or your travel to the destination. You are entitled to a full refund from the organiser without undue delay.

You can cancel the holiday any time before the start of the package but you have to pay an appropriate and justifiable cancellation fee.

If things go wrong

  • Gather as much evidence as you can – take photos and videos.
  • Report the problem to the local representative of the organiser on the trip.
  • The organiser is responsible if something goes wrong, even if another company carries out the services.
  • When you get there, if significant elements of the package are not as agreed, suitable alternative arrangements should be made available to you at no extra cost. You can end the contract without paying any termination fee, if the services are not performed as per your contract and this substantially affects your holiday and the organiser does not resolve the problem.
  • You are also entitled to a price reduction and/or compensation for damages where the travel services are not performed or are not properly performed.
  • If you are in difficulty the organiser has to assist you.
  • If the organiser becomes insolvent, your payments will be refunded. If the organiser becomes insolvent after your holiday has started, and if transport is included in the package, you are entitled to be repatriated, that is, arrangements will be made to ensure you can get home.
  • If the problem is not sorted out while you are away, when you get home check the complaints procedure outlined in your contract and make a complaint in writing to the organiser within 28 days.
  • If you are still not satisfied and your claim is for less than €2,000, you can take your complaint to the Small Claims procedure.
  • If it is more €2,000, check your contract for information about arbitration.
Top Tip
Your organiser is responsible for making sure your holiday runs smoothly, even when it includes services that are provided by other businesses as part of the package holiday.

What happens if the organiser goes out of business?

By law, all package holiday providers in Ireland must have arrangements in place so that if they go out of business your money and bookings are protected. The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) grants licenses to both tour operators and travel agents in Ireland. A full list of licensed and bonded travel agents and tour operators can be found here.

Tour operators and travel agents who arrange travel out of Ireland, for example, flights, must be licensed by the CAR and enter into a bond. A bond is a sum of money that is used to refund or reimburse consumers if the company goes out of business. If this happens, CAR assesses your claim for a refund, or arranges to get you home if stranded abroad.

All organisers of packages must take out insolvency protection. This guarantee covers refunds and repatriation in case organisers go bankrupt.

Linked Travel Arrangements

What are linked travel arrangements (LTAs)?

Linked travel arrangements (LTAs) are travel services that you buy from different businesses as separate transactions but are linked. They are classed as linked when a business allows you to book additional services which you buy as part of the same trip or holiday.

Example
You book a flight online with an airline, and when you receive your confirmation email, you are also offered hotel accommodation or car rental at your destination, which you then book as part of your trip.

LTAs only apply if the combination of travel services does not constitute a package holiday and a business:

  • facilitates the booking on the basis of a single visit or contact with them, e.g. during one visit to a travel agent or website, or
  • they facilitate the second booking, which is made in a targeted manner and the second travel service, from another business, is booked within 24 hours of the first booking

A combination of one travel service, such as accommodation, and another travel service, such as a guided tour or a match, can only be classed as a linked travel arrangement if the additional service accounts for 25% or more of the overall value of the trip, or is an essential feature of the trip.

LTAs lasting less than 24 hours are not covered by the Regulations, unless overnight accommodation is included.

An LTA is not considered a package holiday and you have less rights with these type of arrangements. Your rights under the Regulations are limited to situations where the provider of the first service goes bankrupt. In this case you are entitled to your money back and, if necessary, to be brought home if stranded abroad.

What happens if the organiser goes out of business?

A business offering LTAs must ensure they are in a position to refund all payments to you if they are unable to fulfil your trip because they become insolvent. They must also ensure they can cover the cost of getting you home.

When you make the second booking under an LTA, you must be told that you are not booking a package and therefore can claim insolvency protection only.

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