As independent travel has become more popular the good old package holidays which were popular in the 1970s and 1980s have fallen out of favour.
However, in terms of legal protection a package holiday remains a very good buy because of the important consumer protections which go with such arrangements.
A “package holiday” as defined under the European Law Package Tour Regulations 1992 is a pre-arranged combination of at least two of the following: (i) travel, (ii)accommodation and (iii)other tourist services not ancillary to travel and accommodation. With a package holiday the consumer’s contract is usually with tour operator. In that sense, the tour operator is usually at centre of web of legal relationships - organising sub contracts with flight operators, hotels and so forth.
For the consumer this is great for the convenience of organising the holiday. In legal terms, where the guest is accommodated at a hotel booked as part of a package there is no contractual relationship between guest and hotel, so in the event of dispute the most straight forward route for the guest is to sue the tour operator for any defect in the package.
In cases of, say, hotel fires, swimming pool drownings, food poisonings and other injuries which occur abroad, the tour operator is liable to the consumer under the Package Tour Regulations for the defaults of their suppliers. As such, some tour operators are trying to ‘unbundle’ what they offer to avoid the Package Tour Regulations!
Under the regulations if a significant proportion of the booked holiday arrangements are not provided (for example if there is a fire and the hotel not habitable) there is an implied term that alternative arrangements will be made at no extra cost to the consumer. If it is impossible to make arrangements, or the alternative is not accepted by the consumer for good reason, it is also implied the consumer will be given equivalent transport back to place of departure. So a flight home should be provided.
If you are booking a holiday I hope it goes smoothly but, if not, it may be good to know the law does affords you some protection if you have bought a package.