Travel is back with a vengeance this summer. But so are cancellations.
Many Irish consumers will travel for a sun holiday abroad this summer – it is the season of revenge travel as they now call it. And it certainly is much different from one year ago, but summer 2022 comes with its own set of problems, including flight cancellations, which for Irish consumers is particularly concerning as flying is the main way to travel out of Ireland.
COVID-19 is still here despite no longer being a widespread pandemic and documented travel issues at airports result in daily cancellations, particularly for short-haul flights in and from Europe from Dublin airport and main central hubs in Europe, like Frankfurt, Schiphol and UK airports, too. It is why it remains important to make sure your holiday bookings and payments stay protected should something go wrong.
Most importantly, you should be aware of what cancellations you are covered for, depending on the booking type and the terms and conditions of your contract with the various travel service operators. Secondly, it is useful to check the operators’ record of refunds and general customer service over the past two years. Many travel companies and online travel agents have a good record of operating cancellations with reasonable notice, when needed, and refunding passengers within a reasonable timeframe. Some don’t. To avoid problems and learn how to deal with travel disruption, here is what to consider before and after making a holiday reservation.
Please note that the European Consumer Centre Ireland provides advice to Irish consumers who experience issues with cancelled, delayed, or missed travel booked specifically with cross-border travel services operators based in the EU. This includes airlines operating international flights flying out of Ireland from Dublin airport from this list here and from Cork Airport from this list here, with the exception of airlines registered in Ireland (Aer Lingus and Ryanair – for these, please contact the Commission for Aviation Regulation) and all non-EU registered airlines flying into non-EU jurisdictions (for these, you must contact the aviation regulator in the respective countries). We also deal with non-Ireland ferry operators departing from Ireland for EU destination ports, but not with ferry companies registered in Ireland (for these please contact the National Transport Authority of Ireland).
So here is what to keep in mind before and after your international holiday booking.
Make a shortlist of the EU travel companies that offer holidays to your chosen destination and check their track record for customer service and redress options over 2021 to get an idea of how they may deal with issues in 2022 in terms of changes, refunds and general care for their customers.
If you’ve yet to book your holiday, make it a package holiday, if you can. Travel package offers the optimum form of consumer protection at present thanks to European Union and national law consumer protections against company insolvency, travel cancellations, exceptional circumstance and potential travel restrictions. It also guarantees that price increases will not go over 8% for holidays already booked.
If you are not booking a holiday package but want to avoid problems, look for flexible terms for your reservations. Research travel companies and suppliers that offer flexibility if you need or are forced to change your plans. The best ones will allow you to cancel or change your booking right up to the date of departure. While this flexibility is more common with luxury operators, there are some flexible policies offered by most tourism providers of accommodation services, for instance. Many airlines are also offering free changes for extended periods at present.
Generally, your consumer rights will depend on the type of holiday you book, which can be classified under these three categories: package holidays, linked travel arrangements (a sub-category of package travel) and independent holidays. Your compensation for cancelled, delayed, or missed travel will depend on the type of services you reserved. Click on each of the below to see what sets of consumer protection rules apply to your holiday.
Consumers who experienced cancellation or postponement of a travel package will be offered one of the following: a replacement holiday of equal or superior quality; a lower quality holiday, plus a refund for the difference; a full refund. Holidaymakers can cancel the package themselves for a reasonable fee but are entitled to free cancellation and full refund in the following situations: natural disasters; substantial changes in price and nature of the trip; conditions on the ground. Cash refunds should be made within 30 days.
Linked travel arrangements enjoy similar consumer protections. Click below to find out more.
If you organised your holiday yourself, you are considered to be an independent traveller. You are likely to have different contracts with different companies for different services. Independent holiday individual services purchased from separate operators are governed solely by the Terms & Conditions specified in each of the contracts, which also detail the applicable jurisdiction law. If you are resident in Ireland and you booked your independent holiday with companies and service providers based abroad within the EU/EEA, you won’t be protected by Irish law nor by EU package travel legislation. In such cases, obtaining compensation when something goes wrong may be more difficult and take longer. Also note our advice on multiple holiday bookings made through third-party agents. Click below to find out more about options for independent holidays.
If your holiday travel services are all booked separately, you should look into how it all works in case any one of the elements of your trip gets cancelled, specifically when it comes to the cancellation of flights or ferry services out of Ireland, as this would prevent you from reaching your destination abroad, and therefore from accessing the other services that are of your holiday, such as hotels, accommodation, transfers, tours, etc.
Click on the below to learn about your consumer protections when it comes to air passenger rights, as well as sea/waterways travel by ferry or passenger ship.
If you cannot make it out of Ireland, it might mean that you are unable to take further transport to your final holiday destination. If this involves a bus or a train, click below to see what consumer rights apply if failing to travel out of Ireland results in missing your other transport connections in Europe.
If you arrive too late or miss your first day of the reservation at your hotel or accommodation, it may trigger automatic cancellations of the entire stay reservation in some strict cases and, in some cases, the inability to claim your money back. Learn below what to do if you are facing a problem with travel services providers at destination:
A big problem might be not arriving in time to collect your rental car at destination. Same as with some accommodation providers, car rental contracts might trigger a non-refundable cancellation which results in not being able to get a refund or a replacement car when you finally arrive at your holiday destination. Delays also can cause problems, as some car hire offices are only open within certain times and provide no collection or drop-off services outside these set opening times.
Note that car rental is different from the above types of travel in that it is not covered by specific sectoral consumer rights in either European or national law. If you book a car online, by phone or by e-mail in the EU, you don’t automatically have the right to cancel and claim a refund, although the car hire company’s terms and conditions may allow it. While there are no specific EU rules on hiring cars, you still benefit from your basic consumer rights when you rent a car in another EU country. Also pay extra attention to the Terms and Conditions of the third-party booking website and those of the car rental company, if this is the method to used to reserve your holiday car abroad. Find out more about your car rental rights here.
For any problems with your cross-border reservation of package travel or flights, accommodation, car rental and more, if you are resident in Ireland and you have a complaint about a travel or flight operator based in another European Union country, Norway, Iceland or the United Kingdom, and you have tried to resolve the matter directly to no avail, please contact us for assistance here. Learn how to make a cross-border complaint here.
If you have a consumer dispute with any of the operators of the travel services included in your holiday, and you have been unsuccessful in claiming a refund, if you paid with a credit card, you have more financial protection. This means that if your holiday is cancelled by the travel company or any of the service operators (airline, hotel, etc.), you could claim a refund from your card issuer for services not delivered. This is called a transaction reversal or chargeback. Note, however, that banks are not legally obliged to refund you and all chargebacks require thorough investigations. Chargebacks can only be used as a last resort when it is confirmed that all the claims processes with the traders have been exhausted and no refunds are forthcoming.
These days it is essential that you take out travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday. Note though that travel insurance that covers you for COVID-19-related illness and disruption is not standard, and there are no comprehensive covers for it in terms of medical or logistical expenses but some policies do cover it.
When choosing the right policy, check what will be covered before, during and after your holiday, namely if cancellations (flights and accommodation, for example) are covered or if travel advice or disruption of any kind restricts outward travel. There should be separate clauses applicable specifically to contracting a disease before departure, hospital services at destination, or if you need to pay for quarantine or separate transport at destination or upon returning to Ireland. Some airlines, tour operators and hotels are now offering free or paid-for COVID-19 insurance cover as an optional addition to your booking/ticket, and many companies offer very strong all-inclusive travel insurance policies for anything like cancellations, lost luggage, missed hotel reservations, unrealised travel services on site, and many more. You should always make sure to have comprehensive travel and medical insurance if you want complete peace of mind.
Finally, it is a good idea to leave a customer review on the customer service and assistance you received from those good actors and bad actors in the travel industry. It will help other consumers make the right choices and hopefully improve unsatisfactory processes and rectify unfair practices by travel, hospitality and transport operators.
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