What are the Package Travel Regulations?
The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 (PTRs) became law in the UK in July 2018. Their purpose was to provide greater protection for consumers buying package holidays.
What is a package holiday?
Package holidays are defined as a combination of two or more different types of travel services, taken on the same trip. This usually means a combination of transport, i.e. flights, trains, coaches or car hire and accommodation.
BUT any other ‘tourist service’ which is more than 25% of the value of the package may also count as a package when it’s combined with transport or accommodation and is an essential feature of the holiday. This might include ski passes and equipment hire, Disney park tickets or tickets for sporting events.
What are Linked Travel Arrangements (LTAs)?
LTAs are different travel services purchased for the same holiday but not purchased in a single booking process or at a total price. An example would be booking and paying for a flight on a website and are then being invited to book car hire with a separate provider. You have some limited protection under LTAs but not as much as if you have purchased a package.
How do the PTRs protect me?
Your package must conform to the description. If it doesn’t, it must be put right by the package organiser, i.e. the person who put the package together.
If you’re on holiday and there is a significant problem, i.e. inability to provide the accommodation booked, the organiser must provide a suitable alternative or equivalent or higher quality.
If you’re on holiday and your homeward transport can’t be provided as planned, the organiser must arrange to get you home. If that can’t be done immediately, the organiser should pay for necessary accommodation for up to three nights.
If the main aspects of your package have to be significantly changed, you should be offered the option to cancel without paying a fee. If the package has to be cancelled because of ‘unavoidable and extraordinary’ circumstances, you’re entitled to a refund within 14 days of the termination.
Finally, the PTRs provide protection in the event of the organiser’s insolvency.
How did coronavirus affect the PTRs?
The PTRs aimed to provide greater protection for consumers, specifically in the event of the insolvency of a travel organiser or travellers being stranded overseas.
Before the PTRs became law, the biggest airline collapse in UK history was Monarch Airlines, which left around 100,000 UK travellers stranded overseas when it went into administration in late 2017. Less than two years later, the collapse of Thomas Cook led to the repatriation of around 150,000 people.
These number were eclipsed by the travel chaos caused by coronavirus, when hundreds of thousands of UK travellers were repatriated, including an estimated 150,000 from Spain alone.
As well as organising the repatriation of customers who were stranded overseas, ever-stricter travel restrictions meant that hundreds of thousands of holidays were cancelled so travel organisers had to deal with re-booking and refunds at the same time.
In addition, non-essential businesses (including travel companies) had to close and staff were either furloughed or made redundant. For many, the unprecedented scale of cancellations and refund requests, combined with a skeleton workforce, was overwhelming and they were unable to comply with their legal requirement to refund customers within 14 days of request.
Many organisers resorted instead to issuing Refund Credit Notes until they were able to refund, to the fury of customers who did not want to wait weeks or months for their money.
Some travel agents, including Mondial Travel, refunded as many of their own customers as possible, in an effort to maintain customer relations. Where that wasn’t possible, honesty and communication was and is key, with both travel organisers and customers.
Mondial Travel isn’t an impersonal web-booking service and our customers don’t complain that they can’t get a response when they contact us. In fact, in the event of any issue with a booking, we’ll be in touch with you with solutions before you’re even aware of the issue. And we will keep you informed at every stage. Which is one of the reasons our customers rate us a 5* company.
What’s next for travel and the PTRs?
It was never envisaged that the whole world would stop travelling at once, leading to the intensified complications we experienced last year. However, when vaccinations have been rolled out world-wide and coronavirus is more controlled, it’s likely that travel will come under close scrutiny, both from within and outside the industry, in a bid to ensure that the chaos of 2020 doesn’t happen again.