Complaints we can and can’t help with

Details on the complaints that we can, and can’t help you with

If something has gone wrong with your holiday, and you have booked with one of our Members, we can offer you advice and potential solutions on how to resolve your problem. 

We have an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service that has been designed to bring you and your travel company – the ABTA Member – together to help resolve your complaint.

ABTA is approved by Government as a Consumer ADR body under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015. If you wish to verify our status as an approved ADR body please go to the European Commission website

Please note:

  • You do not need legal representation but you can if you wish
  • You can withdraw from the process at any time, prior to arbitration
  • Any outcome, prior to arbitration, is not binding on either party
  • The arbitrator's decision is binding on both parties
  • The complaint process can only be conducted in English.

The process

When ABTA Members are contacted by ABTA they must reply to the problem and/or complaint, but please understand that ABTA isn’t an ombudsman and we don’t oblige Members to offer compensation, or to offer any particular amount of compensation.

If you are unable to reach an agreement (known as deadlock) then we can offer the ABTA arbitration scheme, which is administered independently of the travel industry and gives a legally binding judgement.

Please note, there is a cost to the arbitration scheme and you will be expected to pay this whether you are successful or not.

Complaints we can help with

First of all, check that your query relates to an ABTA Member. If the travel company is not ABTA-registered, we will not be able to help with your complaint. If they are an ABTA Member, we can assist and/or offer advice in many situations, including:

  • Confirming if a company is an ABTA Member
  • Confirming if your complaint is suitable for the ABTA Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, which helps to resolve complaints against ABTA Members
  • Guidance on how to use ABTA’s ADR process, and advice on how to pursue your complaint with the ABTA Member
  • Guidance on whether the ABTA Member is acting in line with its terms and conditions
  • If you’ve not yet travelled, we can provide valuable advice and assistance. For example, in following up with the ABTA Member, in seeking a quick resolution to a problem, or providing information on any current Foreign Office advice on your destination and how this may affect your booking
  • Advising what you can do if you feel an ABTA Member has breached the ABTA Code of Conduct
  • Advising on the ABTA Code of Conduct and heading off problems, e.g.:
    • Has there been a change to your booking? We can help establish whether or not this is significant, which gives you the right to a refund
    • We can assist in obtaining paperwork from our Member such as a cancellation invoice/documents for insurance purposes
  • Taking action where an ABTA Member has breached the ABTA Code of Conduct, e.g.:
    • If you’ve not had a reply to your complaint within 28 days
    • If you’ve won an award at ABTA arbitration and this hasn’t been paid within 21 days
  • Guidance on the ABTA arbitration scheme, which can be used if complaints against ABTA Members remain unresolved
  • We’ll direct you to who you should contact if it’s not something we can assist with.

Examples of how ABTA can help you with your complaint

Mr A returned from holiday and wanted to raise a complaint. He wrote to his travel company but didn’t receive a response. Mr A knew that this didn’t have to be the end of the matter as the company was a ABTA Member. He registered his complaint on, we contacted the ABTA Member and Mr A received a reply soon after. Mr A was able then to settle his complaint.

Mrs B was yet to travel on her holiday. She noticed some reviews online stating there was building work taking place at her hotel, which was creating a substantial amount of noise and disruption. She contacted her tour operator and was told that it had not been made aware of any building works and that her holiday would go ahead as planned.

Dissatisfied with this, Mrs B filled in ABTA’s online complaint form.  The Customer Support Team at ABTA contacted the ABTA Member and reminded it about ABTA’s Code of Conduct. It requires that Members should be aware of and must take action over building work that will seriously impair the customer’s enjoyment of the holiday. Further investigation was made by the company and it discovered the hotel directly next door had some major building work being carried out. Following ABTA’s intervention and advice to the company it accepted this matter had been missed and offered Mrs B an alternative or the option to cancel with a full refund, as required by the Code. It also improved its procedures to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

Ms C returned from holiday with a complaint (she wasn’t happy with service from the rep and the fact she wasn’t made aware there would be an additional charge locally for air conditioning in her hotel room). After several attempts writing to her travel company and receiving its responses it was clear that the two parties would not reach an agreement. So Ms C approached ABTA for assistance and submitted her complaint on our website.

She considered making an arbitration claim and, following ABTA’s ADR process, completed a Pre Arbitration Notice. This is a simple form to notify the Member the customer is pursuing the matter and allows it one final opportunity to make an offer. A better offer was made to Ms C and her complaint was resolved. 

Mr D complained to his holiday company on return from holiday, that he felt his hotel wasn’t 3 star as advertised and that the service from the rep hadn’t been satisfactory. He had paid to move to an alternative hotel, and wished this to be refunded, along with compensation. The ABTA Member company stated that the hotel wasn’t substandard and therefore Mr D wasn’t entitled to a free move and that the rep had done everything they could to assist.  They offered a lower amount of compensation than Mr D had requested. Mr D registered his complaint on ABTA’s ADR process allows the parties to settle before more formal action is taken, but on this occasion no settlement could be reached. Mr D opted to pay to use the arbitration scheme in order to get a resolution to the case. An arbitrator considered both sides of the case, and decided that the client partially won. He awarded an amount lower than Mr D sought but higher than that offered by the travel company. Mr D also received a refund of his arbitration fee from the travel company. This is a legally binding outcome. 

Complaints we can’t help with

Complaints that are not about ABTA Members

If you’ve booked your travel arrangements with a non-ABTA Member, we can’t help you. We govern our Members through the ABTA Code of Conduct, this is something all of our Members sign up to, but we have no governance over non-ABTA Members. 

ABTA Members are travel agents and tour operators. Not, for example, hotels or airlines.

Check your confirmation invoice to see who your booking is with. An ABTA travel agent can still book you with a supplier that isn’t an ABTA Member.

Who can help with non-ABTA complaints

  • The company could be Travel Trust Association (TTA) registered, or Global Travel Group (0800 652 9808) registered. 
  • Airline complaints including flight delays and cancellations – airlines are not ABTA Members. If you have a complaint against your airline, you can contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
  • For lost luggage you’ll need to contact your insurance company.
  • Insurance claims – the claim is between you and your insurance company, we cannot get involved. You can contact the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

Complaints that are not suitable for the ABTA ADR scheme

  • Old complaints and issues – there is a time limit of 18 months from return from holiday.
  • Behaviour of guests at your resort/accommodation – Your travel company and ABTA cannot be held responsible for the behaviour of other people.
  • Assault; both physical and sexual.
  • Weather conditions – not the fault of your travel company.
  • Civil matters between individuals – we can’t get involved in any civil matters that you may have had with other people or individuals. We would advise you to report any matters to the local police and/or seek independent legal advice whilst away.
  • Lack of evidence – conversations that aren’t recorded (word of mouth) and lack of documentary evidence are examples of where we would be unable to comment or assist.
  • Customer requests – we do not have the legal authority to force an ABTA Member to adhere to a customer’s request.
  • Complaints not submitted in English.

Questions about how much compensation might be due

There are no defined guidelines on compensation and what is acceptable/fair. We do not award compensation, or decide on what, if any, compensation our Member should offer you.

Some final points to remember before registering a complaint with us:

  • Before contacting ABTA you must first have been through your travel company’s in-house complaint procedure
  • Our process is conducted in English only
  • You can withdraw your complaint at any point after you start.