The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 apply to holiday travel arrangements booked on or after 1 July. The new regulations cover two types of travel arrangements – package holidays and linked travel arrangements – which have different levels of protection.

The following information will help you to understand what the regulations may mean for your travel arrangements.

Key points

  • The new regulations only apply to holiday travel arrangements booked on or after 1 July. If you have booked a package holiday before 1 July, your package holiday will be covered by previous regulation. 
  • More holiday travel arrangements will be classified as packages. A ‘ready-made’ holiday (this is usually where you book through one company and pay one price) will still be classed as a package holiday. But so too will holidays sold in other ways – for example, many tailor-made trips and shopping basket type sales on websites (where you select the different elements such as flight and hotel). 
  • Package holidays offer the best form of protection. Financial protection means you are entitled to a refund or to be brought home if necessary should the travel company organising your package go out of business. You’re also protected if elements of the holiday aren’t provided as required, for example the right to a refund if bad weather means your holiday can’t go ahead.
  • Linked travel arrangement is a new arrangement under the Package Travel Regulations. This is not a package and the level of protection is significantly lower than if you bought a package holiday. It comes with limited financial protection in case the company that sold it goes bust, but complaints about each holiday service will have to be taken up with the individual suppliers.
  • If you have booked your travel arrangements separately (eg – a flight directly with an airline and a hotel through an accommodation booking website), these are unlikely to have any financial or legal protection under the 2018 Package Travel Regulations. However, you might have certain protection for the individual services in other ways – either through travel insurance or through booking with your debit or credit card. Please check with your providers as levels of protection vary.
  • Currently, around half of UK holiday travel arrangements are financially protected. While this isn’t expected to increase – the level of protection will, as the organiser will also be responsible for the package services. Whether your trip is covered by these regulations or not will depend on what and how you booked, so it is very important you check with your travel company.
  • Travel companies will be required to provide you with more information about the holiday you’re buying. The travel company needs to tell you up front if you’re buying a package holiday or a linked travel arrangement. 
  • Companies should also provide information about whether a holiday is generally suitable for persons with reduced mobility and, if you request it, precise information on the suitability of the holiday for you (which should take into account any of your required needs).

Overview

The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 cover two types of travel arrangements – which have different levels of protection:

A package holiday, which has both legal and financial protections.

A linked travel arrangement, which only has financial protection – and this is at a lower level than if you bought a package holiday. This protection only covers the insolvency of the company arranging the sale of the services making up the linked travel arrangement and does not protect you from the failure of the companies actually supplying your travel arrangements, such as an airline.

These regulations apply to travel arrangements booked on or after 1 July 2018.

If you have booked your travel arrangements separately (eg – a flight directly with an airline and a hotel through an accommodation booking website), you might have certain protection for the individual services in other ways – through travel insurance or through booking with your debit or credit card – but you should check with your providers as levels of protection vary.

Package holidays offer the greatest level of protection.

Whether you book your package holiday or linked travel arrangement via a website, in person or on the telephone, they should all provide the same information and the same protection for a package holiday and linked travel arrangement. The regulations apply to sales in the EU so if the package or linked travel arrangement is sold to you outside the EU you will not be entitled to the same protection.

Holidays booked through an ABTA travel company benefit from the ABTA offer: support, protection and expertise. This requires Members to comply with ABTA’s Code of Conduct and an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme, that is approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, if problems cannot be resolved.

Not all travel companies are ABTA Members, do check before you book so you can be safe in the knowledge that you’ve booked with a reputable company. You can check if a company is an ABTA Member at abta.com/abta-member-search.

What is a package holiday?

A package holiday can come in many different forms and can be sold in different ways – from a ‘ready-made’ package (where the different travel services are put together for you by the travel company and offered at a single price) to many tailor-made trips (for example where you select different services from a range offered before paying for them together) – however they will all have the same level of financial and legal protection.

A package holiday is a combination of at least two different types of travel services, which are listed below: 

  • transport (such as a flight, coach or train but not transfers from an airport)
  • accommodation (such as a hotel, villa or apartment)
  • car rental 
  • a tourist service (such as a tour guide or a trip to a historical attraction) where this is a significant part of the holiday either because of its value or because it is an essential part of the trip.

It counts as a package holiday if your travel company:

  • Has asked you to pay a single price through a single payment 
  • Has let you select a combination of services – such as a flight and accommodation – before you agreed to pay for them
  • Charged you an inclusive or total price for all the services you bought
  • Advertised or sold the travel services to you as a package or similar term
  • Sold you one travel service; and then transferred your details, including your payment details to another company which you then booked another travel service through within the space of 24 hours.
Examples of a package holiday
  • A travel agent finds a holiday in Portugal for you. You pay a single price and make a single payment for the flights and a villa.
  • You are booking a trip to Japan through a travel company’s website, you select flights, train tickets and hotels, and are charged a total price.
  • You ring up a travel company to book a city break to Bath, with a one night stay in a hotel, the trip includes return coach travel and a ticket to the Roman Baths.
Examples of a package holiday with tourist services
  • If you buy a tourist service with one other service, in order to make a package, the tourist service has to be a significant part of the holiday. Therefore, accommodation and park tickets for a visit to Disneyland can be a package, depending on how it’s sold. Similarly, a chalet in a ski resort along with ski passes.

All package holidays booked with an ABTA Member are financially protected.

If your package holiday includes a flight you should be provided with an ATOL Certificate as soon as you have paid for your holiday.

If the package doesn't include a flight, you won’t receive an ATOL Certificate or ATOL confirmation, but you should receive a confirmation (likely via email) which shares the details of the company you booked through, the amount paid for the package and how your money is protected. ABTA is the largest provider of non-flight package protection in the UK.

What is a linked travel arrangement?

A linked travel arrangement is a combination of at least two different types of travel services (listed below) – but it is how these travel services are sold which defines it as a linked travel arrangement. 

Types of travel services covered by a linked travel arrangement:

  • transport (such as a flight, coach or train but not transfers from an airport)
  • accommodation (such as a hotel, villa or apartment)
  • car rental 
  • a tourist service (such as a tour guide or a trip to a historical attraction) where this is a significant part of the holiday either because of its value or because it is an essential part of the trip.

It counts as a linked travel arrangement if your travel company sells it to you by:

Arranging the separate selection and separate payment of each of your travel services - such as a flight and accommodation - during a single visit (either to their shop, website or other point of sale). This means you will have separate contracts with the individual travel service providers. 

Arranging for you to make a booking for one travel service (for example a flight) and then arranged for you to then be offered, in a targeted manner – such as through an email – another travel service from another trader (such as a car hire firm) which you then book less than 24 hours later. 

Examples
  • If you buy a flight through a travel company and, having bought the flight, you then, during the same visit to their shop or the same session on their website,  separately book and pay for, or agree to pay for, a hotel.
  • If you buy a flight and then receive an email from another company for hotel accommodation at the same destination and for the same dates. You then click on the email and end up booking a hotel within 24 hours of booking the flight.

 

What is the difference between the consumer protection of a package holiday and a linked travel arrangement?

A linked travel arrangement is not a package and doesn’t offer the same protection as a package.

A package offers both legal and financial protection, a linked travel arrangement just offers a level of financial protection, which will vary depending on how you bought your services  (please see below for more information on what protection each arrangement has).

What protection do I get with a package holiday?

A package holiday has both financial and legal protection.

Legal protection means your travel company is responsible for making sure that you get the holiday you paid for. If something isn’t provided or isn’t as expected, and your travel company or its suppliers is at fault, they will need to sort this out for you – either resolving the issue, offering an alternative or providing a full or partial refund. In some instances you may be able to claim compensation.

Financial protection means that if the company you have booked with goes out of business, you will receive a refund if you are yet to travel, or be brought home if you are already on holiday and your package includes return transport.

All package holidays booked with an ABTA Member are financially protected.

Examples of package holiday protection
  • You are due to travel to Thailand for your package holiday, but heavy snow and adverse weather conditions in the UK means flights are unable to depart. Your travel company will need to re-arrange your flight or will offer you a refund fo the whole package.  
  • You have booked a package holiday and the organiser of your package goes bust two days before you are due to travel. The organisation in charge of the financial protection, such as ABTA or the CAA, will ensure that you get a full refund of the money you paid for the package.

 

What protection do I get with a linked travel arrangement?

A linked travel arrangement only has financial protection – and this is at a lower level than if you bought a package holiday. The financial protection covers if the company that arranged it goes out of business, but only in respect of any money that company is holding; not if the actual travel service provider goes out of business, unless that company itself was the one that arranged the linked travel arrangement. 

As there is no legal protection, under a linked travel arrangement, any complaints about the provision of the services must be directed to the service providers themselves.

Examples of linked travel arrangement protection
  • You have booked a flight and a hotel as a linked travel arrangement through a travel company. The accommodation company providing the hotel goes bust before you travel. There is no protection for your money so you will not get a refund for the hotel. The airline is not required to refund you for the flight so you will have to pay again for a hotel or lose the money for the flight as well.
  • If the travel agent you booked with goes bust, you should still be able to continue with the flight and accommodation that you booked.

 

What protection do I get if I book everything independently?

If you book all of your travel arrangements separately these are unlikely to have any financial or legal protection under the 2018 package travel regulations. However, you might have certain protection for the individual services in other ways – either through travel insurance or through booking with your debit or credit card. Please check with your providers as levels of protection vary. 

Some ABTA Members do protect their non-package sales such as accommodation-only sales so when booking with an ABTA Member you should check this.

Examples
  • If you book your flight directly with an airline and the airline goes out of business, you might have protection through your credit card. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act applies if the price of the flight is more than £100. However, if you booked a flight/separate flights at less than £100 each, section 75 doesn’t apply.
  • If you book a flight directly with an airline, and then separately book a hotel, either directly or through a booking website, but the flight can’t go because of bad weather – you will still be liable for the hotel costs as set out in their terms and conditions.
  • If you book your accommodation independently, and find that what was described as a 4 star hotel is in fact a 2 star hotel, you would need to take it up with the hotel under the contract laws in that country.

 

How do I know if I’m booking a package or a linked travel arrangement?

At the time of booking, your travel company must tell you whether your holiday is a package or a linked travel arrangement. However, please also refer to the above tell-tale signs earlier in the ‘overview’ section on what counts as a package holiday and a linked travel arrangement if you would like to understand their remits better.

I’m booking a day trip – will I be covered by the Package Travel Regulations?

No – you won’t be covered if your trip is less than 24 hours, unless you have overnight accommodation included in your package. However, where the trip includes an international flight, your money will be protected under the ATOL scheme. 

Additionally some ABTA Members protect other services such as accommodation-only sales, so when booking with an ABTA Member you should check this.

Examples
  • You book a day drip to a theme park in the UK, including coach travel, which leaves at 5am in the morning and returns you back to the pick-up point by midnight the same day, this would not be covered by the regulations. 
  • You book a trip to Paris via Eurostar to see a theatre show, you leave at 3pm on a Friday, stay overnight, and return back in the UK by 1pm on the Saturday. As it includes an overnight stay, this could be a package or a linked travel arrangement depending on how the travel arrangements were sold to you.

What information should my travel company give me when I am booking a package holiday?

You should receive a contract with the specific booking information about what you’ve been sold – such as your holiday dates, hotel accommodation, flight times, transfer details and the payment schedule. 

You should also receive more general information – such as information on visas, travel insurance, passports, cancellation provisions and the booking conditions. Further to this, within the general information a list of the key rights under the Package Travel Regulations and a link or website address to the Package Travel Regulations should be provided. 

If your package holiday includes a flight you should also be provided with an ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licence) Certificate as soon as you have paid for your holiday. 

Companies should also provide information about whether the holiday is generally suitable for persons with reduced mobility and, if you request it, precise information on the suitability of the holiday for you (which should take into account any of your required needs).

What information should I receive when I am booking a linked travel arrangement?

You must be given the following information: 

  • You will not benefit from any of the rights that apply exclusively to package holidays 
  • That each service provider will be responsible for the proper contractual performance of that particular service (this information will vary dependent on the agreement your travel company has with the suppliers it works with – such as airlines and hotels)
  • That there is insolvency protection for the failure of the linked travel arrangement facilitator (again this information will vary depending on who is facilitating the sale of the linked travel arrangement).

You should be given information on where you can read the full Package Travel Regulations too. This will likely be via a link on the company website or through the Ts&Cs.

What do I do if I’ve booked a package holiday and my travel company makes a significant change to my booking?

A company should only make a significant change to any part of your package for reasons beyond their control, e.g. the airline changes the flight to a day later or the hotel is closed due to hurricane damage.  

In this case they will need to do the following:

  • Tell you about the change and give you a reasonable period of time to decide if you want to accept it or cancel with a full refund. You have the right to accept the change or to cancel the package and receive a full refund within 14 days. The travel company will also offer you alternative holidays if they’re able to do so.
  • Inform you that if you do not respond they will treat that as acceptance of the alteration or treat the booking as cancelled and return your money. If you do not respond within the time period given, they must contact you again and ask a second time for your decision. 

If the significant change is made for reasons that are not beyond the travel company’s control they may need to offer you compensation.

Example
  • You have booked a Mediterranean cruise which is due to make seven different stops. Three weeks before you are due to travel your travel company advises that the cruise will not visit four of the advertised stops, instead it will visit alternative destinations. This could be considered a significant change. 

 

Can my travel company increase the price of my package holiday after I’ve booked?

They can do so if they include this caveat in their booking conditions, but they can only increase the price to negate certain costs, for example changes in the price of transport resulting from the cost of fuel; changes in taxes or fees imposed by third parties; or changes to exchange rates. This is known as a surcharge and they have to follow strict rules to see if they can ask you to pay the surcharge.

Unlike other travel companies, ABTA Members won’t pass on small price increases to you, as the Code of Conduct obliges them to absorb an amount equal to 2% of your holiday cost.

What happens if an element of my package holiday isn’t provided or isn’t as expected?

You must tell the holiday organiser as soon as you can if there is a problem, otherwise this will affects your rights if you don’t. They need to attempt to fix the problem within a reasonable time unless it’s impossible or it’ll entail a disproportionate cost to them. 

If the problem is urgent and they refuse to help you can pay to fix the issue yourself and try to claim this cost back from your holiday organiser. However we would strongly recommend that you only do this in an emergency, and prioritise asking for help from your holiday organiser.

Where an ABTA Member and its customer are unable to resolve their differences through the company’s complaints process, ABTA provides an opportunity for the parties to have their dispute considered and managed through its arbitration or conciliation scheme. Both schemes are administered independently and are only available if your complaint is regarding an ABTA Member. 
 

Do the regulations apply to me if I organise (ie.book and take payments from individuals) a package holiday myself? For example for me and my friends, my scout group or for a charity trip?

If you only do this occasionally, it is for a limited group of travellers and you aren’t making any profit from it the regulations do not apply to you but, of course, your friends’ money will be at risk.

What if there is political unrest or extreme weather in my destination that could impact my holiday before I’m due to travel?

The new regulations give customers the right to cancel where the incident significantly affects the performance of your holiday, so you can cancel your package holiday and receive a refund. Such situations will usually arise where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issues advice against travel to the destination.

However, please note, the mere existence of something, such as political unrest, doesn’t automatically significantly affect the package and therefore you won’t get an automatic refund if you cancel.

If you have booked your travel arrangements separately, or have a linked travel arrangement, and want to cancel you will be subject to the individual companies’ terms and conditions.

Example
  • You have booked a package holiday and you’re due to travel to abroad, however major political unrest has broken out  across the country, impacting tourist areas, and the FCO has changed the level of advice, advising against travel to the country. You can cancel your package and receive a full refund from your travel company.