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Rights vacation packages to be improved

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Brussels -- Improved rights to cancel holidays, clearer rules about liability; the rights surrounding vacation packages are set to be improved by the European Commission. Modernisation will mean online bookers will also see their rights improved. This was long overdue, as current rules were set up when travellers still booked their entire holiday with one travel operator, which allowed terms and conditions to be transparent. According to the European Commission, approximately 120 million Europeans will benefit from the amendments.

Modernisation of the current Directive, which was drafted in 1990 and is the foundation of the protection of European holidaymakers, is long overdue. Where holidays used to be pre-arranged and booked all in one place, an increasing number of travellers now put together their own holiday themselves. This change and other ones have prompted the European Commission to upgrade guidelines for the industry.

Rights vacation packages for travellers and operators to be improved

A few of the improvements on passenger rights the amendment of the current EU Directive will bring about:

  • stricter rules for surcharges (with a 10% limit on price increases) and the obligation to pass on price reductions to the consumer;
  • improved cancellation rights: a higher degree of flexibility and freedom to terminate agreements;
  • better information about liability: the travel organiser is responsible and must communicate so to the traveller in clear and easily understandable language;
  • better redress mechanisms; for instance to claim compensation of immaterial damages, entitlement to compensation if a holiday doesn't meet expectations and guarantees to return passengers who strand due to insolvency to their country of residence;
  • a contact when the holiday goes wrong; consumers must be given the option of lodging a claim or complaint directly with the operator.

But vacation package traders will also benefit from the modernisation of guidelines. A more level playing field will be created, the obligation to reprint travel brochures will be abolished (reducing approximately 390 million annually), and there will be a greater separation of business travel and consumer travel and more facilities to make transboundary trade possible.

Different times in travel industry

As mentioned, the way people book their holidays has undergone some serious changes. When EU guidelines were drafted in 1990, most consumers still booked their holidays as pre-arranged packages through local travel agents or from a brochure. Instead, the modern consumer puts together his holidays himself and uses different travel organisations to book separate elements of his holiday (flight, accommodation, tours, cruises, etc.). Only 23% of holidays are now booked as a package deal, with 54% being independently composed holidays.

Safety net

Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship: "In the 1990s, most Europeans picked a pre-arranged package deal from a brochure and booked it at their local travel agent. But times have changed. Thanks in particular to the internet, people are used to taking a more active role in designing their holidays to suit their needs and preferences, often with the help of one or more commercially linked traders, rather than the more passive approach of the past. When buying the same flight and accommodation on an online platform, it is sometimes difficult for people to understand why they don't have the same rights as when buying their holidays from a tour operator. That's why the European Commission is now updating the rules to keep pace with a changing market and make sure consumers are better protected."

Written by: Team Flight-Delayed