Summer holiday misery: your rights

Today it has emerged that 178-year-old holiday firm; Thomas Cook has collapsed over night, triggering the biggest ever repatriation to bring 150,000 British holiday makers home. Whether you have had a holiday company go bust or experienced cancelled flights, it pays to know your rights if your summer holiday has been met with disappointment.

Your flights are delayed or cancelled

Let’s start with one of the most common reasons for summer holiday misery: flight problems. EU legislation dictates that you can claim compensation if your flight is delayed by three hours or more, providing certain parameters are met. The Which? site has a handy flight delay compensation calculator for checking whether you’re owed compensation and will guide you through how to claim. If your flight has been cancelled, you’re entitled to a range of things that may include a refund, alternative flight, food, phone and hotel vouchers and/or compensation – find out more here.

You missed your flight or ferry

If you’ve missed your flight or ferry crossing – perhaps because you had car problems on the way, or got stuck in traffic – all is not necessarily lost. If you have ‘missed departure’ coverage on your travel insurance, you may be able to claim back the costs of getting to where you were going, such as a rebooked flight or ferry. You’ll need to provide evidence of the reasons why you missed your departure, though; for example, if you got stuck in traffic, it will probably need to have been recognised on a traffic news site.

Your trip had to be cancelled

If you’ve had to cancel your trip for unforeseen circumstances, such as illness or a bereavement, your travel insurance may be able to pay out the costs you’ve incurred, less your excess. As usual, check the policy wording carefully, as there will be strict circumstances under which you can claim. If you haven’t taken out travel insurance then you can appeal to your travel agent, airline or holiday firm, but they don’t have to give you a refund.

Your holiday company went bust

If the company you booked your holiday with goes into administration and isn’t able to honour your booking, your first port of call is the Atol protection scheme, with which any reputable company should be accredited. If you booked flights directly and your airline goes bust, contact your debit or credit card company to pursue a refund via a ‘chargeback’ for debit cards or Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act for credit cards.

You’re affected by a natural disaster

Finally, they may be the stuff of those ‘Holidays from Hell’ programmes or Hollywood movies, but earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and other natural disasters really do happen, and if you’re unlucky enough to be caught in one – or to have your holiday cancelled in the aftermath of one – then you shouldn’t be left out of pocket if you have travel insurance or if you’ve booked a package holiday through an Atol-protected company. You’ll usually be able to claim back the costs of an alternative holiday, flying home early or making other arrangements, such as staying in a different hotel.