Holidays from hell: what are your rights?

Whether you get stuck on an awful trip, get your flight cancelled or simply want to know more about when you need travel insurance

Taking a break from work and the day-to-day grind is supposed to be a relaxing, rejuvenating experience – one that provides memories, fun and hopefully some Instagrammable views. But what happens if your dream vacation goes wrong?

Do you know what your rights are if your baggage is lost, if your flight is cancelled or if something happens during your trip that’s out of your control — like a natural disaster.

Given how expensive holidays can be — particuarly for families — and how long we spend saving up for them, it’s worth knowing what you might have to fork out for if something goes wrong, and what your rights are as a consumer.

TODAY chatted to CHOICE’s head of media, Tom Godfrey,  for travel tips and more details on what you should do if you ever need to claim compensation.

TODAY: If people find themselves in a situation on holiday — for example recent stories of people feeling unsafe on cruises due to reported violence — what are their rights?

GODFREY: Whether you are on a flight or a cruise, businesses have to provide services with due care and skill. They shouldn’t provide a service that creates an unsafe situation. If you believe an unsafe situation was created during the service provision it’s worth making a complaint to the provider and pushing for your consumer rights.

TODAY: If you want to receive compensation, what do you do?

GODFREY:  Your first port of call is to make a complaint to the company and hit their social channels if you’re not satisfied with the response.You should also check your travel insurance to see if the problem you’ve experienced is covered. When it comes to airlines, start with a complaint to the airline and escalate to CHOICE’s Complane site if you’re getting the run around. If you’re not covered by your travel insurance and the company refuses to act, you can escalate the issue to Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs in your state.

TODAY: With travel insurance, when is it a must, and which trips can we go without it?

GODFREY: Travel insurance is a must for international trips. It’s not so important when you’re travelling domestically.

TODAY: When picking travel insurance, what should you look out for?

GODFREY: When buying travel insurance it’s important to read the fine print and make yourself aware of any exclusions. For example, pre-existing conditions, alcohol and adventure sports are often excluded. As are “known events” such as a volcanic eruption that occurred before you booked your holiday. You can also select a policy from our free travel insurance review.

TODAY: If an airline cancels or delays a flight, what rights do you have?

GODFREY: Unfortunately airlines do not guarantee their timetables so if there is a delay you have to hope you’ll be placed on the next available flight. We’d like to see consumers given fixed compensation when an airline makes a mistake. Similar compensation schemes exist in the UK & Europe and acknowledge that when an airline makes a mistake you’re often left out of pocket.

TODAY: What about if there is an natural or unexpected disaster??

GODFREY: If you’ve booked your trip and taken out travel insurance before the natural disaster was classified as a “known event” by your insurer, you should be covered. But always read the fine print. If you’re travelling after a “known event” has been declared it will be at the discretion of the service provider as to whether or not you get any form of compensation.

More useful travel tips

* In highlighting particular offers we are not making specific recommendations as this article does not cover all available products and may not compare all features relevant to you. Any advice provided is general in nature and does not take account of your needs, objectives or financial situation. Individuals should consider their own circumstances, and if in doubt seek appropriate advice, before proceeding.