stormy beach

How to complain about a holiday in hell

What makes a bad holiday?

If you’ve recently returned from your summer holiday, I hope you had a great time. But what if you’ve just returned from a holiday in hell? A lot can go wrong in a 2-week break. A hotel room with a view… of the kitchen bins. A serving of freshly-prepared shellfish, that wasn’t so fresh after all.

With the average British family spending nearly £2,000 on their holiday, according to, you have a right to expect things to go smoothly. If they didn’t, don’t get mad, get redress. Your chances of getting compensation from your tour operator or travel agent will be greater if you complained to flight or hotel staff at the time, or the company’s rep.

Unfortunately, many Britons are notoriously bad at making their unhappiness known. It is always wise to take photos and videos to back-up your complaint, and statements from any other affected holidaymakers. Group complaints have a much higher chance of success.

You then need to act quickly when you get home. Make a full complaint to your agent or operator, in writing, within 28 days. Explain what kind of redress you are looking for, and send your letter by recorded or registered post.

It will help if your package tour operator was a member of ABTA, whose members are bound by a code of conduct. ABTA also offers a free consumer helpline and an arbitration scheme.

The ATOL scheme, run by the Civil Aviation Authority, will give you financial compensation if your airline or travel company goes out of business, or cover repatriation if you are stranded overseas.

But it won’t give you any compensation for delayed or cancelled flights. For that, you need travel insurance. Neither scheme covers DIY holidays, where you book a budget flight and find a hotel yourself. In that case, you have little protection if something goes wrong, unless you booked your trip using your credit card.

If you spend between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card issuer is equally liable for any losses under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

So if your budget airline goes bust, you should be able to claim compensation. But it will only cover the cost of any services you haven’t received, such as a return flight home. You will have to arrange new flights yourself, and pay from your own pocket.

If you took out travel insurance, that should protect you against other holiday nightmares, such as cancellation due to illness, travel delay, medical expenses, baggage and personal liability.

Again, you should claim as soon as you can.

When seeking redress, be realistic. You can’t expect 5-star treatment on a budget holiday. But if you’ve had budget treatment at a 5-star price, now is the time to complain.

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