Package travel and linked travel arrangements
As a holidaymaker booking a package holiday and/or linked travel arrangements, you benefit from a high level of consumer protection under EU rules. If you buy a package, you have well-defined rights before and throughout the booking process, and up until your holiday ends, for example the right to pre-contractual information, the organiser's liability for the proper performance of travel services included in your package and insolvency protection. These rights apply to packages purchased online or face-to-face, from a tour operator, travel agent, or any other trader that is acting as the organiser of the package. More limited rights apply to so-called "linked travel arrangements" (LTAs).
These rules do not cover stand-alone travel services (such as a flight or accommodation which are booked separately), certain types of business travel, packages sold on the basis of a framework agreement on an occasional, not-for-profit basis to a limited group of travellers, as well as packages lasting less than 24 hours unless they include accommodation.
Package travel – different types of packages give you the same rights
When you book a package holiday, you buy a combination of two or more different types of travel services for the same trip or holiday. These services can include transport, accommodation, car hire, or under specific conditions any other tourist service. Your package may be pre-arranged – consisting of a number of services combined by a tour operator or travel agent – or you may have a more customised package by choosing the services yourself before the contract is concluded. In both cases, EU rules apply as long as your travel package was purchased in a certain way.
What is package travel?
Your travel is considered as a package when:
1. You book travel services put together by or with the help of a trader, such as a tour operator or an online or offline travel agency under a single contract
2. You book travel services under separate contracts with individual providers and one of the following conditions is met:
- you buy services at a single point of sale (such as a travel agency, a call centre or a website) and you select the services before agreeing to pay, i.e. before you conclude the first contract. This is the case, for example, where different travel services are put into a shopping basket or are otherwise selected before a contract is concluded.
- the services are sold to you at an inclusive or total price
- the services were advertised/sold as a "package" or similar
- travel services are combined after the conclusion of a contract under which you are entitled to choose from a selection of different travel services, for example a travel package gift box
- Click-through package: you buy services from separate travel companies through a linked online booking process where the first company transmits your name, email address and payment details to the second company and the second contract is concluded within 24 hours of the first contract
A combination of a travel service, such as accommodation, and another tourist service, such as a guided tour, admission to a concert or sports event, or rental of sports equipment, can only be classed as a package if the other tourist service accounts for 25% or more of the overall value of the trip, or if that service is an essential feature of the trip.
Booking a package travel holiday
Michel from Belgium decided to organise his summer holiday through an online travel agency. The package he selected, a 2-week holiday in Italy, included flights, hotel accommodation and a number of day trips. As the total price for this all-inclusive package was very attractive, Michel decided to book his holiday. He finalised the booking, signed the contract and paid for his holiday via the online travel agency.
Package travel – your right to clear and accurate information
Before you book a package, the point of sale (booking website or app for example) or your travel agent must give you all the standard information about the package, such as the:
- travel destination (itinerary, dates and duration of the stay, details of any transfers, visits or excursions) and a list of services included
- name and contact details of the organiser of the package and, where it is sold through a retailer, of the retailer
- total price, inclusive of all taxes and where applicable all additional fees, and the payment arrangements
- information on how to terminate the contract before the start of the package on payment of an appropriate termination fee
- information on passport and visa requirements
- information on complaint-handling procedures, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms and, where appropriate, the ADR entity, and the online dispute resolution platform
You should also receive clear information on your rights, based on an EU standardised form, explaining that you have been offered a package and outlining your rights.
Package travel - changes to or termination of the contract
Price increase: The organiser may increase the price of the package only if specific costs rise (for example, fuel prices). This must be clearly explained in the contract and cannot be applied any later than 20 days before the start of the package. If the price increase is more than 8% of the total price of the package, you have the right to end the package contract without a termination fee.
If you cannot travel you may:
- Transfer the package to another person: under certain conditions, you can transfer your package to another person, although you can be charged a reasonable fee for this, up to the actual cost incurred by the organiser to transfer your package travel contract.
- Terminate the contract: the organiser may however deduct a reasonable fee from your refund, depending, in particular, on the timing of your cancellation.
These rights are independent of any rights you may have under a cancellation insurance policy that you have taken out.
Cancellation by the organiser: Under normal conditions, if the organiser cancels the sale before the start of your package, you are entitled to a refund and compensation, where appropriate.
Cancellation in exceptional circumstances: If a natural disaster occurs or if there are serious security problems at your holiday destination that are likely to affect the package, the organiser may cancel the package. As a traveller, you are also free to cancel your package free of charge for the same reasons. In these cases, you are entitled to a full refund of any payments you've made but you are not entitled to additional compensation.
Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, organisers offer vouchers that you can redeem later as an alternative to reimbursement. However, as a customer, you have the choice to request a cash reimbursement.
Package travel – liability for proper performance of travel services
The organiser is responsible for the proper performance of all travel services included in your package.
If a travel service can't be provided as agreed, for example if a provider can't carry out an agreed service or can't do so in the agreed form (such as providing transport to or from your destination, providing the agreed type of accommodation, or carrying out a guided tour that you booked), the organiser has to resolve the problem at no extra cost to you.
If it is impossible to make alternative arrangements or you reject the arrangements offered to you on valid grounds, and the package includes your transport (such as air travel), the organiser must offer to repatriate you. If the travel services do not reach the agreed standards and this cannot be resolved on the spot, you may also be entitled to compensation.
Package travel - assistance to travellers
If you get into difficulty during your package holiday, for example if you have health problems or lose your passport, the organiser has to give you assistance, such as information on health services or on consular assistance, and should help you find alternative travel arrangements if necessary.
Linked travel arrangements
Linked travel arrangements (LTAs) are two or more travel services you buy from different traders in separate contracts, but the services are linked. They are classed as linked travel arrangements when one trader facilities the booking of the subsequent services, and they are bought for the same trip or holiday.
Linked travel arrangements only apply if the combination of travel services does not constitute a package (see above) and a trader facilitates:
- your bookings on the basis of a single visit or contact with his/her point of sale, e.g. during a single visit to a travel agent or website
- a second booking you make for a second travel service, in response to a targeted invitation, for example by email or web link, and you conclude a contract for the second travel service with another supplier within 24 hours of receiving confirmation of the booking of the first travel service
A combination of a travel service such as accommodation and another tourist service, such as a guided tour or admission to a concert, can only be classed as a linked travel arrangement if the additional service accounts for 25% or more of the overall value of the trip, or that service is an essential feature of the trip.
Booking linked travel arrangements
Laura from Italy booked and paid for a flight for her holiday to Ireland directly with an airline. Shortly after receiving email confirmation for her flight, she got an email with a link to a hotel chain in Ireland offering a good deal for her stay in Ireland. Laura decided to take up this offer and concluded a contract with the hotel chain the same day.
Linked travel arrangements – clear and accurate information
The trader facilitating your linked travel arrangement must give you clear information on your rights, based on a standardised EU form, explaining that you have been offered a linked travel arrangement (not a package) and outlining your rights.
Liability for booking errors
These rules apply to packages and LTAs.
When you book a holiday, the responsible trader (the travel agent or online travel agency) is liable if any of the following occurs during the booking process:
- technical defects in the booking system
- errors made by the retailer if they are responsible for arranging the booking of a package or of travel services which are part of linked travel arrangements
Traders are not responsible for any booking errors made by you, or problems which are deemed unavoidable or are due to extraordinary circumstances.
Protection in case of bankruptcy
These rules apply to package travel and LTAs.
If the trader you booked your holiday with goes bankrupt, you are protected by insolvency protection. This can be a fund, an insurance or any other mechanism in place in your EU country. This will refund any payments you may have made and will, if required, repatriate you if transport was included in your package or LTA.