EU to improve protections for package holidaymakers

Price rise caps and greater power to cancel holidays without penalty among measures

Directive allows holidaymakers to cancel trips with no penalties to destinations suddenly hit by natural disasters, war or other serious situations. Photograph: iStock

Directive allows holidaymakers to cancel trips with no penalties to destinations suddenly hit by natural disasters, war or other serious situations. Photograph: iStock

 

New EU rules will boost protections for holidaymakers travelling abroad from the middle of next year, a conference heard on Friday.

Veronica Manfredi, head of the European Commission’s consumer and marketing law unit, told the Irish Travel Trade News industry summit that a new directive will make “significant” changes to existing rules governing package holidays.

The new law will bar travel agents from imposing price increases of more than 8 per cent on holidays already booked by consumers.

It also allows holidaymakers to cancel trips with no penalties to destinations suddenly hit by natural disasters, war or other serious situations.

Ms Manfredi told the gathering that the directive would oblige airlines to provide the same insolvency protection to consumers as travel agents in some circumstances.

Travel agents and tour operators pay bonds – a form of insurance – to ensure their customers can get home in situations where the company becomes insolvent.

Irish law

The directive extends the obligation to airlines that sell “linked travel arrangements to consumers, according to Ms Manfredi. She explained this would apply where people book flights and other elements of their holiday, such as accommodation or car hire, through an airline’s website.

“A linked travel arrangement is where the website invites the consumer to do this in a very targeted manner,” Ms Manfredi said.

She added that airlines would only have to provide cover against their own insolvency, not that of the business providing the other service.

Member states, including the Republic of Ireland, are required to make the new directive law in January. It will come into force from July 1st.

David Moffet, of the Commission for Aviation Regulation, pointed out that existing Irish law already includes several elements of the directive.

“Licensed travel agents and tour operators already have insolvency protection in place,” he noted, though that does not cover consumers booking directly through websites.

The commission is consulting with the travel industry ahead of transposing the directive into Irish law.