Whether a holiday is a ‘package’ or just a booking of travel arrangements can make a big difference when it comes to the legal position if something goes wrong.
A recent case shows why. It involved a man and his girlfriend, who were seeking a ‘last minute’ holiday. When he saw one advertised on Teletext, he telephoned a travel agent and the couple decided to book, heading off the next day.
When he suffered an injury whilst on the holiday, the man sought compensation from the firm with which he had made the booking. However, the firm claimed that the agent would have read a script to him, making it clear that it was acting as the agent for the holiday provider. Proceedings could not therefore be brought against it.
Firms providing package holidays are liable under English law for injuries arising from negligence in the provision of services or accommodation that are part of the package. However, where a travel agent just organises travel and accommodation which are not a package, liability will rest with the individual firm whose negligence caused the injury.
The court held that because the various components of the holiday were shown as separate items on the invoice, the holiday was not a package holiday and so the man could not take action against the firm that took the booking.
On appeal, the Court of Appeal took a different view. The man was not specifically told that he could book the flights without the accommodation or vice versa. Secondly, the original invoice included ‘service charges’, which were not explained. In the Court’s view, these represented the cost of creating a package out of the cost of the flights and accommodation.
The man was therefore able to bring his action against the travel agent.