If you’ve just got home after a nightmare holiday, here’s what to do next

This month thousands of holidaymakers will have returned home … in need of a rest. My inbox echoes with cries from those whose summer breaks have been blighted by corporate ineptitude. If you were lucky enough, at least, to have become airborne – not stranded by a pilots’ strike – you could well have arrived without your belongings. Then there’s the car rental desk where you found a reservation cancelled without a refund because your flight was delayed, or the discovery, when you finally got to the accommodation, of a desiccated hole where the swimming pool should have been.

Here are the five most common problems and what can be done to seek redress:


Most passengers know of their entitlements to meals, accommodation and alternative transport if they are stranded at an airport, and are aware of the compensation under EC Regulation 261 if their flight arrives more than three hours late.

It’s getting the airlines to honour their obligations that’s the headache: since the minimum compensation can be triple the price of a ticket, they can be notoriously shifty.

It’s not uncommon for passengers to be given one reason for a delay at the airport and another when they make a claim. Carriers are excused liability if an “extraordinary circumstance” grounds the aircraft. A series of court rulings has shrunk the list of what counts as “extraordinary”, so severe weather or air traffic control restrictions are a favourite fall-back. Usefully for airlines, there’s no public record of the reason for a delay. They only have to produce a flight log if required by a court.

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You can use online flight checkers to establish whether the length of the delay entitles you to claim, but be wary of those that require full personal details before telling you if you’re eligible: you might find yourself unwittingly signed up to a claims company. The more reputable of these can be useful, but only as a last resort, since they will pocket a sizeable chunk of any payout.

If the airline refuses your claim, or fails to respond within reasonable time (allow up to 30 days), appeal to which ever dispute resolution scheme it subscribes to. If it hasn’t signed up to one, the Civil Aviation Authority offers dispute resolution. If that fails, you can make your case, for a small fee, through Money Claims Online, part of HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

Car rental

Budget companies tempt customers with unprofitably low prices then bump up their margins with onerous add-ons. Cancelling a booking and withholding the money if you turn up more than an hour late without warning is one costly tactic. That’s why it’s vital to add your flight number to the booking details, even though it’s often marked as “optional”. The other money-spinners are extortionate car excess waiver insurance, which unscrupulous providers claim is obligatory, and debits for unexplained damage after returning the vehicle.

Customers who took the precaution of insuring their excess with an independent provider may find attempts to reclaim the charge thwarted. Insurers require a copy of the repair invoice, which car hire companies do not readily supply despite helping themselves to “costs” far higher than a high street garage. That’s because often they fail to even undertake the repair.

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If they can’t prove the damage and justify the charges, state you are paying “under protest” and try to reclaim the sum off your credit card issuer via section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.


If the paradise depicted in the brochure turns out to be fiction and you booked it through a travel agent as part of a package, you are protected (in theory) by the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018.

The provider should put it right while you’re there. If they don’t – or you want compensation – and a formal complaint to the tour operator gets you nowhere, the British Travel Association (Abta) can make legally binding decisions on disputes with member companies.

The Association of Independent Tour Operators also runs an independent arbitration scheme which can award up to £2,500 per person, or you can take your case to a small claims court. Redress is less straightforward if you booked the hotel separately, especially if it is abroad and beyond the reach of the small claims court. Your best bet is to make a claim against your credit card issuer, as previously.

Travel insurance

Insurers often use any excuse to avoid a payout. Pre-existing conditions are the most common. Budget policies may cite any visit to a GP, for whatever reason over the past five years, as a reason not to cover sudden illness. Forensically study caveats and exclusions in the terms and conditions before buying. The Financial Ombudsman Service will look at unresolved complaints.

Price comparison websites

Once you’ve identified what you want on a comparison site, buy direct from the provider. Any part of a trip purchased from a broker can undermine your rights. There’s the buck-passing – a broker is likely to refer you to the hotel, car rental or airline if you have a complaint. They, in turn, will then send you back to the broker. You’re excluded from some dispute resolution schemes if you did not book direct, and, most crucially, you are not covered by section 75 if you paid via a third party.

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