What are your rights if your package holiday is cancelled as a result of a hurricane, tsunami, terrorist incident or any other weather event, natural disaster or civil unrest?
The relevant law is found in the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 ("the Regulations")
WHAT IS A PACKAGE HOLIDAY?
A package holiday is defined by the Regulations as "a pre-arranged combination of at least two of either, transport, accommodation or other tourist services not necessary to transport or accommodation and accounting for a significant proportion of the package."
A wide range of travel arrangements are therefore covered by the Regulations, including travel packages for business travel, conferences and school trips, in addition to the standard two week holiday.
BEFORE YOU FLY
Under the Regulations, if you withdraw from the package because the travel organiser makes significant changes to the package before you are due to go on holiday, such as changing the price, the destination or the type of accommodation; or where the travel organiser cancels the package for any reason other than your own fault, then you have the following options available to you:
Take a substitute package if available, of the equivalent or superior quality to your original package;
Take a substitute package of a lower quality, if available and recover the difference in price between your original package and the substitute package; or
- Have the purchase price of the package repaid to you by the travel organiser
WHEN YOU ARE THERE
If a significant proportion of your package is not provided by the travel organiser or the travel organiser becomes aware they are unable to provide a significant proportion of the package whilst you are on holiday, the travel organiser must make suitable alternative arrangements to allow you to enjoy your holiday in terms of the original package, for example arranging for accommodation in a different hotel or resort. That must be at no extra cost to you and where appropriate, the travel organiser will compensate you for the difference between what you contracted to receive and what you actually received.
ARE YOU ENTITLED TO COMPENSATION IF THE PACKAGE IS CANCELLED BY THE TRAVEL ORGANISER?
Yes, unless the cancellation was due to:
the number of people taking part in the package being less than the minimum number required (this would need to be a material term of your package contract to be applicable); or
- unusual and unforeseeable circumstances beyond the travel organiser's control. Overbooking by the travel organiser is not an unusual or unforeseeable circumstance.
That means that if the travel organiser cancels the package due to adverse weather, a natural disaster or civil unrest, it is unlikely you will be entitled to compensation. You would of course be entitled to your money back or an alternative holiday. The travel organiser may also decide to offer compensation as a gesture of goodwill, even if they are not legally obliged to do so.
CAN YOU CANCEL YOUR HOLIDAY DUE TO NATURAL DISASTERS OR CIVIL UNREST IF YOUR TRAVEL ORGANISER HASN'T?
If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ("FCO") advises that it is unsafe to travel to a particular destination, then most travel organisers will cancel your package and offer you a suitable equivalent package or provide you with a refund.
If the FCO does not declare it unsafe to travel and you cancel the package anyway, the travel organiser is not obliged to cancel your package and offer a suitable equivalent or a refund.
ENSURE TO INSURE!
It's advisable to ensure you have adequate travel insurance in place before you make any trip. However, if you travel against FCO advice or if you cancel your package despite FCO advice that it is safe to travel, your insurer is unlikely to accept your claim.