Take steps to stop those holiday hassles

With the amount families pay out for a holiday, people deserve value for money and decent service, says Richard Lloyd

The most common issue was delays or cancellations to flights. Picture: Getty Images

As the holiday season in Scotland comes to a close, it’s to be hoped most of us can return to work feeling refreshed and re-energised. But our latest research has revealed more than six million people have experienced a problem or frustration on holiday in the last two years.

It’s staggering to think that one in seven travellers who have been on holiday in the last two years say they have had a problem, equivalent to more than half a million people in Scotland alone.

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That’s why Which? has launched a campaign to “Stop the Holiday Hassles”. We don’t think it’s fair that well-deserved holidays are spoiled by poor service, so we’re inviting travellers to tell us what happened and sign up to our campaign.

Of those people who said they’d experienced a problem, the most common issue was delays or cancellations to flights, affecting three in ten. One man who wrote in to us told us of a seven hour delay on a TAP Portugal flight to Lisbon from Newark airport in the US. While he was handed two vouchers to pay for meals he was given no explanation of the delay. When he eventually boarded his flight in the early hours of the morning he’d missed his connection to his final destination, leaving him to wait again in Lisbon.

He has still not received any compensation. Which? is looking in to this case but has, as yet, not received any response from TAP Portugal.

It really does pay to know your rights. Which? has loads of free advice on our website. For example, if your flight was delayed you’re entitled to free food, drinks and even a hotel stay should the delay warrant it. Airlines may also have to pay compensation of 250 euros or more if you arrive more than three hours late to your destination.

Also high among the holiday gripes were long waits to reclaim baggage, accommodation being different to the description and unhelpful or rude staff which was experienced by a quarter of people.

Worryingly, two in ten travellers said they once had a holiday that was so bad they felt like they needed another one.

Nearly two-thirds of people who have taken a holiday in the last two years said if something goes wrong with their holiday they will usually make a complaint. Yet, across the UK, only half said they feel confident that they know their rights if something goes wrong. Scottish consumers were more confident with six in ten saying they felt they knew their rights.

At Which?, we don’t want people to be left in the dark so we’ve drafted some ready-made letters which travellers can download and send to holiday companies to make a claim. For example, if you’ve felt misled by a description in a brochure, if you’re unhappy with your package holiday or your car hire company has let you down.

Our postbag is bulging with people who have been left disappointed and we think that shouldn’t be the case.

In a separate survey, we found only three in ten say they trust the airline and holiday industry to act in their best interests so there’s clearly a way to go for the sector to improve.

Happily, though it appears we are loosening the reins on our holiday spending. We found people are less likely to cut back on their holiday budget compared to 12 months ago, showing that consumer confidence is increasing.

Last year more than half of consumers in the UK said they intended to cut back on holiday expenditure in the coming months, compared to less than four in ten this year.

With households spending on average £1,750 a year on holidays, excluding the cost of flights, people deserve value for money and decent service. After all, you don’t expect to have to book another holiday just to get over the one you’ve just had

• Richard Lloyd is executive editor of Which? www.which.co.uk