From flight cancellations due to airport staff shortages, to airline strikes and Covid-19 outbreaks, there is a lot to consider when travelling abroad this summer.
While nobody is suggesting you ditch your foreign holiday plans altogether, it is important you make sure your holiday bookings and payments are protected – in case something does go wrong.
The European Consumer Centre Ireland and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Ireland have shared their top tips for summer 2022 bookings.
Who should I book with?
Choose wisely when it comes to selecting the airline, accommodation provider or travel agent you book with.
The ECC Ireland says it is a good idea to compile a shortlist of EU travel companies that offer holidays to the country you want to visit.
Then, it suggests you check their record for customer service and redress options during the previous year to get an idea of how they would deal with any issues that may arise on your trip.
It said to look out for how they deal with changes to bookings, refunds and general care of their customers.
What are my rights if my flight is cancelled?
Unfortunately, flight cancellations and delays are widespread this summer, so it is important to know what you're entitled to.
If you book a flight directly with an airline and it is subsequently cancelled, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission says your airline must offer you the choice between:
- Re-routing as close as possible to your original departure time
- Re-routing at a later date
- Or a refund of the cost of the unused flight ticket
If you opt to change your flight to a later date, it's important to bear in mind that the availability of flights could be limited and the price of your re-routed flight may be different to the cost of your original flight.
If you choose a refund option, you should contact your airline as soon as possible to notify them of your request for a refund.
Airlines are required to refund passengers within seven days of the flight cancellation.
But if you do not receive a refund within that timeframe, the CCPC says you should submit a complaint to the airline.
If you don't receive a satisfactory response to your complaint after six weeks, you can escalate it to the Commission for Aviation Regulation.
If the cancelled flight started in another EU country, you will need to contact the enforcement body for that country.
Do I have more rights if I book a package holiday?
Yes, you do have greater protection if you book a package holiday, and so the ECC Ireland says you should keep this in mind when booking.
Thanks to EU and national law, it says such bookings offer the "optimum" form of consumer protection against company insolvency, travel cancellations, exceptional circumstances and potential travel restrictions.
If you're not booking a package holiday, the ECC Ireland suggests you look for flexible terms on your reservations.
"We advise consumers to research travel companies and suppliers that offer flexibility if they need or are forced to change travel plans at a later stage, or at the very last minute, like at the airport, for instance," it said.
"The best ones will allow customers to cancel or change bookings right up to the date of departure or start date."
It said this level of flexibility is more common with luxury operators - but most tourism providers, like hotels, will offer flexible policies.
Many airlines are also offering free changes for extended periods.
However, it pointed out that the bookings with flexible policies are usually more expensive.
What happens if my luggage gets lost?
Lost luggage has been a big issue across a number of airports so far this summer, as staff struggle to deal with rising passenger volumes.
Your rights relating to luggage that is delayed, stolen, lost, damaged or destroyed are set out in the Montreal Convention on air carrier liability.
These rules mean that when you check in a piece of luggage, the airline is liable if something happens it.
The CCPC explained that in cases where luggage is delayed or lost, consumers are entitled to claim compensation from their airline.
"It's important to note that the value of such compensation claims may be limited, as outlined by the Montreal Convention regulations," a spokesperson for the CCPC said.
"In most cases, consumers will be asked by the airline to complete a Property Irregularity Report (PIR).
"Consumers should ask for a copy of the PIR as a record that they have notified the airline," the spokesperson said.
The CCPC said you may also be required to provide receipts for anything you’re claiming for.
The process and timeframes for making a compensation claim may differ, so you should contact your airline directly for more information.
What happens if I can't resolve the issue with my airline?
There is no designated regulator of the Montreal Convention rules in Ireland.
The CCPC said if you’re unhappy with their airline’s response to a compensation claim for delayed or lost luggage, you should follow the airline’s own complaints procedure.
If your complaint to the airline remains unresolved and where the compensation claim is for €2,000 or less, you can use the Small Claims Court procedure.
Alternatively, you can seek independent legal advice, if you want to take the matter further.
If you’re travelling outside the EU or with an airline that is not based in the EU, your rights are greatly reduced.
In such cases, the CCPC said to check the terms and conditions of your booking for further details of your rights and entitlements in instances of lost or delayed luggage.
Do I need to take out travel insurance?
If you are holidaying abroad, you should consider taking out travel insurance for added peace of mind.
The CCPC says it would suggest you buy it as soon as you book your trip.
"Don’t wait until your travel date in case something goes wrong before you go," a spokesperson said.
Depending on the type you choose, travel insurance can cover delayed or cancelled flights, lost luggage, and lost or stolen money or valuables.
You should always pay attention to the T&Cs of your travel insurance, research the most appropriate type of insurance for your trip and find the best value for money - which might not always mean choosing the cheapest option.
How should I pay for my holiday to best protect my money?
If you have a dispute with any of the operators used when booking your holiday, but have been unsuccessful in claiming a refund, you may have more financial protection if the booking was paid with a credit card.
The ECC Ireland says if the holiday is cancelled by the travel company or any of the service operators such as the airline or hotel, you may be able to claim a refund from your card issuer for services not delivered.
This is called a transaction reversal or charge-back.
"Consumers should note that banks are not legally obliged to operate the refund at your request, and all charge-backs require thorough investigations," the ECC Ireland added.
"Charge-backs can only be used as a last resort when it is confirmed that all the claims processes with the traders have been exhausted and no refunds are forthcoming.
"All the other out-of-court and in-court redress options available for cross-border transactions to Irish consumers are listed on the European Consumer Centre Ireland website," it said.