Holidaymakers are unclear about the consequences of flight disruption if there is no government aviation deal in place once the UK leaves the EU, consumer watchdog Which? warned today.
As people begin to book holidays after Brexit on March 29, 2019 the consumer champion asked Expedia, Jet2holidays, On the Beach, Thomas Cook and Tui what they were doing to inform passengers about the possible effects on customers in the event of ‘no deal’ in the aviation sector.
Which? called on companies to do more to signpost this possibility during the booking process, as well as the impact on customers’ rights to holiday refunds and compensation if the government is unable to secure a deal with the EU on aviation post-Brexit.
It wants the government to work with travel companies, airlines and insurers to ensure that risks are properly communicated to people in advance of booking a holiday.
People booking holidays from 29 March 2019 should be given clear and upfront information about the potential risks.
Which? found that Thomas Cook, which has changed its terms and conditions to state it will not provide compensation, will also not reimburse out-of-pocket expenses if it has to change bookings in the event of ‘airspace closures’.
The company said it would reimburse the cost of tickets if customers could no longer fly, but that it always encourages customers to take out travel insurance to cover ‘consequential losses’ outside of their package, such as airport parking, or car hire with a local provider.
While this information is currently only available in the T&Cs, Thomas Cook said “as Brexit approaches, we will regularly assess how we discuss this matter with customers”.
Expedia said it believed that passengers would be protected by the same consumer rights that are currently in place, but made no comment on consequential losses.
The company is not yet marketing holidays for the period after the UK leaves the EU.
Jet2holidays, On The Beach and Tui failed to provide any reassurance that additional information would be communicated online during the process of booking a holiday, Which? said.
The news comes as Which? launches a Consumer Charter for Brexit, calling on the government to deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first.
This includes securing an aviation deal to keep UK aircraft flying after the UK leaves the EU, so people can have peace of mind when booking their holiday, and clarity from the government about consumers’ rights if there are any changes that affect flights or holidays that have been booked.
Which? chief executiuce Peter Vicary-Smith said: ‘This uncertainty for holidaymakers is just one of the many issues affecting people’s everyday lives that need to be resolved as we move closer to the date that the UK leaves the EU.
“We want to work with government and businesses on issues such as this in order to deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first.
“We want to ensure that people are supported by high levels of rights and protection – and with greater access than ever before to quality, affordable products and services.
“We must not miss the opportunity for the UK to improve consumer protections to become a world leader. With control over all aspects of consumer protection, the UK can and must do something special.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “UK airlines support the government’s aim of negotiating as open and liberal aviation arrangements as possible – protecting existing market access and the continuation of services to, from and within the EU, as well as third countries like the US.
“We believe this is in the interests of all European consumers and that a deal will be readily achievable.
“We support consumers having the same level of protection as the UK leaves the EU, and expect the current rules on compensation for delays, cancellations and denied boarding to apply in the UK following Brexit.
“Just as they do today, airlines will continue to comply with all legal requirements, paying compensation quickly when it is due and making it easy for passengers to claim.”
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