Many Scottish travellers admit to being “totally clueless” about travel legislation and their rights under consumer protection.
A poll commissioned by the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association showed that 65% of travellers wrongly believed that they would be able to get their money back if their airline failed to deliver.
While around three-quarters of those surveyed were aware of Atol, only 12% knew about the Package Travel Directive – a regulation that was updated on July 1 in a bid to increase financial protection for travellers.
The survey was carried out on a sample of more than 500 leisure and business travellers who had flown to destinations outside Scotland in the past year.
The research also found that travel agents still have a critical role to play in influencing consumers when it comes to making decisions about their travel plans.
While travel websites and search engines were found to help inform decisions about travel, a total of 30% said they were still influenced by agents and brochures.
More than 10% indicated that they were influenced in making decisions by social media – and people aged 16 to 34 were just as likely to turn to agents for advice as older travellers.
Researchers also asked respondents whether or not Brexit would influence their future travel plans.
Around 70% of leisure travellers said Britain leaving the EU would not make any difference to the number of times they flew to destinations in the EU, while over 20% of business travellers said they would fly less.
Travellers aged 16 to 34 were less optimistic, as this age group was most likely to state that Brexit would lead them flying to Europe less.
Spaa president Ken McLeod said the results of the poll showed that too many passengers were unaware of their consumer rights – or lack of them.
He added: “Around two-fifths responded by stating that they were not knowledgeable at all about travel legislation, and younger travellers were most likely to have the biggest gaps in their understanding. This is surprising, given that Scots now make more outbound journeys than at any time in the past.
“Travel legislation is constantly evolving and PTD has been one of the most significant developments in recent years. It seeks to give a greater number of holiday travel arrangements classification as packages, which in turn entitles those who book them to a refund or to be brought home if their travel company goes out of business.
“The change is largely aimed at protecting travellers who customise their arrangements, choosing different elements of their holiday, such as flights and accommodation, from a single place, either online or offline. While in theory this is to be welcomed, the regulations are complex, and protection under PTD really depends on what has been booked and how it has been booked.”
McLeod added: “I think the research underlines that, even though the internet and travel websites have enabled people to be more independent when making their travel plans, many people still see travel agents as a trusted source.
“The fact that so many people are influenced by travel agents is perhaps understandable given the lack of knowledge that many travellers have over legislation and consumer protection.
“It may be that travellers feel more confident about the advice they receive from agents than from other sources: they are aware that a travel agent will look after all their interests, and if the worst happens and things go wrong, they have someone to turn to for help.”
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