Holidaymakers are being advised not to book with a host of package holiday providers, including Lastminute.com, Love Holidays and Teletext, following extensive new research from Which?.
The consumer champion is warning holidaymakers against booking with a number of providers, based on shortcomings with their booking terms and commitments to refunding customers in the event of coronavirus-related disruption, or a lack of transparency about their policies.
Holidaymakers can search the findings for themselves using the Which? Holiday Checker, which compares the booking policies of more than 70 of the UK’s package holiday providers and rates each as Red, Amber, Green or Green+, depending on how they perform against criteria set by Which? experts.
Using the tool will help point customers in the direction of the companies with the best flexible booking options, so they can book with greater confidence that they won’t be left out of pocket should something go wrong.
The extensive research considered various policies on coronavirus-related disruption, including whether firms would refund customers in the event of a lockdown, if FCDO advice changes, if the customer is told to self-isolate before travelling, and if customers are forced to quarantine in a hotel on their return.
Companies that committed to offering refunds in most scenarios put to them by Which? – including British Airways Holidays, First Choice, Hays Travel, Jet2 Holidays, Trailfinders and Tui – were rated as Green in the tool. Those considering a holiday are being encouraged by Which? to book with a Green company, based on their generous refund policies.
Following a rise in concerns about people being contacted by NHS Test and Trace before they are due to travel, Which? also asked companies if they would provide full refunds in the event someone is told to self-isolate.
Only three companies – Exodus, Explore and Discover Egypt – guaranteed refunds in this situation, as well as every other situation put to them by Which?, and were rated Green+ as a result.
Meanwhile, companies that may put customers at risk of being left out of pocket if they are unable to travel as planned – including Lastminute.com, Love Holidays, On the Beach and Teletext – were rated as Red. Companies that did not provide clear information to Which? about their booking policies when approached for information about their policies were also rated as Red for a lack of transparency.
While Red companies’ policies were not necessarily in breach of consumer law, some have faced investigations from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the past year over failure to refund their customers, such as Love Holidays and Teletext.
Which? is advising anyone considering a holiday to avoid booking with a Red company, and to check before they book to ensure their holiday provider offers a good flexible booking policy.
Companies’ ratings will be regularly evaluated to keep up to date with any changes to their policies as well as any changes to rules around international travel, and Which? is engaging with companies to encourage them to improve their policies.
Which? is also calling on the government to ensure travellers’ safety and their consumer protections are a priority as more international travel resumes, and urging regulators to take action against any travel operators that flout the law on refunds.
The full list of holiday providers can be viewed in the Which? Holiday Checker tool at which.co.uk/HolidayChecker.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“Between changing travel restrictions, both in the UK and abroad, and the ongoing risk of being told to self-isolate, booking a foreign trip still comes with some uncertainty and things can go wrong if you’ve chosen the wrong provider. The best companies won’t leave you high and dry though, so it’s vital to do your research before booking.
“Anyone thinking about a holiday abroad can use the Which? Holiday Checker to check before they book, to make sure they don’t choose a company that could leave them out of pocket. The difference between choosing a Red company over a Green company could be losing the entire cost of your holiday if circumstances change and you have to amend or cancel your plans.”