Package holidays and linked travel arrangements
Booking a package holiday
Travel organisers must give you information about the type of holiday you are buying. Travel organisers can be a tour operator or an offline travel agency.
Your travel organiser must tell you up front if you are buying a package holiday or a linked travel arrangement – explained below. To check what type of holiday you have booked, read the information you got before you booked or call your travel organiser.
Types of package holidays
Package holidays can be ready-made or customised packages. A package holiday is sold at a total or inclusive price, must last for more than 24 hours, or include an overnight stay. It does not matter if you are asked to pay separately for different parts of the package (such as, the flight or transport), your holiday is still a ‘package holiday’.
Ready-made package holidays
Ready-made package holidays have at least two of the following included:
- Transport - like flights, a cruise, train or coach journeys
- Other tourist services – for example tours, excursions, guides or tickets for concerts or theme parks
- Car rental
a customised package (sometimes called a dynamic packages) is where you choose the different parts of your holiday – therefore, it is not a ready-made holiday. You buy the customised package online through a website, or offline from a travel agent or call centre. All the parts you buy must relate to the same trip or holiday.
A customised package must include either:
- A single contract for all services
- Separate contracts with different travel service providers, where:
- All of the contracts are bought from a single point of sale
- All services are selected before you agree to pay
- There is a total or inclusive price
Example of protections when you have a customised package
Maria booked a flight to France directly on the website of an airline. When booking, she was offered accommodation at a hotel. She chose to book both the flight and the hotel. The airline’s website charged a total price for all travel services, so this created a customised travel package holiday.
Unfortunately, when Maria got to the hotel it was being done up and there were no rooms available. Maria has rights under package travel legislation. She can ask and get the airline to help her get accommodation at the same or a higher standard.
What are linked travel arrangements?
Linked travel arrangements (LTAs) are not considered a package holiday and different rules apply - see ‘Rules for your travel contract and your rights’ below. In fact, you have fewer rights with LTAs.
With an LTA, you buy 2 or more travel services from different companies under separate contracts but which are linked. For example, you book a flight on a website and you are then invited, through a targeted link, to book a hotel on a different website.
You make a linked travel arrangement if you:
- Book and complete buying one travel service on one website
- Are invited, through a targeted link, to ‘click through’ and to book a second service on another website
- Conclude the second contract on the second website within 24 hours of the first booking
When the second booking is made:
- You must be told you are not booking a package and, therefore, you can claim insolvency protection only (protection that will cover you if your travel organiser goes out of business)
- The second company must tell the first company that you have finished booking the second service
Example of protections when you have an LTA
Patrick books a flight to Helsinki directly with an airline (service 1). Shortly after receiving an email to confirm his flight, he gets an email with a targeted offer of a hotel in Helsinki. Patrick uses the link to book the hotel (service 2), and he does this within 24 hours after getting the email to confirm his flight booking.
Unfortunately, when in Helsinki, Patrick learns that the travel organiser for his flight has gone bankrupt. Patrick has rights under travel legislation to cover the cost of his flight home (service 1). These are covered under the airline’s insolvency protection. But, the airline will not help Patrick if he has any issue with accommodation (service 2), as this is not a package holiday.
Rules for your travel contract and your rights
Information you must get before you book
The travel organiser must give you all of the essential information about the holiday before you agree to the contract. You must be told about:
- The travel product you are buying (that is, whether it is a package or linked travel arrangement) and the level of insolvency protection associated with it
- Where you are going and for how long
- The costs involved for the holiday itself and payment schedule (if this applies), as well as any tax or compulsory charges
- The mode of transport – this detail includes times, dates and places of departure and return
- Where and what your accommodation is (for example, hotel, guesthouse), and how it complies with the law of the EU Member State in question
- The meal plan, if any
- Cancellation details (for example, where a minimum take up is needed for a package holiday to come into being in the first place)
- Itinerary of any excursions included such as golf outings
- Contact details of the travel organiser or, if appropriate, the insurer
- Any special or exceptional requirements, which you asked for and you and other parties to the contract have accepted
- The complaints procedure to follow if the travel organiser does not carry out their part of the contract
- Passport and any visa requirements
- Health requirements (that is, if you have to have any special vaccinations or health advice)
- Special arrangements for bringing you home (repatriation) if there are any unexpected events
- How any payments will be refunded if the travel organiser becomes bankrupt
- Whether insurance is compulsory as part of your package holiday and if so, the minimum level of cover needed
Tip: Remember that you cannot be forced to take out the travel organiser's insurance. Where insurance is optional, your travel organiser must give you information to help you to decide whether to insure or not, if they have this information.
Changes to the contract
You have the right to cancel if the travel organiser changes the contract and the following applies:
- The changes were without your agreement
- The changes significantly change any of the main characteristics of the travel service - for example, if the travel organiser changed the agreed hotel
If something goes wrong with the package, the travel organiser is responsible for putting things right. The travel organiser is also responsible for booking errors for packages and linked travel arrangements.
You can cancel your booking at any time before travelling, although you should try to give reasonable notice. However, you may have to pay a cancellation fee.
You have the right to cancel your booking for free, before the start of the package, if there are unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances, taking place at or near your destination which would affect your holiday, or your travel to the destination.
The organiser is also responsible for covering the costs for bringing you home (repatriation) and any possible extra costs. You can read more details about ‘your cancellation rights’ below.
Cap (limit) on price increases
The price you pay for your trip can only increase if the contract directly allows for this. If the price increases by more than 8%, you have the right to cancel without paying a charge.
Tip: There are no price changes allowed within 20 days of the departure date.
Right to transfer your contract
You can transfer your holiday to another person once you give the travel organiser reasonable written notice (at least seven days) before the start of the package. You and the person you transfer the package holiday to are responsible for paying the balance of money due to the travel organiser. You are also responsible for any other costs the organiser has to pay to carry out the transfer.
Rights if something goes wrong while on your holiday
If something goes wrong with your holiday, the travel organiser must put the problem right. If significant parts of the holiday are not as agreed, you must be offered suitable alternative arrangements. For example, if the accommodation you agreed on and booked is no longer available, you must be offered an alternative that is of the same quality.
If the travel organiser does not provide solutions (also known as remedies) within a reasonable period, they should refund you for any necessary expenses you had to pay. You are also entitled to a price reduction or, if you prefer, to end the contract. You may be entitled to compensation for inconvenience.
Right to help if in difficulty
The travel organiser must give appropriate help if you are in difficulty. This includes:
- Giving you information about healthcare, local authorities, consular assistance (for example if you have had a serious accident)
- Helping with communications, for example helping you make long distance calls or other forms of contact so you can find other travel arrangements
Rights for linked travel arrangements
A linked travel arrangement (LTA) is not considered a travel package, and your rights are limited if travelling using these arrangements.
You are only protected if the provider of the first service goes out of business. In this case, you are entitled to your money back and the cost of bringing you home if necessary (repatriation). This is sometimes called insolvency protection.
When you make the second booking under an LTA, you must be told that:
- You are not booking a package
- Your rights are limited to claiming insolvency protection
The legal basis for your rights
The EU Directive 2015/2302 on Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements introduced consumer rights for additional types of travel arrangements taking into account the increasing use of internet booking. In Ireland, SI 80 of 2019 (pdf) put the EU Directive into national law and amended the previous legislation - the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995.
You can read the European Commission's page on the Package Travel Directive.
If you want to cancel the holiday
You can cancel your booking at any time before travelling, although you should try to give reasonable notice. However, you may have to pay a cancellation fee.
You have the right to cancel your booking for free before the start of the package, in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances taking place at or near your destination which would affect your holiday, or your travel to the destination.
- A natural disaster like a flood or earthquake
- War or terrorism
- A serious disease
The organiser is also responsible for covering the costs of bringing you home (repatriation) and any possible extra costs.
If you want to cancel a holiday (for example, because you have tested positive for COVID-19), you are not guaranteed a refund. In this case, check the terms and conditions of your contract for information on cancellations. You can contact the travel agent to discuss the options available to you.
If the travel organiser cancels the holiday
If the travel organiser cancels the package holiday or changes a term of the contract, including the price or type of accommodation, they must give you the option of one of the following:
- A replacement holiday of the same or better quality
- A lower grade holiday, with a refund of the difference in price
- A full refund within 14 days
The travel organiser has the right to cancel the package due to factors out of their control. Examples include an act of God, or where they didn’t get the number of people they needed for the package holiday.
COVID-19 refund credit note
During COVID-19, tour operators and travel agents could offer customers a State-guaranteed refund credit note for package holidays, if they were not able to provide a cash refund or a full cash refund.
You can transfer the refund credit note to another person, and travel agents and tour operators must facilitate this transfer without any extra charges.
I accepted a refund credit note for a cancellation last year but I still cannot use it. How long do I have to use it?
Your refund credit note is valid for 2 years from the date it was issued to you. You have 2 years to book a holiday with your package travel organiser for future travel.
You can redeem the refund credit note for its value in cash 9 months from the date it was issued, once you have not used it to book an alternative holiday.
All COVID-19 refund credit notes issued by Irish package travel organisers are protected by a State guarantee.
This means that if you haven’t used your refund credit note by the end of the 2 years, you can get a full cash refund. If you have used only some of the credit note value, you can get a cash refund of the remaining balance.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation licenses travel agents and tour operators (‘travel organisers’) in Ireland.
Your travel organiser must provide a financial guarantee (also known as insolvency protection). If your travel organiser goes out of business, this guarantee covers refunds you are due and costs of bringing you home if necessary (repatriation).
Check if your travel organiser is licensed on the website of the Commission for Aviation Regulation.
How to make a complaint
If you need to make a complaint, read your contract to see how to do this. It will explain who you should complain to – and how (that is, in writing or another way).
Making a complaint while you are away
If you have a complaint while on your trip away, you should report the problem at once to your local holiday representative or travel organiser in the area.
The organiser must compensate you for any shortfalls in the service it provides – between what was originally promised or advertised and what was actually provided.
You should give the travel organiser the chance to put things right. The solution they suggest should be at no extra cost to you.
If you are not satisfied that the problem has been resolved, you should gather as much evidence as possible to support your case while you are away, including taking photographs or video footage (if you can).
Making a complaint when you get home
If you are not satisfied that the complaint has been dealt with properly when you return from the holiday, you must complain in writing to the travel organiser. You must do this within 28 days from the end of the holiday.
If the travel organiser does not respond within a reasonable time, you should send a second letter of complaint. If you are still not happy with your travel organiser's response, then you have the following options:
- Get advice from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) for complaints about travel organisers based in Ireland. The CCPC has specific powers to oversee the enforcement of Irish law covering package holidays and to identify legal breaches (that is, misleading advertising and or inaccurate brochures). The CCPC cannot bring proceedings on your behalf.
- Get advice from European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland for complaints about travel organisers based outside Ireland but in the EU/EEA (EEA is the European Economic Area). In some cases, ECC Ireland may liaise on your behalf to find a good working solution with the travel organiser through the centre based in the country of the organiser.
If the organiser refuses to offer any compensation, you can use:
- The small claims court (for travel organisers based in Ireland and claims up to €2,000)
- The European small claims procedure (for travel organisers based elsewhere in the EU/EEA and claims up to €5,000)
- Arbitration through the Travel Scheme. Arbitration is where parties agree to refer their dispute to an independent third party for resolution. You can find out more about the Travel Scheme on the website of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators – Ireland Branch (CIArb).
You can read more about package holidays and LTA’s on the European Commission's page on the Package Travel Directive.
Further consumer information about package holidays and your rights is available from: