10th August 2022

Surge in online travel complaints

Customers who booked flights through online intermediaries are struggling to get their money back for cancelled flights.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team

A surge in consumer complaints about online travel agents has led the UK International Consumer Centre (UKICC) to raise concerns about a “huge contractual mess” in the industry.

There was an 83% spike in complaints about the activities of online travel agents in the first three months of 2022 compared with the year before. Most related to flight bookings through online booking intermediaries rather than directly with airlines.

Laura Johnston, Consumer Advisor at the UKICC, said: “COVID-19 has highlighted a problem that already existed for UK consumers, but the pandemic has made it worse because the numbers of consumers affected has grown considerably.

“People are now coming to us in droves as some consumers still appear to be waiting for their money back from flights that were cancelled towards the start of the pandemic.

“The [Air Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2004] states that airlines have to give passengers their money back within seven days if their flight is cancelled, but airlines usually won’t deal with passengers direct. Booking intermediaries aren’t governed by the same laws so aren’t motivated to help.

“The difficulty is that passengers have to rely on the booking intermediary they booked their flight with to make a claim to recover the flight cost on their behalf, but booking intermediaries don’t really want to do that.

“Effectively what they are saying to consumers is that all they do is book the flights on the consumers’ behalf and then wipe their hands of any problem. Some booking intermediaries are even charging consumers to make a claim for the flight costs from the airline.

“It’s a huge contractual mess which deprives UK consumers of their rights.”


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