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What the law says about holiday cancellations as 68% of people don’t check T&Cs

Associate Professor, Karen Watts at The University of Law explains your rights when jetting off on holiday.

As shocking new research from The University of Law reveals more than two thirds of consumers (68%) don’t read or don’t understand their T&Cs when signing on the dotted line, a legal expert at the University has explained passengers’ consumer rights when it comes to holidays.

Common occurrences like flight delays, cancellations or problems with accommodation can all quickly turn a relaxing getaway into a holiday from hell. However, as Karen Watts, Programme and Student Lead at The University of Law Moorgate advises, knowing your legal rights can make all the difference.

Karen explains: “It’s worrying that so many people either don’t read or don’t understand the T&Cs when they book a service. When booking flights or a package holiday, you’re entering a contract with the provider that often leaves you legally bound to that contract’s terms. Knowing your rights before you jet off will most definitely help you should things not go to plan during your getaway.”

Flight delays and cancellations

Delayed or cancelled flights are probably one of the most common causes of frustration for holiday-goers. The good news is UK travellers are well protected under UK law in most instances, providing you’re flying to or from the UK on a UK or EU airline.

While nobody wants to be hit with a cancellation, you might be reassured to know that airlines are duty bound to look after passengers under UK law. If your flight is cancelled, the airline must provide you with reasonable care, including food and drink, accommodation and any necessary travel costs.

A lesser-known fact is that the airline is also responsible for providing you with a means to communication, which often comes in the form of a refund for the cost of any calls. Importantly, be sure to keep hold of any receipts for purchases you make as a result so you can claim a refund from the airline. Refunds will only be given for “reasonable” expenses, so unfortunately luxury hotel stays most likely won’t be covered.

Accommodation cancellation

A quick search online will reveal multiple stories about hotels and holiday rental providers such as Airbnb catching guests out with last minute cancellations or changes to their booking.

Your exact rights will differ depending on what you have booked. Almost all accommodation providers will have their own terms and conditions and in the case of a provider such as Airbnb, the T&Cs will differ between properties. With this in mind, the importance of thoroughly checking your T&Cs and cancellation policies becomes very clear.

Generally speaking, accommodation providers are required to provide a full or partial refund if a stay is cancelled before you have checked in. There are various exceptions and caveats to this, so it’s always worth having a thorough read through your contracts before signing.

If the holiday isn’t what you were sold

We’ve all heard stories of holidays from hell, whether the hotel is in desperate need of a refurb, or horrible pests decide to pay a visit to your room. Whatever it is, if you determine that your holiday isn’t delivering what was sold to you, then you may be protected under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Under the Act, travel and accommodation providers are contracted to provide you with the services you have agreed, with reasonable care and skill. If you deem this to be untrue, for example if your room isn’t as promised or you feel you haven’t received reasonable service, you could be due a partial or full refund.

It’s advisable to complain at the time and explain your concerns with the service to your provider. Often you will be able to reach a solution, usually in the form of compensation or a discount. It is also worth keeping a diary of events to back up your claim and taking pictures where relevant to use as evidence.

Karen continues: “We all hope when jetting off somewhere that all will go to plan and we’ll be able to enjoy our holiday in peace. Often this is the case but there are of course occasions where things can go wrong, so it’s important to know where you stand in the eyes of the law in these instances. Most of the time, disputes can be resolved directly with the provider, especially if they are at fault. However, if something does escalate, be sure to do your research so you know where you stand contractually.”


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