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Published on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Travel companies failing to warn customers of no-deal Brexit risks

Consumers' champion Which? has criticised travel companies for not doing more to warn customers of the possible consequences of the UK leaving the EU before a new aviation deal is agreed.

It questioned three of the five biggest UK travel companies to find out what they were telling customers would happen if there was a 'no deal' Brexit on March 29 next year and said TUI, Jet2 and On The Beach failed to provide any reassurance that any information would be communicated upfront.

Thomas Cook has changed its terms and conditions to explicitly state it will not provide compensation and will also not reimburse expenses or cover losses if it has to change a booking, which could occur in the event of 'airspace closures'.

"Thomas Cook told us that they always encourage customers to take out travel insurance to cover consequential losses," it said.

Expedia was the only company trying to reassure travellers, said the consumer magazine.

The online agent believes airlines will still be subject to the flight delay regulation EU261 and the Package Travel Directive, although it warns that compensation might not be due if Brexit is considered an 'extraordinary circumstance'.

However, unlike the other four travel companies questioned, Expedia is not selling holidays for the period after the UK leaves the EU.

Also, as an agent, it would not be directly responsible for compensating customers for delays and cancellations.

Which? is calling for the Government to work with travel companies, airlines and insurers to ensure that risks are properly communicated to people in advance of booking a holiday.

It is also advising anyone who might be booking a holiday after the date when the UK leaves the EU to check the cancellation and refund policies for any aspect of their trip, particularly if they have booked any part, such as car hire or a villa rental, outside of a package deal.

Both Ryanair and Lufthansa have recently warned that UK holidaymakers could face flight disruption as a result of Brexit.

Which? today launched its Consumer Charter for Brexit, calling on the Government to 'deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first'.

"This includes securing an aviation deal to keep Britain's planes flying after the UK leaves the EU, so people can have peace of mind when booking their holiday - and clarity from the Government about their rights if there are any changes that affect flights or holidays that have been booked," it said.

The Charter sets out more detailed priorities that need immediate action from Government to make Brexit a success. These concentrate on the areas of: consumer landscape, food, energy and travel - as well as making sure there is a strong system of consumer rights in place during a transition period.

Chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: "This uncertainty for holidaymakers is just one of the many issues affecting people's everyday lives that need to be resolved as we move closer to the date that the UK leaves the EU. We want to work with Government and businesses on issues such as this in order to deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first.

"We want to ensure that people are supported by high levels of rights and protection - and with greater access than ever before to quality, affordable products and services. We must not miss the opportunity for the UK to improve consumer protections to become a world-leader. With control over all aspects of consumer protection the UK can and must do something special."


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