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We all look forward to getting away on holiday, but, unfortunately, things sometimes go wrong and you can end up disappointed, stressed, and in need of another holiday to get over the first one!

You may know you have rights to compensation if, for example, your flight is cancelled or the travel agency goes bust. But what about if you don’t enjoy your holiday because it wasn’t what you expected?

Paying for 'the experience'

When you buy a holiday, you’re not just paying for the flight and hotel room: you’re paying for the experience.

If your holiday is not what you were led to believe, you may be able to claim compensation for out of pocket expenses, loss of value, loss of enjoyment, and physical discomfort.

You may be eligible if your holiday isn’t as promised or falls below acceptable standards. For example, your holiday may not be as you expected if the:

  • accommodation is poor
  • resort facilities aren’t what you were led to expect
  • hotel is incomplete
  • surroundings are dirty or noisy, for example, if the hotel is next to a building site
  • holiday wasn’t as described in the brochure.

Descriptions of holidays must be full and accurate. If you feel you were given a false description, the company you booked your holiday through may have committed an offence under the Trade Descriptions Act.

Contact the Citizen’s Advice consumer service to make a complaint.

How to complain

Who you complain to depends on how you booked your holiday.

Package holidays – These are where your transport, accommodation and sometimes day trips or a tour rep are all included in one booking. If you are unhappy, tell your tour operator straight away. They should try to put things right as soon as possible – for example, by offering you an alternative hotel.

If this isn’t possible, they should arrange free transport to somewhere you can make your own way home, such as an airport or train station. If the tour operator doesn’t make things right or you’re not happy with the alternative arrangements, collect evidence about the problem such as photographs of the hotel resort and statements from other holidaymakers. When you get home, contact the tour operator within 28 days and send them copies of your evidence, explain what went wrong and tell them what you would like to happen as a result of your complaint.

If you’re not happy with their response, check if they are a member of a trader association like the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) or the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) who may be able to help you resolve it.

Independent bookings – if you have booked your flights and accommodation separately, you will need to complain directly to the manager or owner of the accommodation if things aren’t up to scratch. Make sure you complain in writing, keep copies, and collect evidence where possible. If you booked through a UK website or travel agent, you will usually still have to complain directly to the accommodation manager, as they are responsible.


Flying can be stressful if there are delays or problems. You do have some rights to compensation if things go wrong, but it depends on the circumstances.

Delays and cancellations

If you are delayed at the airport, then you may be entitled to refreshments from the airline, depending on how long the delay is and the distance of your flight:

  • 0 – 1,500km       Delays of two or more hours
  • 1500 – 3500KM Delays of three or more hours
  • 3500KM +          Delays of four or more hours

After a five hour delay you are entitled to refuse to travel and ask for a full refund. These rules apply regardless of what caused the delay or the cancellation.

If you are delayed overnight, the airline should provide food and accommodation. If they don’t, you should claim these costs back later, although the airline will only cover what is ‘reasonable’, so that may not include 5* accommodation or drinks at the bar, for example.

You may also be able to claim compensation for delays over three hours or for cancelled flights. Your rights to compensation depend on the distance of the flight and how delayed you were in arriving at your destination. It also depends on the cause of the delay.

All the rights above apply if you are flying from a European airport, or to an EU airport on an EU airline. If you are flying from elsewhere in the world on a non-EU airline, the carrier’s rules will apply instead, so check them carefully.

Extraordinary circumstances

There are certain circumstances in which you can’t claim any compensation. These are where your flight is delayed or cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances. Extraordinary circumstances are those that are beyond the control of the airline, such as security risk, severe weather conditions, or political instability. Under these circumstances, they may not have to provide any compensation and you may have to foot the bill for expenses if you find yourself stranded. You should check your travel insurance to see if they will cover any additional costs.

Visit the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) website or watch their video titled 'When things don't go to plan with a holiday' for more information about dealing with holiday problems. 

Further information

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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