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Holiday Complaints: what can you claim?

Holiday complaints aren't unusual. There could be much more to claim than you think. Was your holiday not what it said it would be? Was your flight cancelled or delayed? Was it a holiday from hell?

Here's what to do if your tour operator or airline ignores your holiday complaints, together with details of how to make them.

Realistic holiday complaints

Is your holiday complaint genuine, or did you just expect too much? Some holiday complaints are just silly:

"It took us 9 hours to fly home from Jamaica to England but it took the Americans just 3 hours to get home"

If your holiday complaint is fair, first try and resolve it yourself with your tour operator or airline. Be reasonable. If this approach fails, help and advice is available.

Tour Operator Holiday Complaints

Was your holiday ruined? You may want to make a holiday complaint for compensation against your Tour Operator:

Holiday Complaints – Complaints about Hotels and Services

Member companies of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) or the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) must adhere to a Code of Conduct. They also offer arbitration services to resolve disputes.

All tour operators are legally required to provide details of their holiday complaints procedure. You can usually find this in the brochure under tour operators' booking terms and conditions – just follow the stated advice.

Some of the most well-known tour operators:

If your tour operator is a member of ABTA it must acknowledge your holiday complaint within 14 days and reply within 28 days. If they fail to do this they will be in breach of ABTA’s Code of Conduct and liable to a substantial fine.

If your tour operator is a member of ABTA, contact ABTA in the first instance if you are unhappy with your operator's response or if there's no response to your holiday complaint.

ABTA operates an arbitration scheme and will provide details on request. The scheme is designed for lay people to pursue holiday complaints claims against their tour operators without attending a court hearing.

For details of how to make a holiday complaint if your tour operator is a member of ABTA visit ABTA’s website.

AITO operates a similar scheme and details of their scheme can be found on the AITO website.

By booking through a member of ABTA or AITO, you'll have peace of mind if your tour operator or airline fails. Your money will be protected and you will be repatriated if your tour operator or airline fails while you're abroad. You'll find more on ABTA's and AITO's financial protection schemes on their websites.


If you decide to pursue your holiday complaint through the courts and your claim is under £5,000, choose the small claims court. Information about making a small claim can be found by visiting HMCS Court Service website.

Also consider reporting your holiday complaint to your local trading Standards office, which may take up your holiday complaint for you. More about Trading Standards can be found on their website.

Airline Complaints – Holiday Complaints about Airlines

For all holiday complaints concerning:

  • Flight delays
  • Flight cancellations
  • Lost and damaged luggage
  • Insolvent air carriers

Please visit the Civil Aviation Authority’s website, where you'll find a full explanation of your rights and the ability to register your holiday complaint online. If you do not have direct access to the internet you can call the CAA on 0207 453 6888 who will register your complaint on the online system for you.

If your flight was part of a package holiday, also follow the procedure for complaining to your tour operator. They accept responsibility for the services (including flights) they provide.

We hope that this information will help you. if you'd like any more advice, drop us a line using the enquiry form at the top of this page.

Simpson Millar Solicitors LLP have been helping consumers for 150 years. We're nationwide, with offices in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, London, Bristol, Gateshead and Cardiff.

Simpson Millar’s holiday claims lawyers assist holidaymakers who suffer illness or accidents on holiday abroad.

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