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FAQ Package Holidays

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We frequently come across these 16 questions on package tours in our advisory work. The overview answers given here are based on the Package Travel Act (PRG). We have tried to keep the FAQs as concise as possible. You can find more detailed information on the topic in these articles:

What is a package travel?

A package tour is when you combine at least two travel services as a package. The second service must account for at least 25% of the total price or be explicitly advertised.

-) Examples of package travel: Flight + hotel, flight + rental car, hotel + rental car, overnight stay + concert ticket,....

-) Examples of no package travel: Hotel with breakfast, hotel with airport pick-up, holiday home with pool,...

  • This combination of travel services has been put together under a single contract by or with the help of a supplier. This can be a tour operator or a travel agent, whether booked online or in-store.

OR

  • You book travel services with different providers under separate contracts. One of the following conditions applies:
  1. Travel services are purchased from a single distribution point (at a travel agency, via a telephone service or on the internet). Before you have paid anything, you have agreed to both contracts.
    -) Example: You have placed various travel services in an online shopping basket.
  2. The services are sold at a total price.
  3. The services are offered as a "package" and are designated as such or similarly.
  4. After concluding the contract, you can select any travel services offered from a predefined range.
    -) Example: Unit price for hotel stay with free choice of a day excursion from a third-party provider
  1. You buy travel services from different suppliers via a linked online booking procedure (so-called click-through packages). The first supplier forwards your name, email address and payment details to the second supplier. The second contract is concluded within 24 hours of the first contract.

What about idividually compiled package tours?

Yes, even packages that you put together yourself partly constitute a package holiday, so that the protection of the Austrian Package Travel Act (PRG) applies. This applies online and offline.

What is the difference between package travel and "linked travel services"?

When booking "linked travel services", one has somewhat fewer rights than with "classic" package tours. The distinction is somewhat confusing. The main difference is that with package tours, customers purchase a total package and pay for it together immediately. In the case of linked travel services, customers first decide to purchase and pay for one travel service in a short time sequence and then, subsequently or somewhat later (e.g. second visit to the travel agency), decide to purchase and pay for the second travel service separately. 

No package tour - but linked travel services if:

  • You have booked at least two different types of travel services for the same trip through a travel agent (travel agency) but have concluded separate contracts with the respective service providers. You paid for both contracts separately when visiting the travel agency or online, although the booking of both was made during a single contact.

OR 

  • You made the booking of the second travel service within 24 hours. This booking was specifically arranged by linking the second product on the website of the first provider or by purchasing the other travel service during the second visit to the travel agency. The provider of the first booking did not pass on your data to the second provider.

Customers of linked travel services have basic protection and must be informed that they are covered in the event of insolvency. Each service provider is only liable for the contractual performance of its own service and must inform that the other package travel rights do not apply. In order for consumers to know whether they have purchased a package or linked travel services, the travel agency must provide forms (Art. 19(2) last paragraph EU Directive). If intermediaries do not comply with these information obligations, the booked trip is considered a package.

Is booking a package holiday "safer"?

From a legal point of view, yes. The Package Travel Regulation, which has been implemented throughout Europe in national package travel laws (Austria since 1.7.2018), grants package travellers such protective provisions that do not exist for individual travel. The main advantage for end customers in case of problems is that only one contractual partner has to fulfil the claims, which makes things easier especially for them in contracts with service providers abroad. If something goes wrong with the hotel or other travel deficiencies occur, you do not have to turn to foreign companies. If you have concluded the contract with a domestic provider, you do not have to fear that in case of emergency a legal dispute with a foreign jurisdiction under foreign law could possibly take place outside the EU. Furthermore, package tour providers must be sufficiently insured against insolvency.

Clarification of terms travel agency, service provider, contracting party, organiser, intermediary, platform

Contractual partners: Offer you a product or service and you conclude a contract with them. If it is an individual trip, this is e.g. the hotel or the airline. You then have several contractual partners with contracts that are independent of each other. If you book a package tour, the travel agency / online provider is your contractual partner and has arranged the actual services (flight, hotel,...) for you from third-party companies.

Intermediaries: Travel intermediaries sell third-party services, which can be individual travel components or entire package tours from a tour operator. Travel agents provide information, advice and bookings, but are not responsible for carrying out the trip. It is therefore not the company that provides the specific service such as flight or hotel room, but a company that has resold these services to you at a profit. Stationary travel agencies act as intermediaries, as do travel portals on the internet. You conclude a travel agency contract with them and travel agents must fulfil certain information obligations.

Tour operator: In the travel contract, the travellers and the tour operator are always the contractual partners. If you have a problem, contact the tour operator and not the travel agent. It is therefore important to know who the tour operator is. You can find this out from your travel documents. Tour operators may have to provide the traveller with a travel confirmation via the intermediary upon or immediately after conclusion of the contract.

Travel agency: Act either as a travel agent or as a tour operator, as the case may be. If travel agencies put together various service packages and sell them under their own name as their own product, the duties of the organiser are transferred to the travel agency. For certain bookings (IATA Association, Deutsche Bahn, etc.) a travel agency licence is required, which mere travel agents do not have.

Comparison portal: Comparison portals on the internet list travel offers from other companies and finance themselves through commission when interested parties follow the links. They are usually not contractual partners when booking an offer found there.

Travel platform: Brokers travel offers and often unites many smaller travel providers under one brand name or sells their contingents, which end customers do not even notice. However, it can also act as a tour operator with additional offers from third parties in order to be able to offer a larger selection. The distinction between travel platform and travel agency is often irrelevant, as they both refer customers to each other. Consumers can be indifferent to this, as long as no price disadvantages arise from it. What remains important is who is the tour operator, that they comply with due diligence and who is liable in case of complaints and has to remedy deficiencies.

Service provider: The specific company that provides the travel service on site (e.g. airline, car rental company, hotel,...) If there is a defect, the service provider is responsible for rectifying it. In the case of package tours, a subsequent price reduction is possible if the defect is not remedied. Since service providers have no contractual relationship with the traveller, ask for the tour operator's voucher before providing the service.

When is a package holiday considered booked online?

On the Internet, a package tour is booked when you click on the button "Book now for a fee" or similar. Payment can be made later.

May the price of the package be increased?

Price increases are only allowed if price reductions are also possible. Less than 20 days before the start of the package, a price increase is not allowed at all. Before that, the price may only be increased for certain reasons specified in the law.

If the price increase is more than 8% of the travel price, the trader must inform you on a durable medium and give you a reasonable period of time to either agree to the increase or withdraw from the contract free of charge. If you have already paid something, he must refund the money.

Attention: If you do not react within the set reasonable period of time, this is considered as consent to the price increase.

Can tour operators change booked services?

If the tour operator is forced to change essential parts of the trip (e.g. accommodation, destinations, etc.), you do not have to accept this. You can also withdraw free of charge. If you have already paid something, he must refund you the money. The entrepreneur sets a deadline for you to answer whether you accept the changed trip. Attention, silence is considered as acceptance!

Can someone else travel instead of me?

You may also transfer your travel contract to another person. Reasonable additional costs incurred as a result must, however, be paid. You must inform the organiser of this at least 7 days before the start of the trip, unless the organiser gives you a shorter period in the contract.

What to do in case of defects during the journey?

If there are any deficiencies, you should definitely complain on the spot and document them with photos. Also pass on complaints to the tour operator or travel agency - not only at the hotel reception! It is best to send an email to the tour operator or travel agency and set a reasonable deadline for rectifying the defect. It is also advisable to get written confirmation of the defects from the hotel or tour guide on site. If you do not report the defects immediately, this may reduce any claims for compensation. You have the right to a remedy on site (e.g. another room) or to a price reduction afterwards. You may also be entitled to compensation for loss of holiday enjoyment.

What claims do I have in the event of a flight delay during my package holiday?

If a flight that is part of the package tour is delayed, then you are entitled to a percentage price reduction from the tour operator. This entitlement exists regardless of the reason for the delay.

In the event of a delay of two hours or more, waiting passengers have additional claims against the airline under the Air Passenger Rights Regulation (snacks, information obligations, possible compensation payment - see our guide to flight delays). If the airline makes a compensation payment because of the delay, then the claim against the tour operator is reduced by the airline's compensation payment.

According to the Frankfurt table, the price reduction of the package tour is calculated after 4 hours of waiting time from each additional hour of delay. For each hour of delay, 5% of the daily price of the package tour (daily price = total costs divided by the number of days of travel) is reduced.

If the delay would result in the loss of an entire day's holiday, a cancellation free of charge is guaranteed.

-) Example:
Booked are 10 days package tour in Egypt for 2 persons. For flight + hotel + Nile cruise with excursions 3000€ were paid. The daily price is therefore 300€. 5% of the daily price is therefore 15 €.  The arrival of the flight Vienna to Hurghada is delayed by 7 hours.
3 hours (waited longer than 4 hours) * 15 € (daily fare) = 45 € price reduction claim.
If airline already pays € 800 compensation (€ 400 per person for medium-haul flights), no price reduction from tour operator.
If the airline is not responsible for the delay (external circumstances), the tour operator is entitled to a €45 price reduction.

-) Example:
Booked are 10 days package tour in Egypt for 2 persons.
For flight + hotel + Nile cruise with excursions 3000€ were paid.
The daily price is therefore 300 €. 5% of the daily price is therefore 15 €.
The arrival of the flight from Vienna to Hurghada is delayed by 7 hours.

Calculation: 
3h (waited longer than 4h) * 15 € (daily price) = 45 € price reduction.

  • If airline already pays 800 € compensation (400 € per person for medium-haul flights), then no price reduction from the tour operator.
  • If the airline is not to blame for the delay (external circumstances), then 45 € price reduction from the tour operator.

Danger at the holiday destination - what now?

After booking, your holiday destination suddenly becomes a danger zone (epidemic, natural disaster, political unrest, etc.)? If your trip is thwarted as a result even before it begins, you have a right to cancel free of charge, i.e. you do not have to pay a cancellation fee.

Generally, level 5 or 6 travel warnings issued by the Austrian Foreign Ministry for a travel area are considered an unreasonable safety risk. You can cancel the trip free of charge and you must get the travel deposit back within 14 days. Depending on the situation, personal circumstances may also fulfil the requirements prescribed by law for significant impairment of travel or unreasonable safety risk even without an official travel warning.
Examples:
-) There is a surprising increase in the incidence of the Zika virus on site and the traveller belongs to the high-risk group due to her pregnancy.
-) A cruise cannot call at some ports closed due to Corona and the route as well as the shore excursion programme are changed.

 

If I am stuck at the holiday destination?

If you are stuck due to external circumstances beyond your control (e.g. hurricane, political unrest at the holiday destination), the tour operator must pay for the hotel for up to three additional days. This limited assistance obligation is extended for those with special assistance needs, provided that the tour operator had been informed of the special needs of these persons at least 48 hours before the start of the trip. This group of persons includes pregnant women, persons with reduced mobility or in need of special medical care, and minors travelling alone.

What insolvency protection do I have for package holidays?

With a package holiday, you are insured against the insolvency of the tour operator. If the trip does not take place, you get back the amount paid to the tour operator. The same applies if you start or continue the holiday but have to pay again for certain services (e.g. hotel). If, on the other hand, the airline booked as part of the package goes bankrupt, the tour operator simply has to rebook you on another airline. If the selected hotel no longer exists, you are entitled to another, equivalent accommodation.

What insolvency protection do I have for linked travel services?

In the case of "linked travel services" (see article for details), you are covered against the insolvency of the intermediary (e.g. travel agency). If, for example, they go bankrupt before they have forwarded your money to the airline, car rental company, hotel, etc., in practice these companies will probably demand the outstanding payment from you again. If you agree to go ahead with the holiday, you can recover the original payment to the agent from their insolvency insurer.

If, on the other hand, you book a train ticket directly with the railway company and a concert ticket there immediately afterwards, receiving separate invoices, you would be covered against the insolvency of the railway company. But not against the insolvency of the concert operator.

Does travel agency booking protect you in the event of airline insolvency?

As is often the case in legal matters, it all depends on the details. You can find more information on this in this article.

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