Small Claims Advice – Hospitality and Travel
Going on holiday or staying in a hotel is supposed to be a treat. Often when travelling and/or staying in a hotel it’s for a lovely holiday, or possible a work trip. However, sometimes our stays don’t go to plan. The holiday or hospitality experience doesn’t meet our expectations and then can lead to an uncomfortable and stressful stay.
If not dealt with promptly, situations can quickly escalate, and a complaint followed by a claim may follow. But reaching out to a solicitor is not always the best options as the legal fees can quite often cost more than the claim itself.
To help point you in the right direction, we’ve put together some general information about how to deal with the more common disputes around travel and hospitality.
Travel delays and lost luggage
The main disputes you are likely to have with travel companies are delays to your journey and damage to your luggage.
When you buy a ticket for your journey you have a contract with the company - whether it is a bus, coach, ferry, train or airline. Their website will confirm their terms and conditions of the contract. The law often also applies minimum terms that they must offer you.
Their website will usually set out what they offer if your journey was delayed, or you face other problems. Most travel companies also run customer service helplines which will be the first step to take in sorting out your problem. If this does not solve the problem, then you should put your complaint in writing. If this does not resolve the problem, you will need to consider mediation or finally legal action.
The rules relating to airlines are more complicated and is summarised below (delays & lost luggage and also damaged luggage) together with sample complaint letters intended to comply with these special rules.
Airline – lost or delayed luggage
The rules apply to the luggage that gets checked in at the departure airport (not luggage you carry with you on the plane):
- The cost of replacing essential items whilst luggage is delayed.
- The reasonable expenses you incur such as taxi to buy essential replacement items, taxi to pick up delayed luggage from airport.
- The value of lost luggage (if it has not turned up after 21 days from being checked in).
- The cost of damage to your luggage.
The Montreal Convention makes the airline responsible. BUT airlines responsibility for your checked in bags is limited up to around £1,000 per passenger (including reasonable expenses).
You can only claim the full value of your luggage over this limit if you had made/make a 'special declaration of interest in the delivery of your luggage' (usually for expensive items).
Take care over the deadlines for claiming as:
- Luggage is declared lost after 21 days (anything up to this point is classed as delayed).
- To claim for lost luggage, you must claim within seven days of it being declared lost.
What to do to prove a claim
- Notify luggage delayed or lost within 21 days (usually to staff at arrival airport) - you will be asked to complete a “Property Irregularity Report”.
- If not found after 21 days (from check in) write to airline within 7 days.
- Provide receipts for essential items bought whilst abroad.
- Provide receipts for reasonable expenses such as taxis.
- If not found after 21 days try to list everything in suitcase.
- Then provide proof /valuation of contents of suitcase (realistically you will not have receipts for everything but hopefully you can prove the cost of the more expensive items and the airline will accept an estimate for cheaper items.
Hotels – poor service
You are entitled to the services provided by the hotel to carried out with reasonable care and skill.
What is reasonable will depend on the type or cost of hotel – but is usually a matter of common sense.
You should complain at the time – otherwise it might be difficult to prove that you were unhappy with the service received. Also, this gives the hotel a chance to put matters right or offer you a discount on your bill.
You are entitled to compensation if you do not receive reasonable service – perhaps a refund of all or part of your hotel charges. Also, you may be able to claim back any additional expenses you have had to pay because of the poor service.
Law: You have a contract with the hotel or restaurant. They provide the accommodation and services. In exchange you pay the agreed price.
Consumer Rights Act 2015 says that it is part of that contract that the hotel provides its services with reasonable care and skill. If they do not carry out their part of the deal, you’re entitled to receive compensation or money off for their failure.
Proving the claim
To raise a claim, you need to prove that the hotel services were not provided with reasonable care and skill.
You should complain at the time – explaining your concerns with the service – why it is not of a reasonable standard and any problems or expenses this may cause you.
Depending on the problem, it may be relevant to take photographs such as of broken items in your room or signs saying a service is not available.
It can be helpful to keep a diary or record of the issue and any complaints made and any problems or expenses this causes you.
In extreme cases you might also take the names and addresses of other people at the hotel – especially if they are also unhappy because they are suffering from the same problem – to contact them later.
You should keep your bill and also any receipt as proof of how much you were charged and then paid.
What you can claim for:
- Injury: If some defect in the hotel facilities caused you to suffer an injury, then you can also claim injury compensation. Examples include tripping on a loose carpet or a cut from broken equipment.
- Illness: If a hotel facility made you unwell you may be entitled to injury compensation. Perhaps the water in the hotel pool or the food in the restaurant. You may be able to claim for your pain and suffering and additional expenses such as medicine and time off work.
- Expenses: If you had to pay for additional expenses as a direct result of the poor service provided by the hotel, then you are often entitled to get your money back. You will need to show your expenses are reasonable and you’ll usually need to provide receipts to prove the cost to you.
- Loss of enjoyment: If the hotel stay was part of a bigger event, such as a family celebration, then it may also be reasonable to claim compensation for spoiling that memorable event.
How much refund you are given depends entirely on the circumstances and the extend it impacted your time.
As part of our commitment to service you better, we highly recommend utilising the resources available at the Money Advice Service website. Their comprehensive guides and information cover various aspects of financial and legal matters, including small claims advice and may be able to give you the support you need.