How to complain if your holiday wasn't how it looked in the brochure

Have you stayed somewhere that didn't live up to the brochure description?
Have you stayed somewhere that didn't live up to the brochure description?
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You wouldn’t know it from the weather this June, but it’s the time of year when our thoughts turn to a sunny getaway.

And it was with summer holidays in mind that I stumbled across the rather brilliant Holiday Complaints Twitter account (@Holiday Complain).

This is a collection of complaints made by holidaymakers. Now, I can’t say whether these complaints are true or not, but they are hilarious.

One person was “offended by how tanned and beautiful the women here are. Will not be coming back.”

Another claimed: “My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double. I’m now pregnant.”

My personal favourite, though, is this little gem: “You said the town was next to a volcano, but we went and there was no lava. I’m pretty sure it was just a mountain.”

Obviously, these are funny exactly because they are ridiculous. But what should you expect from your holiday, and just what is a reasonable complaint?


When raising the issue, you should do so with the package holiday operator, rather than any booking agent.

The Package Travel Regulations stipulate that the consumer should get what they booked and paid for.

Did the brochure or website accurately describe the holiday you experienced? If the tour did not match up, then you are entitled to make a claim. The operator is liable for all the services.

A successful claim must relate to important terms of the holiday contract known as ‘express or implied terms’.

One of these terms must have been broken, for example an express term where the brochure promises full board or entertainment each night, which is not available, or an implied term that your holiday should be of a reasonable standard based on the price you paid.

If the tour operator offers a reasonable alternative to compensate, you must consider accepting this or it may appear that you have failed to try to mitigate your loss.

Generally, you cannot claim for loss of enjoyment. Unless it was a special trip such as a honeymoon that went quite wrong, your claim is unlikely to succeed.

In the case of package holidays, as long as the company you booked with is a member of ABTA , you’ll have a much stronger chance of getting your complaint resolved effectively.

This is because ABTA not only offers financial protection should your tour operator go bust, it also provides a code of conduct to which its members must adhere.

The ABTA code of conduct involves guaranteed complaints handling procedures.

If these are not met, then you can go to ABTA, who will be able to offer independent arbitration to help resolve your holiday complaint.

If your holiday complaint is related to a flight, ATOL offers a similar financial protection service to ABTA.

If your holiday was not purchased as a package, then it’s worth being aware that your accommodation or local travel will be subject only to the protection and regulation that’s local to it.


* Get your complaint in writing - this is the easiest way of making sure it gets recorded properly

* If you do need to make a phone call, Resolver can record it and store it for you in your online case file.

* Record as many details as possible – who you speak to, their job titles, the dates and times of your calls.

* Be polite. You might well be really frustrated and irritated about the service you’ve received, but it’s important to keep calm.