Is your school trip a "package"?

Date published

10/02/2021

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When booking school trips, it is important to consider the legal definition of a “package” holiday. Failing to do so could result in travelling without legal and financial protection.

In this article we consider how the definition of “package” holiday has widened, what now constitutes a “package” and how this applies in practice.

What was a package holiday?

Back in 1992, a “package” holiday was defined by The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations as a pre-arranged combination of at least two of the following, when sold or offered for sale at an inclusive price, covering a period of more than 24 hours or including overnight accommodation:

  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Other tourist services not ancillary to transport or accommodation and accounting for a significant proportion of the package.

It is worth remembering that the internet only became publicly available in 1991 and internet search engines didn’t become widely used for many years after that. Holidays were sold on the high street, over the phone and even CEEFAX.

However, things moved on and in 2018, The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations (the Regulations) came into force, providing a broader definition of “package” and “operator”. These new regulations introduced a duty to provide clearer information, cancellation and repatriation rights and also created “linked travel arrangements”.

What is a package holiday?

Under the 2018 Regulations, the term “package” is given a wider definition. It includes a combination of at least two different types of travel service for the purpose of the same trip, if the services are provided by one trader or purchased from a single point of sale. It must be advertised or sold under the term “package” and offered or sold at an inclusive or total price or combined after the conclusion of a contract, where the trader gives the traveller a selection of different types of travel services.

Travel services includes transport such as a flight, coach or train; accommodation such as a hotel, villa or apartment; car rental and other tourist services which are an essential feature of the combination, such as a tour guide where this is a significant part of the holiday.

There are therefore six categories to create a “package” under the Regulations:

  1. Single contract
  2. Purchased in single booking process
  3. Sold under an inclusive price
  4. Sold as a package or similar term
  5. Traveller can choose from variety of services after contract concluded
  6. Purchased through linked online transactions/click through within 24 hours.

But what isn’t covered by the Regulations? Business trips, trips of less than 24 hours (unless overnight accommodation is included) and trips offered “occasionally” on a not for profit basis for a limited group of travellers. The term “occasionally” means no more than a few times a year. Therefore, trips organised regularly by charities and groups such as scouts would be covered by the Regulations.

What is a linked travel arrangement?

A “linked travel arrangement” (LTA) means at least two different types of travel service purchased for the purpose of the same trip or holiday, not constituting a package, and resulting in the conclusion of separate contracts with the individual service providers. An LTA can arise in two situations:

  • On the occasion of a single visit to, or contact with, a trader’s point of sale, the separate selection and separate payment of each travel service by travellers; or
  • In a targeted manner, the procurement of at least one additional travel service from another trader where a contract with such other trader is concluded at the latest 24 hours after the confirmation of the booking of the first travel service.

While warranting some consumer protection, LTAs do not provide the same protection as package holidays.

Scenario - National Hockey Finals

A school enters this tournament having successfully won a number of rounds and qualifying for the finals. The school has four weeks to make suitable arrangements to attend the event, which is being held in London. The school books a coach from its usual company, arranges accommodation in a Travelodge nearby and books an evening meal and breakfast close to the hotel. The pupils in the team are selected and asked to pay a fixed amount towards the cost of the trip.

In this scenario, the trip includes transportation and accommodation, however, is it provided occasionally, not for profit for a limited number of people? If so, it can be an exception to the Regulations and therefore not qualify as a “package”. The school should confirm to those on the trip that they do not have the protection of the Regulations.

Comment

The 2018 Regulations include a much broader definition of what constitutes a “package” and as a result, tour operators will be liable for more parts of the holiday. However, it is important for schools booking trips to consider whether they have the protection of the Regulations and whether their upcoming trip constitutes a “package”. Schools could end up having all of the responsibilities of a travel company – both legal and financial should they get this wrong.

Read other items in Personal Injury Brief - February 2021

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