The whole package: Package holidays often work out cheaper than DIY bookings while offering greater protections, Which? finds

Package holidays are likely to work out considerably cheaper than DIY bookings to the same destination while also offering much greater protection if a trip is affected by coronavirus or other disruption, Which? research has found.

The consumer champion looked at the price of the cheapest package holidays available online from five UK airports from both Jet2holidays and Tui, and compared them with the cost of identical DIY holidays. It found the package holidays were cheaper in eight out of 10 cases – with the biggest saving more than £400 on a holiday to Greece.

The research suggests holidaymakers taking the package route could save hundreds of pounds on the cost of their trip, while also avoiding the risk of losing their money if they can’t travel due to government restrictions, lockdown or if their airline or hotel goes bust.

A package holiday is a booking comprising at least two travel-related services made through the same source, most commonly flights and accommodation. Since July 2018, holidaymakers booking in this way have enjoyed extra protections.

Under the Package Travel Regulations 2018, if a package holiday is cancelled by the provider, the customer is legally entitled to a full refund within 14 days of the cancellation. Most package holidays including a flight booked through a UK provider are also protected under the Atol scheme, meaning if the tour operator goes bust before they travel, customers will still get their money back.

In the examples Which? looked at, researchers calculated the cost of the DIY package using the cheapest airfare from the same airport on the same date as the tour operator package, and included one check-in bag per passenger. The cost of return airport transfers was also included in the DIY bookings if these were included in the corresponding package booking, to create an identical holiday.

The biggest saving was £442, for a two-week holiday for a couple flying to Rhodes from Bristol, booked through Tui. The same holiday with travel and accommodation booked separately would cost £1,025, compared to £583 when booked as a package – an increase of 76 per cent.

The average saving across the eight packages that were cheaper than a DIY booking was £157.

Only two package holidays worked out more expensive than their DIY counterparts – one Jet2holidays trip to Salou and one Tui holiday to Majorca. But even when it was cheaper to book flights and hotels independently, the maximum saving was only £31 per person – arguably a negligible amount given the protection holidaymakers would be sacrificing through not booking a package.

Almost all tour operators do not operate packages to countries where the Foreign Office (FCDO) advises against non-essential travel. They will cancel the holiday and refund customers if that advice changes at short notice due to coronavirus or another reason.

On the other hand, throughout the pandemic many airlines and online travel agents have continued to fly to countries where the FCDO is advising against non-essential travel due to Covid-19 and have refused to refund passengers who follow the guidance and do not travel.

The coronavirus crisis has shown that while booking a package offers holidaymakers greater protection in the face of a number of problems, not all package providers have abided by the law on refunds when holidays have been cancelled, with some companies doing a much better job of swiftly returning money to customers than others.

Which? recently revealed that over £1 billion was outstanding in refunds for cancelled package holidays. While some operators have struggled to claw back money from airlines for cancelled flights, others have simply chosen not to refund customers within the legal 14-day window.

Customers booking a package should consider booking with a tour operator that has paid refunds for cancelled holidays swiftly over the course of the pandemic. Which? Recommended Provider holiday companies have committed to paying cash refunds within 30 days or less.

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been urging holidaymakers to book a package if they were considering a holiday over the summer or are looking to book for next year, given the unparalleled protections they offer if things don’t go to plan.

“Many people are put off booking a package because they worry they’ll have to pay more than booking their flight and accommodation separately, but as our research shows, a package could save holidaymakers hundreds on the cost of their holiday.

“Not all holiday providers are equal though. Anyone planning on booking a holiday for 2021 should strongly consider booking a package with a reputable provider that has treated customers fairly in recent months, to ensure their cash is protected if something goes wrong.”

Full results (NB: results available for reporting purposes only. Please do not reproduce tables without prior consent – contact the press office to discuss):

Notes to editors:

  1. Research was carried out from 17-19 November 2020.
  2. Full story: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/11/package-holiday-deals-cheaper-for-summer-2021-versus-booking-diy
  3. The information in this press release is for editorial use by journalists and media outlets only. Any business seeking to reproduce information in this release should contact the Which? Endorsement Scheme team at endorsementscheme@which.co.uk.
  4. Which? ratings of the best and worst package holiday providers
    https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/travel-agents/article/travel-agents/best-and-worst-package-holiday-providers/ 
  5. Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.

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