Date of publication: 14 August 2018
Lesya Samarina, Attorney at Law, Head of Dnipro office
This summer, when hundreds of Ukrainian tourists got stuck in the airports of different countries, the new expression was coined – “a tourist collapse”.
It should be noted that airline delays happen quite frequently not only in Ukraine, but also in many countries of the world. But the situation with Ukrainian tourists was really extraordinary.
It is noteworthy that the officials, tour operators and air carriers have perceived the problem quite peculiarly. Once again, the bureaucrats have demonstrated their concern for the people. Officials assured the state is on the people’s side. But the blame lies with some airlines and tour operators who are pursuing profits instead of improving the quality of customer service, in particular, buying new aircraft.
Travel agencies and carriers tried to shift the blame from one to another. In turn, other airlines, taking advantage of a good informational hype, have decided to completely destroy the damaged reputation of the competitors.
It is worth noting that both officials and some companies managed to get a good idea about the problem of our fellow citizens. Tourist collapse is discussed on virtually all television channels of the country, printed mass-media have published dozens of articles. But, by and large, no one conducted a detailed, unbiased analysis of what happened.
Ukrainians could not give an easy and efficient explanation why there the tourist collapse happened. And most importantly – who should be held responsible.
Therefore, it is not surprising that many of our fellow citizens could not make the right conclusions. Unfortunately, once again I have to state that a rather sharp and relevant topic was banally talked into a rut.
Today, the experts are expressing two fundamentally opposite versions of the emergence of the tourist collapse. According to one of them the blame must be totally laid on the officials. They say that the state authorities issue licenses to the tour operators and airlines. Consequently, they should bring about order in this matter. The officials have a sufficient number of tools for this: fines, cancellation of licenses, etc. Also, the officials should create some privileged conditions for air carriers, which will allow their air fleet to be renewed.
If the officials start regulating the market by using the administrative methods, the situation may only deteriorate. Large risks of monopolization of the air transportation market with all the consequences resulting from this. Also, beyond criticism is the appeal to create privileged conditions for the airlines. Why only for them?! Indeed, the country needs to renovate not only the fleet of airplanes, but also buses, trains and other means of transportation.
The second version is more substantiated. According to it the tour operators, who undertook to provide quality services to Ukrainian tourists, should be held responsible for the tourist collapse. The cost of air transportation was included into the package of services provided by the travel company in accordance with the contract. That is, in this case, the air tickets were bought not by the tourists, but by the tour operators, who often refuse to assume responsibility and put forward claims against the airlines. Therefore, before signing an agreement with a travel agency, it is advisable to consult a lawyer to ensure that the rights of travelers are observed in accordance with the provisions of the Law On Tourism and the Law On Consumer Protection as soon as in case of the tourist operator’s refusal to reimburse the damage caused by a spoiled vacation, the tourists will have to file a lawsuit.
Very often travel agencies try to draft the agreements in such fashion so as to minimize their responsibility. There were cases when the travel agency did not bear any actual responsibility under the agreement, which significantly reduced the chances of getting compensation by the tourists. But nevertheless, even in such cases, the Ukrainian courts uphold decisions in favor of citizens, recognizing certain provisions of the agreement with travel agencies as discriminatory.
But nevertheless, even in such cases, the Ukrainian courts uphold decisions in favor of citizens, recognizing certain provisions of the agreements with travel agencies to be discriminatory.
It is also recommended to conclude a travel service contract to check that there is a relevant license to operate the tour operator and its financial security, which tourists are obliged to provide.
Prior to the conclusion of the Agreement on provision of tourist services the tourists are also recommended to verify the availability of a corresponding tour operator’s license and its financial security (which request shall not be denied).
It should also be remembered that in case of delay of a flight – which distance is up to 1.5 thousand km – for 2 hours, of a flight – which distance ranges from 1.5 thousand to 3.5 thousand kilometers – for 3 hours, and of a flight – which distance exceeds 3.5 thousand km – for 4 hours, the passengers should be provided the following services:
- food and refreshments according to the waiting time for a new flight;
- the ability to make two phone calls or to send a fax or e-mail if there should the technical conditions at the airport allow this.
If the departure of the flight is postponed until the next day, the passengers should be provided with rooms at the hotel, meals and an airport-hotel-airport transfer.
If the flight delay exceeds five hours, the passengers have the right to be reimbursed for the cost of tickets and decline the trip or change the route, including the transfer of the departure date to another date. But it is the tour operator who must put forward the demand against the airline to fulfill its obligations in this case.
If this unpleasant incident has nevertheless occurred, it is recommended to obtain a documentary confirmation of the fact of flight cancellation at the flight check-in desk or at the airline’s cash desk. Make sure that you save your tickets and boarding passes. After that, you need to contact the Ukrainian Consul because the diplomatic representative has significantly more opportunities to protect the tourists’ rights abroad and can assist them in returning back home.
If, for various reasons, the hotel accommodation has not been provided, the passengers may independently cover the cost of the accommodation in order to further provide it to the travel company for compensation. Also, the tourists are entitled to compensation for all the expenses incurred due to delay or cancellation of a flight: cost of taxi services, purchase of medicines, etc.
There is no less significant reason of the tourist collapse. This is the desire of many Ukrainians to buy cheap tours from a company that has been operating on the market for a relatively short period of time. Obviously, such tour operator was not able to cope with the crowd of customers. But the most interesting thing is that the Ukrainians have not abandoned the services of the firm that had provoked the tourist collapse. As a result, again 170 Ukrainians cannot get on board of their plane at Antalya airport. As they say, the experience of others does not teach anything. If our fellow citizens do not make a corresponding conclusion, the tourist collapses will keep repeating themselves from year to year. Prevention of such situations is quite an easy task. It must be remembered that a good service cannot be cheap. So, use the services of proven tour operators who have a successful experience and reputation. Then the chances of repeating the tourist collapse will be minimal.
As it is said, the experience of others does not teach anything. If our fellow citizens do not make the right conclusion for themselves, the tourist collapses will keep repeating themselves from year to year. It is quite easy to prevent such situations. It must be remembered that a good service cannot be offered cheap. So, use the services of reputable tour operators who have successful experience and reputation. This will keep the chances of repeating the tourist collapse to the minimum.
Do not forget about the expediency of purchasing a travel insurance, given the instability of the market of tourist services. The cost of such insurance not high and if the mentioned situations arise it will be possible to compensate losses at the expense of the insurance indemnity. However, it should be remembered that the insurance contract should also be carefully studied, so as not to get an additional headache in case of occurrence of an insured event.