A dispute between the French government and the country’s largest union over employment law has led to protests across France. As a result, the militant CGT union federation has blockaded oil refineries and depots – making petrol considerably harder to come by. With half-term in full swing, many UK residents will fear disruption to their travels.

Those who have package holidays booked in France will face particular difficulty when it comes to claiming a refund – should they not be able to reach their destination.

Anyone who fears their package holidays may be disturbed, should check out the following advice from Frank Brehany, consumer director of HolidayTravelWatch.

What qualifies as a package holiday?
A package is a holiday that is for more than 24 hours and contains at least two elements, such as transport and accommodation. It is important to understand this, as consumer rights are held under the Package Travel Regulations.
For holidaymakers who are reliant on their vehicles for their holidays or are travelling by train and having holiday accommodation means that they will likely have a package deal.

Holidaymakers should research their exact route to highlight the issues of disruption so they can argue successfully that a significant change has arisen since booking their package before their departure.
If there are no trains or less likelihood of fuel, coupled with roads or rail lines being closed then this may constitute a significant change before departure under the regulations. Regulations 12 & 13 of the Package Travel Regulations provide substantial refund and change of holiday rights before departure, without penalty.
People should get in touch with the Travel Company they booked through, with the evidence they have gathered, and highlight that there is clear evidence of a significant change.
If they then receive a response that it’s all OK, only to discover it’s not, they can argue that they did what they could to mitigate their situation but the travel company failed to listen to the evidence and take action under their rights under the Regulations.
If they have to go to court, then consumers can demonstrate that they have done all they could but the evidence and their rights were ignored!

Travel Insurance
Holidaymakers should also speak to their travel insurer and establish whether they are happy for them to travel. If not, they should let the travel company know because they will likely be contractually obligated to have insurance – it could be an anticipatory frustration of contract!
Clearly some travel companies are saying it’s OK to travel, but they must not hide behind their terms and conditions and accept that the viability of these contracts may be in jeopardy – they should respect the concerns and the growing evidence and give these rights to consumers!

Be careful when cancelling
Take care not to cancel unilaterally because it’s likely that the holiday company will use the terms and conditions to retain the monies you paid.

Seek help if needed  
If consumers get stuck in negotiating a change, they should seek independent advices as quickly as possible!