Who will pick up the pieces when a DIY holiday booking goes wrong?


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The Independent Travel

Q. I booked to go to Budapest for a short break, outbound with Wizz Air, coming back with easyJet. Our flight out was cancelled because of an electrical fault at Budapest airport. Wizz Air offered to refund the flight, and said I could write to them regarding the cost of the hotel, but cannot guarantee I would get the money back; easyJet refuses to do anything. I did not take out travel insurance. Sophia, London

A. This most unfortunate set of circumstances reveals the hazards of booking outbound and inbound flights with different airlines – and putting together a DIY holiday rather than a proper package.

Had you booked a short-break package through an operator such as Expedia, Cresta or Kirker Holidays, you would be entitled to a full refund of the cost of the trip, including the hotel. But because you chose to put it together yourselves, the hotelier has no obligation to offer a refund: your room is, after all, ready and waiting. Wizz Air offers a glimmer of hope about the hotel bill, though it has no legal obligation.

Neither has Wizz Air any liability for your return flight. Had you booked both legs with the airline, it would have to refund both fares. As it stands, Wizz Air is obliged to offer you the choice between a full refund and a seat on a later flight to Budapest, but for a short break the latter is not much help. Meanwhile, easyJet is entitled to say, approximately, "Our plane is ready to fly you from Budapest – the fact that you can't get there isn't our problem".

The only chance of salvaging anything from easyJet is to change your flight no later than two hours before departure. Go to easyJet.com, select the "Manage My Booking" facility and use the "Transfer flight" option. The fee is £35 (or €42, since you are starting in Europe), plus any difference in fare. But if you paid over €42, there will be some residual value. The airline does not offer a "credit note" facility, so you will need to settle on a trip. It can be on any easyJet route – you do not need to set up another trip to Budapest. You will, of course, have to book and pay for another flight in the opposite direction.