Yes, travel agencies and travel agents are subject to specific laws. A travel agency is a business that makes arrangements for individuals who are traveling, including booking airline tickets and hotel rooms.
Travel agencies and their agents are subject to travel law. Travel law regulates the travel industry. Travel law includes:
- Federal laws;
- State laws;
- Common law; and
- International laws.
Each state has consumer disclosure and fraud statutes as well as refund policy requirements for businesses that arrange and/or sell travel services. Some states have created specific laws for regulation, registration, and licensing for those who sell travel. The majority of states do not require travel agents to obtain a license. However, California and Florida require travel agents to register with the applicable state agency.
What are the Responsibilities of Travel Agents?
Travel agents have many responsibilities. A travel agent definition is someone who sells and arranges transportation, accommodations, tours, and/or trips for travelers. They are fiduciaries, or representatives, of their customers. They are responsible for general duties in arranging travel plans. A travel agent should:
- Make and confirm reservations, including itinerary changes and delivery of tickets;
- Disclose the identity of tour operator and/or the supplier responsible for the services;
- Vouch for the reliability of the supplier and/or provide a warranty for services;
- Investigate the availability of travel services, such as cancelled flights and/or overbooked hotels;
- Convey needed information and provide needed travel documentation;
- Provide information on health and safety hazards;
- Advise on the availability of travel insurance; and
- Inform customers of any restrictions on transportation tickets.
What are the Legal Duties and Obligations of Travel Agents?
According to the state courts, travel agents have a higher standard of care because they have a special relationship with their customers. This includes special duties and obligations owed to their customers. Travel agents duties and obligations include:
- A duty to warn the customer;
- A duty to investigate and disclose;
- A duty to inform;
- A duty to make reservations; and
- A duty to confirm reservations.
The duty to warn the customer includes a duty to reveal any negative information they have regarding the destination of the traveler. An example of this is if the traveler is going to a high crime area.
The duty to investigate and disclose includes a duty to investigate travel plans and be knowledgeable about the area to which the traveler is going. This includes knowing if there are certain conditions that would affect the consumers travel plans, such as a community event that may cause travel interference or delays.
The travel agent’s duty to inform means the agent has a duty to inform their clients about important travel information. They must inform clients about things such as:
- Limitations on ticket changes;
- Documents needed to travel;
- Whether certain countries have requirements; and
- The availability of travel insurance.
The travel agent has a duty to make reservations at the request of the customer. The travel agent also has a duty to confirm those reservations and make sure they are ready for the customer.
What is Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance reimburses a traveler for costs related to events that may occur during their trip. It is designed to cover those who purchase coverage for financial implications of issues that may arise during their trip. It may include costs incurred prior to travel, such as non-refundable tickets or hotel stays and/or events that occur during a trip, including travel interruptions and medical expenses.
Travel insurance usually covers 5 main categories, including:
- Trip cancellations;
- Travel medical coverage;
- Major medical coverage;
- Emergency medical evacuation; and/or
- Accidental death/flight accident.
Travel insurance is an optional coverage that the traveler can purchase when they book their trip. Should they wish, a lawyer can review the terms and conditions of any travel insurance.
Is Trip Insurance Required?
As noted above, trip or travel insurance is an optional coverage a traveler may purchase prior to taking a trip. In most cases, an individual’s homeowner’s insurance and/or health insurance policies will cover any medical costs or lost property, while at home or traveling. An individual’s life insurance policy will usually cover the individual and their family members while traveling. Additionally, airlines must reimburse a passenger if they lose their baggage.
A traveler can also purchase trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance, which will cover any losses that are not covered by other insurance. This can be helpful to protect the cost of the trip, especially if it must be cut short due to unforeseen circumstances.
Travel can be extremely expensive, especially abroad. Trip insurance may assist with costs of travel delay and/or lost or damaged luggage if the airline fails to fully compensate the traveler. It may also protect a traveler from costly medical bills in the event they are injured or become ill during their trip. Trip insurance may cover extreme unforeseen circumstances such as emergency medical evacuation, accidental death and/or flight accidents.
Can My Travel Agent Be Liable for Problems I Encounter on My Trip?
There are times when travel agents may be liable for problems a customer encounters. Travel agents may be liable to their customers for:
- Violations of general duties;
- Fraudulent misrepresentations; and/or
- Violations of applicable state regulations.
Some common issues travelers may encounter include:
- An injury;
- A delay;
- A cancellation;
- Lost, stolen and/or damaged baggage;
- A violation of consumer protection laws; and/or
- A deceptive port charge.
Sometimes, when an individual books a vacation, they may have to sign a travel agency contract. These contracts are signed at the time the traveler books their trip. They may include:
- Baggage fees;
- Travel agent obligations;
- Payment terms;
- Additional fees;
- Travel documents;
- Governing laws; and/or
- Any other necessary clauses.
Do Travel Agents Need Insurance?
Yes, similar to other commercial businesses, travel agents benefit from obtaining business insurance to protect them from liability. Travel agent or travel agency insurance often comes in 2 forms: professional liability insurance and general liability insurance.
Travel agent liability insurance, or professional liability insurance, protects a travel agent for any errors that occur in business activities. It also assists when the travel agent is sued by a customer for not providing the service that the customer was due to receive per their contract.
General liability insurance protects travel agents and travel agencies in their officers where they meet with clients. This is generally for protection in case a claim related to an injury, such as a slip and fall accident, occurs.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have a Claim against My Travel Agent?
Yes, travel laws can be complex and vary by jurisdiction. An experienced business lawyer will be able to assist you with any aspects of travel law. Every state has specific regulations regarding travel sellers. Travel law includes domestic and international laws. For these reasons, it is important to obtain the services of a lawyer to help navigate any claims.
A lawyer can assist with reviewing any contracts and/or documentation and determine if a claim exists. A lawyer can also represent you during any court proceedings or alternative dispute resolution processes, if necessary. A lawyer can also assist you with any issues that arise from travel insurance.