These FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) have been compiled to help you to understand the scheme better. This page will be constantly reviewed and updated. It was last updated on 9th March 2020.
Please read our guidance agreed with ABTA for users of Travel Arbitration and Travel Conciliation in relation to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
What is Arbitration?
Arbitration is a cost effective, speedier and a less formal alternative to resolving your dispute through the courts. It is conducted privately based on written documentation and evidence.
What is Travel Arbitration?
Travel Arbitration is the name of the scheme we operate to resolve disputes between consumers and members of ABTA, The Travel Association. Under the scheme, an Arbitrator is appointed to make a decision (known as an Award) based on the evidence provided to him or her by the parties in dispute. See further down for an explanation of what an Arbitrator is.
The Award is binding on the parties and it takes less time and costs less money to take a dispute through arbitration than it does to go through the court system. The scheme deals with alleged breaches of contract and / or negligence between customers and Members of ABTA and cannot deal with any criminal cases or those of assault either physical or sexual. The scheme is provided so that customers can have disputes resolved without having to go to court and without having to go to the expense of instructing solicitors (though you may choose to use a solicitor if you like, at your own expense).
You can read the rules of the scheme on the ABTA website at the ABTA’s ADR Schemes page. The rules are very important so if you are thinking of using the scheme you need to read them carefully.
Who runs Travel Arbitration?
Travel Arbitration is a trading brand of Hunt ADR Limited, who run the scheme. Hunt ADR were formed in April 2016 and provide mediation and arbitration services to a number of organisations and private parties as well as providing training to mediators and other professionals. Its founder and managing director, Gregory Hunt, has worked on the ABTA Arbitration Scheme before – he has been administrator, manager and director responsible for the scheme at all of its previous operators, dating back as far as 1995.
Who are ABTA and what is their involvement?
ABTA is the UK’s largest travel association, representing travel agents and tour operators that sell £37 billion of holidays and other travel arrangements each year. ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for more than 65 years, offering advice and guidance to the travelling public, as well as leading the travel industry in supporting high service standards, working with its members on health and safety, and promoting responsible tourism at home and abroad. ABTA has had an arbitration scheme available to resolve consumer disputes with its members for more than 40 years and now contracts with Hunt ADR to provide the service.
Who are CDRL and what is their involvement?
Travel Arbitration is a Hunt ADR service supported by technology and case management provided by CDRL (Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited). CDRL are a multiple times approved consumer dispute resolution specialist. They operate a number of schemes including AviationADR which resolves disputes between consumers and certain airlines, under the approval of both The Chartered Trading Standards Institute and The Civil Aviation Authority. CDRL’s role in the scheme is to provide administration on behalf of Hunt ADR via their case management system. This arrangement has helped reduce the cost of arbitration as the CDRL system was already developed and they were chosen by Hunt ADR after a review of available case management systems across the dispute resolution sector.
Is Travel Arbitration independent?
Yes. The contract to deliver Travel Arbitration is between ABTA and Hunt ADR, and not the ABTA Members themselves. This provides an important line of independence between Hunt ADR and the ABTA Member. Hunt ADR has no personal interest in the outcome of a case, our role is to make sure we provide the parties in dispute with clear final awards which end the dispute more quickly and cost-effectively than court would.
Can you advise us on whether we have a good case?
We are unable to offer any guidance on chances of success. For the arbitration scheme to work properly we must remain, at all times, independent and impartial and this means we can only offer procedural guidance, and no advice to either party on the merits of their respective cases.
How much will Travel Arbitration cost me?
The amount you pay depends upon how much you are claiming. If your claim is for an amount up to £7,500, then you pay £90 plus VAT (£108 in total). If your claim is between £7,501 and £25,000, you pay £112.50 plus VAT (£135 in total). These fees are payable to Hunt ADR when making an application and are non-refundable. If your case settles with the ABTA Member before an arbitrator is appointed then you should make sure that you include a re-imbursement of your registration fee in the settlement with the ABTA Member.
How do I make an application to use Travel Arbitration?
Before you can apply to use the scheme you must have complained to the ABTA Member and given them the opportunity to resolve your complaint. If they are unable to then you can take your complaint to ABTA who will try and help you and the other party find a solution. Once that route is exhausted, ABTA will write to you to let you know about what you could do next. They will tell you you have the option to go to court or to arbitration. You can only apply to use the scheme once you have that communication from ABTA, which includes a reference number which allows you to access the application portal. Please remember that your application must be made within 18 months from your return date from holiday.
I don’t want to use the portal, can I apply via post?
Yes, of course. As long as you have the application form issued by ABTA and your unique reference number you can apply by post. Details are given at the appropriate time. Please remember that your application must be made within 18 months from your return date from holiday.
What is an arbitrator?
An arbitrator is a neutral person who makes a legal and binding decision (Award) after considering the evidence that both the consumer and the ABTA Member submit. The role of an arbitrator is similar to that of a judge and the award will be conducted fairly and neutrally. Arbitration is a legal process and the arbitrator must make his decision based on the law.
Our arbitrators are all independent professionals who are members of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and have award writing experience. Each arbitrator has either been invited to join the panel based on their expertise and gravitas, or has otherwise satisfied us of their ability to arbitrate on disputes of this nature. Members of the panel include past Chairmen, Branch Chairmen and Trustees / Senior Committee Members of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. It is important to note that arbitrators are not employed by Hunt ADR, they are contracted to provide arbitrations on a case by case basis. This makes it easier for Hunt ADR to remove an arbitrator from its list or to add more arbitrators in the future. The current list includes arbitrators who have published awards in thousands of cases, many of them in ABTA Arbitrations for previous operators of the scheme. Arbitrators are appointed according to a ‘cab rank’ system used widely in legal cases. This means that the arbitrator is selected on their availability and not specifically chosen for a particular case.
What is an Award?
The Award is the document with the decision that the arbitrator produces once he or she has considered all the evidence. All awards must stand up to scrutiny in the High Court if they are appealed, which means they take matters of independence and impartiality very seriously.The parties are legally bound by the Award, which is enforceable in the courts, subject to any provisions in the rules. It contains legally binding orders for the parties and details of the case and the arbitrator’s explanation as to why he or she decided the case as they did. When parties receive the Award it is our goal that it will be clearly written and understandable and not contain legal jargon. Many awards are proof read by professional arbitration award proof readers before they are issued to ensure that accidental slips and errors are kept to a minimum. We also spot check awards post-publication and will follow up with any comments including specifying areas for praise and for improvement.
Can I claim for flight delays?
No, this scheme does not deal with flight delay claims, they are dealt with by other providers approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) specifically to deal with flight delays. If your claim is for flight delay only then you may wish to visit Claiming for Costs and Compensation on the CAA website. If your claim is for issues including flight delay, then the arbitrator will only be able to deal with the other issues and will not deal with flight delays.
What happens if I win or if I lose?
If you win the ABTA Member will send you the money they owe you directly. Payment is due within 21 days from the date the award is issued, unless either party has approached Hunt ADR (within 14 days of the Award being issued) asking for an Appeal. If you do not receive payment within 21 days, then you should, in the first instance, contact ABTA.
If you lose or you’re awarded less than, or the same as, an amount that was previously offered to you by the ABTA Member, you’ll be ordered to pay a further amount to the ABTA Member, which will be less than or equal to the sum you paid as a registration fee – but no more than that. For example, if the ABTA Member offers you £500 and you decline the offer, and then the Arbitrator awards you £400, you will have to pay the equivalent of your registration fee back to the ABTA Member. The Arbitrator does have the power to deduct any sum from what has been awarded. You are also responsible for the cost of making your case (e.g. photocopying, postage, etc.)
How does the Arbitrator decide the case?
The Arbitrator decides the case purely on the arguments and evidence presented by the parties. The parties must prove their case on the balance of probability to the satisfaction of the Arbitrator. The Arbitrator assesses the evidence and analyses the terms of the contract, which have been agreed to by you and the Respondent when the booking was made. The Arbitrator specifically looks for a proven breach of this contract.
The Arbitrator is restricted to consideration of the documents and evidence submitted. You must therefore make every point and submit all supporting evidence that you consider relevant. You must also retrieve and submit any documents sent previously to any other body and upon which you intend to rely.
Do I need to prove my claim or does the Respondent have to prove I am wrong?
The burden of proof is on you, as it would be in court, and in order to prove your claim you should submit all the evidence that you feel supports it. Your claim should be set out in date order, listing the events which have led to the claim, and referring to each supporting document in respect of each allegation.
Do not exaggerate the claim, if you are unable to produce evidence to prove any aspect of the claim, consider whether that part should be included or what justifies it. Exaggeration may undermine the credibility of your evidence.
How long will it be before I know the outcome?
You should expect to hear the outcome within 8 – 12 weeks from the date that the application for arbitration was received by Hunt ADR.
Can ABTA, the Arbitrator or Hunt ADR advise me on my case?
No. ABTA, the Arbitrator and Hunt ADR are impartial and cannot act as a consultant or adviser to either party. ABTA, the Arbitrator and Hunt ADR can only advise you on procedural matters. If necessary, advice should be sought from a solicitor or Citizens Advice Bureau.
Do I need legal representation?
No, but you can choose to have legal representation if you want to. Arbitrators do not expect Claimants to have legal representation, though you may choose to have it, at your own cost. This is your right. Please remember that your legal costs cannot be reclaimed, even if you win.
If my claim is unsuccessful, what can I do next?
There are only two routes for challenge against the award
- you can appeal through the High Court, within 28 days of receiving the award; or
- you can request an appeal under the ABTA Arbitration Scheme Appeals Procedure. Details of this procedure are supplied by ABTA when they send you details about the scheme. Any application for appeal must be made to Hunt ADR within 14 days of receiving the award.
These deadlines are strictly enforced (we have no power to extend them in any circumstances) and if you do not apply in time, you will lose the right of appeal. There is no other way to challenge the award. You may not like an award (the amount awarded) but remember that does not mean that the award is wrong in law.
Appeals will normally require evidence of a serious error in law or misconduct on the part of the arbitrator. In order to have an appeal considered by the High Court, you may need to instruct a solicitor.
Can I share my Award or the outcome with media, or go to them during the arbitration process?
In simple terms, the Rules of the scheme include a confidentiality clause at Rule 6. Arbitration is a legal process, the rules which you and the other party have entered in to (in your case, voluntarily) state that the matter must be treated as confidential, and if that confidentiality is breached then the ABTA Member / Hunt ADR could seek legal remedy. The rules are governed by the Arbitration Act 1996, and the Act itself is silent on confidentiality. However, this narrative from leading law firm – Bird & Bird – Confidentiality arbitration and UK law – is very useful if you are considering making the award available publicly. The very final paragraph of the advice from Bird & Bird is probably of most relevance on this occasion (read with the rest of the guidance, not in isolation).
Ultimately, you enter in to this process subject to the Rules and if you prefer to run the complaint through the media, that is inconsistent with the arbitration process you and the other party have agreed to enter in to. If the media report your case before the arbitration is completed then any arbitrator appointed may see the coverage and possibly, as a result, could not take on the appointment as it could prejudice their view and the arbitration process. We will not engage with media enquiries about the running of this scheme.
How do I complain about something you have done?
Our complaints procedure sets out how to complain and what you can complain to us about – see Travel Arbitration Complaints Procedure. Please note when considering making a complaint that we can only deal with service complaints, We have no legal right to amend an award, and it may be that your only recourse if you want to have the award changed is to appeal (see If my claim is unsuccessful, what can I do next? above).
Can I have an extension for Christmas and / or Easter periods?
In accordance with protocols followed by ABTA and followed by previous administrators of the ABTA Arbitration Scheme, we will allow extensions over the Christmas and Easter periods to incorporate the relevant bank holidays (e.g. Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday). Other requests for extensions over this period, including but not limited to staff absence, will not qualify as exceptional circumstances. The same rule is applied to all.