When I started research into this episode of Right On the term “dynamic packaging” kept cropping up. Dynamic what? I realised very quickly that it does not refer to some fancy new way of packaging up food! And yes, it is more a term that people in the travel industry use. As it turns out, though, it’s a very important phrase in terms of consumer rights.
When Thomas Cook dreamt up the idea of package holidays back in the 1840s did he ever imagine that it would lead to this? People booking dynamic packages instead of package holidays? The reality is that all things to do with booking holidays have changed, especially now that a lot of the business is via the internet. And that’s where the term dynamic packaging comes in. Many people want more choice, more flexibility, and they are more reluctant to fork out for a package holiday that leaves no room for personal preferences.
Dynamic packaging is where customers put together their own holidays, by mixing and matching the various elements themselves, as opposed to buying a traditional pre-defined package. Some call it DIY (do-it-yourself) packages. Dynamic packaging is mostly performed on web sites, with the different elements bought on one site or through partner sites. An airline, for example, will sell you the flights and then propose a rental car, a hotel, a tour of a city, restaurants, etc. If you have already been putting the elements of a vacation together like this yourself, then you have already been indulging in a bit of dynamic packaging without realising it. But it’s not all sunshine!
As I explain in my report, a lot of this dynamic packaging is actually not covered by current European rules on package holidays. The concept of dynamic packaging came well after the Package Travel Directive of 1990 was drawn up, and that’s why officials in Brussels are keen to reform it. At the end of 2009 it was estimated that 23 per cent of EU consumers were booking dynamic packages, with the figure at more than 40 per cent in countries like Ireland and Sweden. Now, a few years later, the figures are likely to be much higher.
One survey showed that 67 per cent of people booking dynamic packages not covered by the Package Travel Directive wrongly believed they were legally protected. The same survey showed that, on average, a dynamic package that goes wrong results in a loss of almost 600 euros for the consumer. Officials say in 1997 about 98 per cent of passengers travelling from the UK on leisure flights were protected by the EU’s Package Travel Directive, whereas in 2005 this figure fell to less than 50 per cent.
There’s a word of caution, however, from the European Commission to those who think protection will be extended to all holiday travellers in the review that’s underway. It says: “It is important to note that genuinely separate bookings where the consumer buys different components from different sellers/websites that are not linked or co-branded are generally not covered by the review. These ‘independent travel arrangements’ are not considered part of the Package Holiday Sector.” Of course, there are other rules and regulations that come into play regarding flights, so when problems arise over cancellations, delays, lost bags, etc, there is still the possibility of some redress.
By Seamus Kearney.