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Published 23 May 2023
In a recent judgment from Chester County Court, it has been held that a domestic school trip is covered by The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 ('the Regulations').
The case of Cledford Primary School v Travel Class Limited t/a JC Adventures  involved a trip to Shrewsbury, England for Year 6 students. The trip was initially planned for 7 October 2020 but was later rescheduled to 29 March 2021.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing Government restrictions on movement and travel, the school cancelled the trip on 29 September 2020 (6 months before it was due to go ahead).
The trip was for 3 nights and included accommodation, board and various activities such as archery, abseiling and kayaking.
DAC Beachcroft submitted on behalf of the claimant that this trip was protected by the Regulations and that the school were entitled to a full refund following the cancellation. The features and elements included within the trip, in addition to the way in which the trip was sold, meant that this was a ‘package’ as defined by the Regulations.
The Regulations are implied into every 'package' travel contract.
As the Regulations applied to this trip, under Regulation 12(7) the claimant ought to be entitled to a full refund of the sums paid within fourteen days, upon the cancellation of this trip, due to the unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring at the place of destination surrounding COVID-19 and the ongoing Government Coronavirus restrictions.
DAC Beachcroft successfully argued that the school’s cancellation was reasonable in all the circumstances, as there was no prospect or real possibility of the trip going ahead in the next 6 months. The claimant relied on the Government's statements and guidance which said that schools were advised against going on overnight educational residential visits. In addition, the cancellation occurred around the time when the UK Government announced further national measures to address the rising number of COVID-19 cases in England. Some of these measures included continued guidance to work from home, with numbers for group events, including weddings and funerals limited to 15 people, and advice not to meet with people from other households socially in groups of more than six. The then UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, advised that restrictions would remain in place for “perhaps six months”.
Furthermore, the defendant’s residential centre was closed at the time of cancellation and there was no expected date for re-opening.
The defendant argued that the school trip was not covered by the Regulations.
They argued that the trip was not a 'package' and that the trip fell into the 'residential' exclusion contained within Recital 16 of Council Directive 2015/2302. The Directive provides that “accommodation for residential purposes, including for long term language courses, should not be considered as accommodation within the meaning of this Directive”.
The defendant suggested this trip was also exempt from the Regulations as it was both residential and a course providing educational school activities.
In addition, the defendant argued that the trip was not a 'package' as two different types of travel service were not provided. The defendant further stated that the trip was cancelled prematurely and denied that the trip could not take place due to COVID-19.
In the judgment handed down on 18 May 2023, the judge, agreeing with DAC Beachcroft's submissions, held that the trip was covered by the Regulations.
The judge disagreed with the defendant's interpretation of the Directive and the meaning of ‘residential’. The judge found that “I am satisfied that in order for accommodation to be “residential” within the meaning of the Regulations it must, on the basis of the ordinary definition of the word, and by reference to the use of the word in the Directive, have some long term and/or permanent quality, and not be simply accommodation of the nature offered in this booking, that is a standard multi-night holiday booking.”
The judge went on to find that the activities provided by the defendant fell into the category of any other 'tourist services' within the meaning of sub-clause (d) of the definition of “travel service” in Regulation 2(1) and therefore the trip was found to be a 'package'.
The judge accordingly found that the trip was covered by the Regulations and Regulation 12 was implied into the contract.
It was accepted by the judge that the school’s decision to cancel (approximately 6 months in advance) was reasonable in all the circumstances.
The court awarded the claimant school the full amount claimed, plus interest, with legal costs and disbursements in addition.
This decision makes it clear that schools, colleges, universities and other educational establishments that embark upon domestic activity trips with overnight stays, even in the course of the usual academic year, are in principle protected by the Regulations. Even in circumstances where the terms and conditions of such a booking don't provide for a contractual entitlement to a refund, such establishments have recourse to their statutory rights in order to obtain a refund of funds paid for a trip that cannot go ahead.
Our Recoveries Team deal with cases like this on a regular basis. For more information or advice, please contact one of our experts.
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