Just as consumers - and the travel trade itself - thought regulation and insurance issues around bundled online holidays couldn't get any more of a mess, European regulators today stepped into the furore to launch their own new set of guidelines.
In a statement released late this afternoon, officials in Brussels (headquarters of the European Union) said the existing Package Travel Directive would be extended to include dynamically packaged holidays created over the internet.
The original guidelines, created in 1990 and pre the explosion in online travel, did not include "liability for sub-standard services and protection for insolvency" for holidays.
The EU is now looking to include bundled holidays as part of the legislation - a decision it says was accelerated following the spate of recent travel company failures over the past 18 months (such as XL and Zoom).
In a statement, EU consumer commissioner Meglena Kuneva says:
"We need tough protection that gives all consumers booking a package holiday the peace of mind they deserve, and we need a level playing field so businesses compete on equal terms.
"I am particularly concerned about the issue of insolvency. Anyone who saw the TV pictures of thousands of holidaymakers stranded at airports after bankruptcies from Sky Europe to XL, Futura and Zoom, knows that now is the right time to ask tough questions about extending basic insolvency protection to consumers across the board."
The move follows recent localised challenges to existing package holiday regulations, such as the TravelRepublic vs CAA saga in the UK.
The EU's decision to take up the baton will be seen by some as a typically late entry into the debate.
Officials today said around 40% of all holidays booked in the EU are package holidays, with around 33% dynamically packaged and 25% classed as other arrangements.
Nevertheless, around 56% of all travel is booked independently and therefore not protected by EU directives in the case of a travel provider going under or airline insolvency.
The EU says it plans to introduce "concrete" proposals to review the Package Travel Directive by the Autumn of 2010. The official consultation process kicks off today and ends in early-February 2010.