A travel agency has been ordered to pay four Maltese holidaymakers €8,435 (Lm3,621) in damages between them because it had failed to inform them they needed a visa to board a cruise liner to Alaska.

Mr Justice Geoffrey Valenzia, sitting in the First Hall of the Civil Court, heard that Charles and Rita Attard, Jesmond Calleja and Sarah Maria Attard had booked a cruise to Alaska through ATV Travel Limited.

The holiday, that had cost €12,653 (Lm5,432), included four days in Vancouver, Canada, from where they were to board a Carnival cruise liner to Alaska in May 2006. But once in Vancouver, they were not allowed to board the cruise liner as they did not have a US visa. The four disappointed holidaymakers headed back to Malta where ATV offered them a complimentary holiday but they declined the offer and initiated court proceedings for damages.

The holidaymakers held the travel agency responsible for the damages they suffered as it never informed them they needed a visa.

ATV argued it had provided the customers with the necessary information and exhibited brochures that included such information and which had been handed to them before they set off on their holiday.

However, the judge ruled that the travel agency was in duty bound by EU law to clearly inform travellers about any documentation required before the final contract was reached with them. The brochures did not contain clear information that a visa was required for the cruise to Alaska. They merely indicated the travellers' general responsibilities that included that it was their responsibility to obtain the necessary travel documents and visas.

The court ruled that the travel agency was responsible for what had happened. However, the holidaymakers were also partly responsible as it was their responsibility to check about visa requirements.

It transpired from the evidence by Charles Attard that they were not even aware that Alaska was part of the US. The court ruled that it was their responsibility to know where they were headed.

The judge found that ATV was two thirds responsible for the damages suffered by the holidaymakers who were one third responsible.

Lawyers Ian Spiteri Bailey and Ingrid Bianco appeared for the holidaymakers.

Lawyer Simon Tortell represented ATV Travel.

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