Holiday horrors that will cost you a fortune

Don’t let big holiday companies get away with shoddy accommodation, delays and rip-off extras. Avoid those holiday hiccups with our top tips.

1) Disastrous packaged deals

In theory, booking packaged holidays early from a reputable travel agent such as Thomson or Thomas Cook should be a fairly safe holiday option. But there are plentiful opportunities for mishaps.

Toria and Anthony Mezouri paid Thomson £4,000 for a family trip to Florida last April. Flights, car hire and a villa for their three children were all included. But the trip soon turned sour. First, a technical fault left the family stranded at Gatwick for 11 hours. Staff refused access to their luggage, leaving their 10-year-old daughter, who has a neurological condition, without medication. They were charged an unexpected £120 extra for car hire in Florida and then found the hotel filthy and full of broken furniture.

The Mezouris’ only mistake was to wait until they returned home to complain. The rejection of their compensation request “felt like a slap in the face”, Mrs Mezouri said.

Thomson said it had fulfilled its obligations in assisting the family during the flight delay and offering £200 in vouchers.

Sean Tipton of package holiday trade body Abta said it was vital to complain immediately if a problem occurred. “Travel companies can nearly always sort out problems at the resort – if you don’t tell them, you haven’t given them an opportunity to fix it.”

Travel agents belonging to Abta must respond to complaints within 28 days. Mr Tipton said compensation was usually paid if claims were “reasonable” – don’t expect a full refund for flight problems. Holidays with non-Abta members are not protected.

Yet many of those who follow the rules face an uphill battle. Steven McKay was offered just £150 compensation for a disappointing £1,500 holiday in the Dominican Republic in May with his partner Sarah O’Toole, 26. The business owner, 29, found the four-star resort in disarray. “It was disgusting, with a filthy, unmade bed, stained towels and a fridge full of scum,” Mr McKay said. Thomson refused to move them to another hotel.

“I wasn’t looking for money, just the holiday we paid for and never got,” Mr McKay said. The Sunday Telegraph’s involvement secured the couple £1,500 from Thomson to spend on another holiday.

Nikkie Rose, 49, has started an online petition against Thomson’s package holidays, gaining 161 signatures in a month. The nurse from Solihull spent £1,300 for a fully catered holiday to Turkey in October 2013, but found the hotel food inedible. “People left, right and centre were getting food poisoning, which I see enough of in my job,” she said. She spent £300 eating out instead. She wrote to Thomson to complain. It took the company 17 weeks to respond with a £75 voucher. Following the intervention of The Telegraph, Thomson has offered £500 cash to cover the accommodation costs.

2) Dodgy airline extras

Budget airlines love selling profitable added extras, such as car hire, airport transfer, luggage and insurance. These are tempting if you are in a rush – but beware.

John Stabler, from Fakenham in Norfolk, bought an airport transfer through Ryanair’s website for a holiday to Italy in April. Ryanair charged £65.82 for a service from Autostradale, which had told Mr Stabler that a man named Frederico would meet him at Trieste airport. But Frederico failed to appear. No one at the airport had heard of Autostradale, so Mr Stabler spent €65 on a taxi to his hotel.

Ryanair refused to refund the cash, stating that Mr Stabler’s contract was blog with Autostradale, not the airline. Mr Stabler emailed Autostradale in English but received no reply. He wrote again in May, this time in Italian – and found success, receiving a refund two months later.

Unfortunately, Ryanair was within its rights to dismiss his complaint; airlines are not liable for services offered by third parties. So if Mr Stabler had not known Italian, he would have never gained a refund.

Abta wants this rule changed. Package holiday providers are responsible for such add-ons, so why not airlines?

Mr Tipton explained that the flight and transfer were treated as separate contracts. “Remember when you click away it’s nothing to do with the airline,” he said.

Some tax and check-in levies charged by airlines can’t be avoided. But by making sure you print off your boarding pass and enter all information correctly you can avoid hefty charges. Ryanair charges £160 and Monarch £120 to change the name on your ticket via their call centres.

Posted in | Leave a comment