As for thousands of other travellers hit by the Covid crisis, it has been a gruelling rollercoaster for Thalia who reckons the struggle has taken the equivalent of two weeks sending emails and making calls. “I’m a resilient, self-made businesswoman but the worry of never recovering £8,000 has given me sleepless nights,” she said.
Thalia booked her package with affordable luxury specialist Best At Travel in three instalments well ahead of the two-week trip in early April.
But as borders closed and travel restrictions increased she sought guidance from the tour operator about what was happening.
++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer and small business champion Maisha Frost on firstname.lastname@example.org ++;
In mid-March she was told she would get a full refund from her insurer and the company would supply the cancellation invoice she needed, once she requested it officially.
However customers buying packages enjoy special regulatory protection in the shape of full refunds for cancellations and, as Thalia is now aware, because of this travel insurers do not cover them in their policies.
In her case following the advice she was given led to a double whammy.
Her insurer rejected her claim, and she was then on the record as requesting a cancellation which meant she had broken the contract, disqualified herself and lost her rights.
Increasingly sent round in circles when she then claimed chargebacks through her credit card, bafflingly her two smaller instalments were refunded.
But the biggest £6,252 one was challenged and recredited to the company.
“This was on the grounds I had cancelled,” she explained.
“This was true but I only did it because of the advice. I felt blocked at every turn, and am confused as to what the rules really mean for customers in practice.
“I realise how difficult it is for all of us in business at the moment, but as well as us missing out on a special family reunion, I thought the way the matter had been handled could not be right.”
Crusader asked Best At Travel to look again at Thalia’s case, which we agreed was complicated and occurred amid very difficult circumstances, and it has refunded the balance.
Acknowledging mistakes initially resulting from the demands caused by Covid, the company apologised for the delay saying “we all recognise how frustrating all of this process has been”.
Holidaymakers, when planning your trip and always before booking: think twice before paying in full before you need to, double check if your holiday is officially a package (giving you more protection), then before booking get the company to highlight what the cancellation and refund terms are.
This may be the company referring you to the terms and conditions on their website, but ask them to identify exactly in writing what conditions apply – for example number 4, say in their list.
Then check yourself.
That will save you wading through loads of small print and safeguard you because you will know where you stand beforehand if things go wrong.
Check review sites too.