or rather lack of it…
A personal rant on why going on holiday with the “Big Boys” gives you no real protection or help when it comes to flight delay.
If you landed here then you searched for it, it’s not linked in a big way from anywhere – so maybe you’ve suffered with the great big travel company called Thomson Holidays part of the massive TUI group that includes First Choice, Crystal, Late Rooms, Austravel, Sunsail, SkiBound, Ski Alpine, SkiClass, Gullivers Sports Travel, Hayes & Jarvis, Exodus, Flexiski, Off The Piste etc – get the picture?
I’ve no axe to grind about the many good people who work for TUI including the First Choice Ski and Crystal Ski guys I know but using massive Tour Operators doesn’t actually give you anything extra and I believe gives you a worse holiday experience. I’d support local independent operators any day of the week – ones that respond to emails, texts, tweets, letters and don’t leave you hanging on the phone at 10p per minute to a call centre for hours on end…
There is the trap of course of the well priced package holiday with charter flight from the local airport.
Let me explain…
Back at the end of April I was delayed 26 hours on a Birmingham to Cancun BHX – CUN Thomson Airways flight. Arrived at Birmingham Airport around 7am, eventually departed around 4pm, then came straight back down in to Manchester. A spare part couldn’t be found locally and had to be sent from Luton, then The Crew ended up being out of hours so it was then the next day when we flew on to Cancun, Mexico, around 11:15am.
We were put up in a grubby airport motel that night. For food and drink we got £13 of vouchers for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner from 6am in the morning until take-off at 11:15am the next morning (bare in mind a pizza at the airport is £11). The motel put breakfast on too. No alcohol with the vouchers allowed either!
A bit irrelevant, but the day before check-in, airport lounge access, taxi transfer etc that came with this top-end holiday were a complete waste of time as we had to queue, collect bags, queue, get on coach, queue, check-in hotel, queue, have breakfast, queue, check out of hotel, queue, get coach, queue, check-in again….. (I hate queuing with a passion, rather use a drag lift any day of the week).
So it ends up we lost over a day of a seriously top-end 5 star luxury all-inclusive resort holiday – yep, even the mini bar was included.
Forgetting about delay compensation (now with 26 hours and over 3,500km distance this would be up to 600 Euros by law if you live in the EC anywhere except the UK but the UK Airlines are arguing this in the Euro Courts to delay paying out). Actually that does seem quite excessive to me.
But this wasn’t terrorism, war, bad weather, ash clouds, air traffic control strikes etc – not classed as extraordinary circumstances according to the CAA.
My argument is I had a 10 day holiday, I only got 9 days – what if I only got 5 days holiday?
“I can only apologise for the inconvenience caused but we will not be providing any compensation for this issue”. Can this be right? They saved paying for a nights 5 star accommodation for a start.
It’s not about the money now anyway, but I really did think that by traveling on a package with the worlds largest travel company I would have been looked after better. So what is the point of package holidays?
Thomson Holidays Booking Conditions mention the standard food, drink and overnight accommodation (they have to do this by law though) but nothing about not delivering your holiday.
They do mention this though: If THEY significantly change your holiday the day before you fly, your maximum compensation is money back plus £40. You’re left in the lurch (and of course you won’t actually get the money back for several days). Of course if you wanted to change things this late you would end up losing all your money.
Fly with Virgin or BA and they’d have put me on the next flight – or got me there via Miami on a code share / partner etc. Fly with easyJet to Geneva in the Winter – they’ve over 60 flights there on a Saturday and you’d have a chance getting there. But on a charter if it’s broke, you’ve had it.
So what is the point of package holidays? Especially with the big operators?
Be in control yourself and be allowed to make decisions on abandoning your holiday or doing something else so you are not trapped in an airport, know and own the individual components of your holiday and know the Ts & Cs, book a scheduled flight if possible, pay by credit card and be very well insured.
And support your local, independent operators, chalet companies, apartment owners, transfer companies and independent bars, hotels & restaurants etc – Real people with real businesses that you can talk to – What’s the chance of getting the personal mobile phone number off the head of TUI?
ABTA, ATOL, CAA, ATUC or EUclaim.co.uk next?