Posted: 5th December 2017

Holiday ratWe're fast approaching the time when many people will be planning next year’s summer holidays and hoping that it will be a restful and enjoyable experience.

Sadly, disaster can strike.  We regularly deal with claims for compensation arising out of ruined holidays.

Many people come back and complain to their tour operators and are offered something to make up for the problems that they have encountered.  Very often, it simply isn’t enough.

One case we dealt with recently was a particularly good demonstration of that….

Mr and Mrs HB from Devon came to Williamsons having been offered a very modest amount to compensate them for what they felt was a disaster of a family holiday.

The couple had not been able to take a holiday for ten years and had never had a family holiday with their two children.  Unexpectedly, Mr HB had a tax rebate and so they put aside additional money all year and the children saved their pocket money to spend on holiday.

Said Mrs HB, “We are like so many other families taking your kids for the first time.  It’s such an exciting time going to the travel agents and explaining to the kids this is what you do when you book a holiday to go away”.

They headed for their local First Choice branch explaining that they wanted an autumn holiday in the sun with plenty to do for the entire family, particularly access to a water park for their children aged 9 and 7. In late October, they were off to Zante in Greece.

The nightmare began on the way to the hotel from the airport when they were told that the town was currently closing down at the end of the season.  But things got worse…

The family were to discover on arrival at their hotel room that there were exposed wires on a light fitting on the wall, within reach of the children, and an air conditioning unit leaking down the wall.  Worst of all was the terrible smell in the bathroom – which turned out to be down to the presence of a dead rat in the drain!

WiresElsewhere they encountered other problems which included a dirty pool with sharp broken edging, unemptied bins near the pool swarming with wasps and other insects and mould on the food in the hotel restaurant. Sadly, they were unable to make use of the nearby water park which had closed down at the end of the season.

The family returned devastated after a miserable week.  Mrs HB explained “we would never be in a position to afford this kind of holiday again for years.” 

They took it up with TUI who offered, ex gratia, a very modest three figure sum – in vouchers against the cost of another holiday.  Subsequently they added another £100 to that but it was still a fraction of the cost of the spoilt holiday.  Mr and Mrs HB headed for Williamsons.

“This was a nightmare for these poor people,” observes Michael Williamson. “Fancy waiting ten years and saving all your money to be flown to a dirty hotel in a ghost town with a dead rat and live wires in your room.”

“Nobody would suggest for a moment that First Choice or TUI would choose to put people in this position but they have a legal liability when things go wrong and it’s only right that the holidaymakers should be compensated,” he added.

“The travel company told us of other peoples’ experience of the hotel which suggested that it was all broadly satisfactory.  We asked them what it was supposed to mean.

‘Do you say that our clients are making it up?  Or are you saying that most visitors to this hotel were perfectly happy to have a dead rat in their bathroom, exposed electrical wires in their bedroom and mould on their food?’

RatWe have no doubt that other travellers weren’t quite so unlucky as Mr and Mrs HB and their children on this occasion but you have to deal with the facts of each individual case.”

The travel company wouldn’t budge and so Williamsons issued proceedings on behalf of the HBs.  Those proceedings complained of breaches of express and implied terms of contract, alternatively misrepresentation in the course of sale of the holiday.

“The added advantage for consumers who purchase a “package holiday” within the meaning of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 is that the tour operator will be liable for the proper performance of obligations under the contract, irrespective of whether those obligations are to be performed by the company or by other suppliers of the services e.g. the local hotel”, explains Michael Williamson.

The claim was initially defended but before the frustrated holidaymakers were forced to go to trial, TUI made an offer of settlement worth more than 25 times that originally offered and which the claimants were pleased to accept.  Net of the costs of pursuing the claim, the happy clients still had enough to start planning another foreign holiday.

It’s important to remember that these are specialist claims which tour operators and their lawyers are used to processing and defending.  We have yet to see a case in which a holiday company offer compensation to a disappointed holidaymaker that was, in our view, anywhere near a sum to which they were properly entitled.

When things go wrong, you are almost certainly entitled to compensation not only for the diminution in value of the holiday you purchased but also compensation for distress and disappointment as well as additional out of pocket expenses incurred.  Sometimes the sums involved are not huge but we can usually find proportionate ways of assisting you with these claims.

For more details see Holiday and travel claims through the link or call us on 01460 200450.