Pensioners furious after Covid rules force them to cancel holiday

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A couple are furious as they remain £1,000 out of pocket one year on from having to cancel their holiday due to Covid rules.

Pearl and Alan Osborne booked a trip to Lanzarote in the hope to enjoy their first holiday in three years but, on the night before their flight, they found Covid rules had been changed when re-entering the country.

The rules meant those entering the country had to take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative test, which was not feasible for Alan, 76, who had an important medical appointment booked two days after he landed.

Alan is classified as extremely vulnerable, having had chemotherapy for a rare incurable form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma called Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.

The great-grandparents, who are from Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, say they were left with no choice but to abandon their holiday and now, more than one year on, they continue to battle to get compensation for their £1,040 trip, plus costs for the unused tests.

Jet2 says the tourists “did not contact” the business until after his outbound flight had departed, Teesside Live reports.

Speaking today, Alan said: “We hadn’t had a holiday for about three years so we got to about November last year and we hadn’t really planned anything and we just thought we have got to go for it because it was the first time we had been in the clear.

“On Sunday, November 21, we sat down and said ‘let’s do it!’ Let’s go as soon as we can. At the time you had to do a lateral flow test when you returned within two days and that was it, no other restrictions.

“We booked the holiday with Jet2 and took out the travel insurance and ordered the tests and they were like £20 each. My wife is on insulin and I am on tablets for irregular heart and other things and I had lymphoma. Actually packing is a fine art for us because we have got to take the right tablets, her injections. From Sunday to Saturday, we were virtually every day doing a bit of packing.”

By the afternoon of Saturday, November 27, the couple were ready and raring for their flights with bags packed. Their son popped over to visit and asked whether the couple had heard about the new Covid rules, which had just been announced by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson that day to tackle the Omicron wave.

The regulation change meant all international arrivals were made to take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative test. Other rules included the re-introduction of face masks in shops and on public transport.

Alan said he booked the holiday deliberately before his medical appointment just in case anything came from it. He said: “We couldn’t go on holiday unless I missed that appointment. At 8pm, on a Saturday night at the end of November, there is no way I can rearrange any appointments obviously.

“We actually sat here and talked about it for an hour and decided that we couldn’t go because I would have to miss the appointment. We didn’t even consider going to the appointment illegally – which was an option. I could’ve come back from holiday and gone to the appointment on Tuesday morning and said nothing when I should have been in self-isolation.”

Alan claims he tried to phone Jet2 on the Saturday night at 10pm but said there was “no facility in Jet2 for cancelling a holiday after 6pm on a Saturday” and that the holiday went through as a no-show.

A Jet2 spokesperson said: “We have looked into this matter from November 2021 and can confirm that Mr Osborne did not contact us until after his outbound flight had departed, however, the booking was subject to our usual terms and conditions.

“We did offer Mr Osborne insurance with Covid cover included, however, this option was not taken. We always advise customers to ensure they have appropriate travel insurance in place.”

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After making the call to abandon the holiday, the battle for compensation began, which has raged for over a year. Alan is content that Jet2 and Travel Time have acted within their contractual entitlement but believes the government should be stepping in when it comes to compensation.

Alan said: “The first thing I did was phone Jet2 when the office was open. They said that in their terms and conditions we weren’t entitled to any refund because it was a no-show. I then put a claim in for travel insurance. They came back and turned it down on the basis that there is no provision in the policy for cancellation due to covid conditions.

“I then wrote an email to my local MP Matt Vickers on the basis that I have had this loss due to covid and the airline has no responsibility, the insurance has no responsibility, can you compensate me?”

The duo then contacted the government in March 2022, hoping to claim through a fund for losses due to Covid. They eventually received an email from the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying compensation had to come from the travel agent.

After another round of contacting both Jet2 and then being told to go back to the travel insurance, they were told once again by both that they could not claim any money back. They then went to the Financial Ombudsman, which sided with the travel Insurance company, as there was no provision for cancellation due to changes in Covid regulations.

Alan has since sent emails to multiple members of the Conservative Party as well as Mr Vickers again, but has not heard anything back. He said: “We cannot accept that the loss of over £1,000 is ‘tough’ or ‘the luck of the draw’, especially in the current cost of living crisis.”

The Civil Aviation Authority, which oversees all aspects of civil aviation in the UK, said that as the holiday wasn’t cancelled, the passenger would not be entitled to a full refund in this instance. TravelTime Travel Insurance and the policy’s insurer, Chaucer, declined to comment.

A spokesperson for the Financial Ombudsman Service said: “The Financial Ombudsman Service looks at each complaint on its own individual merits. When investigating complaints, we will reach a fair and reasonable decision based on all the circumstances of the case.

“We do this by taking into account relevant law and regulations, regulators’ rules, guidance and standards, codes of practice and, where appropriate, what the ombudsman considers to have been good industry practice at the relevant time.”

Matt Vickers did not wish to comment.

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