Almost 100 customers of Britain’s biggest holiday firm endured a nightmare start to their cruise holiday – only to be told to “pursue a claim” through their travel insurer, rather than informed of their right to claim thousands of pounds of compensation from Tui.
Holidaymakers from northeast England who booked a Mediterranean voyage with Tui’s cruise brand, Marella, should have spent the first evening dining aboard Discovery 2 as she sailed away from the island of Mallorca.
Instead, 99 passengers were stranded at Newcastle airport because of what the company called “operational changes”.
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Tui has now admitted to The Independent that all the passengers are due hundreds of pounds in compensation each, but has not explained why they were given a different impression.
At lunchtime on 25 May, the holidaymakers checked in at Newcastle airport for the departure of their 3pm flight to Palma in Mallorca, where their cruise ship awaited.
But the flight did not depart until almost midnight, by which time Discovery 2 had long since sailed.
Brenda Stephenson, 72, was travelling with her husband Richard, who is 75. She said: “It was atrocious, no one had any information.”
The couple, from South Shields, grew increasingly alarmed as it became clear that they would be travelling through the night.
“At our age we would never plan to travel overnight,” said Mrs Stephenson.
They were told that they would catch up with the cruise at Palamos on the Costa Brava, her next port of call. But instead of flying the passengers direct to Girona, which is very close to where the ship would dock, Tui flew them to Palma first – where they arrived at 3am.
They had to collect all their luggage, and line up to check in again for a 6am flight – to Barcelona, rather than Girona.
From Barcelona airport, the weary travellers were put on buses for two hours, finally joining the ship halfway through day two.
“We were tired and feeling sick,” said Mrs Stephenson. “What a start for a cruise holiday, especially when you’re going for only a week.”
European air passengers’ rights rules stipulate that airlines must provide disrupted passengers with information about their entitlement.
In addition, under the Package Travel Regulations, tour operators are required to pay compensation when a holiday is not delivered as promised.
The travel firm owes each passenger €400 (£350) in cash compensation for the flight delay, plus a refund of the portion of the cruise they missed. In the case of the Stephensons, who had paid £2,100 for their trip, recompense of £300 for the loss of holiday would be appropriate – representing a total of £1,000.
Yet instead of informing passengers about their rights, Tui simply gave them a letter apologising for the delay, and advised them to claim from their insurance company.
“If you are covered by your holiday insurance and would like to make a claim, the following information will help you.” It went on to say that the delay was caused by “a technical issue within the fleet”.
On boarding the ship, Mrs Stephenson spoke to the customer service manager. “She advised me to write a letter of complaint and she would send it with her weekly log report to the UK,” said Mrs Stephenson.
Two days after returning from the cruise, she sent a copy of the same letter to Tui. The company initially said it had received neither.
Mrs Stephenson said: “I am a very unhappy customer and as each day goes by am getting more and more upset.
“I paid my money for the cruise and Tui let me down and continues to do so.”
A spokesperson for Tui said: “We’d like to sincerely apologise to customers on board flight TOM1628 on 25 May which was delayed due to operational issues.
“Customers on this flight are entitled to compensation in line with regulations and should have been provided with a leaflet when they arrived at the airport with information regarding this. We are investigating why this didn’t happen on this occasion.
“We will be in contact with all affected customers to apologise and arrange their compensation and offer a gesture of goodwill. We know delays can be very frustrating and we would like to thank all customers for their patience.”
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