Shameful Treatment of UK Holidaymakers to 'Risk Destinations'!

Since early January, we have been inundated with calls from UK holidaymakers affected by the Civil Strife in Tunisia & Egypt.  Many are in complete despair over the manner in which they have been treated by Travel Companies; many also express with dismay, their complete frustration with the travel advices provided by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office – particularly when they see other country’s citizens being advised not to go to these destinations.  It’s quite simple really; holidaymakers rely upon the gloss of the brochure, the certainty of travel advices for a safe and happy holiday.  As we have demonstrated, the reality is often hidden from the mainstream flow of information – and we suspect that as the next few weeks pass, we will hear from other holidaymakers with stories to tell of their ‘stressful’ experience.  In this article we highlight the holiday complaints we have received, in the holidaymakers own words, and in those comments, we read of the appalling way in which they are treated, for example:

  1. Taking bookings to these destinations 2/3 days before departure then flying the holidaymaker back 2 days later;
  2. Advising holidaymakers on arrival of problems and to remain in hotels, but not providing this information before departure;
  3. No available contact e mail addresses;
  4. Failure to return of telephone calls;
  5. Refusal to provide rights under The Package Travel Regulations;
  6. Refusing to accept that contracts have been frustrated;
  7. Provision of partial and strangely calculated refunds;
  8. Refusal to accept the reality of social unrest;
  9. Failure to provide assistance, particularly in the case of some ‘so-called’ DIY Holidays;
  10. ‘Persuading’ holidaymakers to ‘hang on’ for a week, then reneging on promises on transfers of holidays;
  11. Charging 90% loss of holiday monies, then a transfer charge to a new holiday with the new holiday cost on top, and
  12. As we have previously reported, demands that holidaymakers sign disclaimers;
  13. Tour Companies telling holidaymakers it’s OK to travel without Travel Insurance;
  14. Tour Companies providing ‘replacement’ Travel Insurance without a positive written statement from the Insurer to say that cover would be provided

These are disgraceful complaints!

I thought it would be a good idea to set out the current news items, followed by the interesting range of travel advices!  We then tell the holidaymaker’s story; for ease of reading I have divided these areas by reference to Tunisia & Egypt.

TUNISIA

NEWS LINKS ON TUNISIA:

I have isolated several news items which will help you access information about the current state of Egypt.  These news areas will help you link in to their latest articles:

Al-Jazeera – Video record of street protests -  (19 JANUARY 2011)
Al-Jazeera – Fresh Violence erupts in Tunisia - (6 FEBRUARY 2011)
BBC – Tunisia suspends political party - (6 FEBRUARY 2011)
In These Times – Tunisian Crisis a Measure of Unfinished Revolution - (16 FEBRUARY 2011)
Al-Jazeera – Report of Exodus from Tunisia to Italy by Tunisians - (17 FEBRUARY 2011)

TRAVEL ADVICES:

CURRENT FCO ADVICES ON TUNISIA (17 FEBRUARY 2011)

“all travellers must be aware of the current political and security situation”.

“The political situation in Tunisia is undergoing rapid and dramatic change. There were street protests and violence prior to and following the departure of former President Ben Ali. While all major groups have ended their demonstrations, there are still some protests and industrial action and further unrest remains possible. The situation could last some months”.

Anyone travelling to Tunisia should keep themselves well informed and closely monitor political and security developments”.

British Nationals in Tunisia should take responsibility for their own security”.

“exercise caution, and observe instructions given by local security authorities and tour operators”.

“You may encounter increased security near strategic sites. Approach any members of the security authorities slowly, follow their instructions and present ID on request”.

“Be aware there are groups that may still wish to protest and that demonstrations could occur at any time and in any location across Tunisia”.

“There is a risk of kidnap in Tunisia from terrorists operating in the area of the southern Tunisia/Algeria border, and we advise caution when travelling in such areas. Tourists must seek permission from the Tunisian authorities to enter certain desert areas bordering Algeria and the southern military zones and must travel with licensed guides and/or military escorts. Such trips should be undertaken with a reputable tour company”.

“Because of the unpredictability of demonstrations and an increase in the levels of crime, if you wish to visit sights in the interior it is recommended that you do so with an approved local guide or reputable tour operator”.

You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Check any exclusions....”.

US STATE DEPARTMENT ADVICES TUNISIA (9 FEBRUARY 2011)

“The U.S. Department of State continues to advise U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to the central, western, and southern regions of Tunisia. The situation appears to have stabilized in the coastal touristic zone extending from Tunis in the north to Sousse in the south. The Tunisian government has imposed a 12:00 midnight to 4:00 a.m. nationwide curfew until further notice”.

“Demonstrations have degenerated on several occasions into violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. While demonstrations have not been directed toward Westerners, U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security”.

IRISH DEPARTMENT FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVICES ON TUNISIA (18 FEBRUARY 2011).

"We advise against non-essential travel to most areas of Tunisia at this time. Irish citizens visiting the capital Tunis and the popular tourist areas along the coast should exercise  extreme caution". 

"The security situation is unpredictable as political structures are still undergoing huge change.   The risk of further violence and unrest remains".

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTRY ADVICES ON TUNISIA (15 FEBRUARY 2011)

“The security situation is improving in Tunisia without being completely stabilized”.

“Stays on the coastal zone and on the island of Jerba are [no longer contra-indicated?]”

“Travelers are advised to be vigilant when they leave their hotel, and should in any case to adopt the greatest caution and avoid getting into any kind of gathering”.

CANADIAN DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVICE ON TUNSIA (16 FEBRUARY 2011)

“Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to the central, western, and southern areas of Tunisia due to the unpredictable security situation”.

“The security situation in popular tourist areas along Tunisia’s coast has improved following the recent unrest. Canadians should exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to coastal areas of Tunisia”.

“Following a change of government, the situation is improving and public order has been restored in some areas of the country; however, demonstrations and unrest continue in other areas (see regional warning below). A state of emergency remains in effect in Tunis and other areas but the curfew has been lifted. Canadians should monitor the political and security situation via local media, avoid public gatherings and all demonstrations as they may become violent without warning, and follow the advice of local authorities”.

AUSTRALIAN DEPARTMENT FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVICE ON TUNISIA (18 FEBRUARY 2011)

"We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Tunisia because of the unpredictable security situation, the risk of civil unrest and the threat of kidnapping and terrorist attack".

  “We advise you reconsider your need to travel to Tunisia due to the continuing unpredictable security situation and risk of further civil unrest.

Australians currently in Tunisia should consider leaving if they are concerned about the security situation. Australians remaining in Tunisia should pay close attention to their personal security and monitor the media for new information about safety or security risks.

On 14 January 2011, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali left the country following an internal coup. An interim President has been appointed. A State of Emergency and curfew are now in force. Until the State of Emergency is lifted, a gathering of more than two people is illegal in public places.

Tunisian airspace has reopened but flights may be subject to ongoing disruptions and cancellations. Airports may close at short notice while the State of Emergency is in force and the situation remains volatile. Australians should check with their airlines or travel agents about scheduled flights and possible travel restrictions.

Since 18 December 2010, protests and political unrest have occurred in locations across Tunisia, resulting in multiple fatalities. This activity escalated on 11 January 2011 in Tunis, resulting in further violence, including the use of live bullets and teargas. The security situation remains unpredictable. Australians should avoid all protests. Australians in areas in which protests occur are advised to stay inside and away from windows. Australians should carry their passports at all times and comply with the instructions of the security authorities.

Tunisian authorities have imposed a curfew for the greater Tunis metropolitan area and may impose curfews in other areas and close roads at short notice. The curfew remains in force until further notice and authorities may extend or impose further curfews. Transport and key infrastructure could be subject to periodic disruption. Australians are advised to take particular care during the hours surrounding Friday prayers”

TUNISIA HOLIDAY ‘RISK DESTINATION’ COMPLAINTS

“A group of us are travelling to Tunisia in the last week in March with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]. We are Senior Citizens and are concerned regarding our safety and security. We now wish to cancel and require information re our rights to a refund of our deposits or a credit to an alternative destination or future holiday”.

“On 28th of Dec 2010 I booked a holiday to Tunisia for the 10 April 2011 for 7 nights. Due to the unrest in the country I feel uncomfortable travelling to the country with my children. I have contacted my travel agents who are saying that I will not get a refund because I’m travelling within 12 weeks. My flights are with [NAME OF AIRLINE] and my hotels & transfers are booked by [NAME OF ONLINE ACCOMMODATION PROVIDER]. My travel agents [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] made all the arrangements and only made one payment to them. I understand I will not get a full refund. I rather go to another destination. What’s my position”.

“I booked a holiday to Tunisia through [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] to travel on 24.04.11. I however no longer feel confident to travel there given what is being reported on the news. I contacted [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] to change the holiday to another destination and they are saying I will have to pay £140 admin fees to do so for my husband and I.  Is this fair. I paid part of the balance when I booked in November and the remainder is due today 16.01.11. They said if I cancel I lose my deposit and to change I will have to pay admin fees so either way I lose”.
“hello we have just been flow home from Tunisia as I am sure u are aware of what is happening out there at this time! I have a few problems which both [NAME OF AIRLINE] and [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] don’t wanna help me. we was flown out to Tunisia on the 9 th of January even tho on th 18th December [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] was advisin guests not to leave the complex so why was we flown out and not given the option or even told bout all of this??? secondly I have my daughter who was 2 in Tunisia and we was put on the last [NAME OF AIRLINE] flight out 4 flights went before us its was a complete joke”.

“I am among those who have been repatriated to the UK from Tunisia. I went out there on 2nd January - which was when I learnt about the killings and the rioting”

“I am going to Tunisia on 13 feb, due to the present unrest I have tried to change my holiday with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] but been told I am unable to change as within 70 days is this correct”.

“Three of us (ladies 50+) are booked to go to Tunisia during half term as we work in schools. Due to the volatile nature of the country at the moment I feel it unwise for us to go on the booked date of 20/2/2011. If we wait for the travel company to decide we cant go then we will only know a week before and if we want to change now because we are so close to the travel date we are required to pay an admin fee of £50 (approx). I feel we are now stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. I feel it very unwise for three ladies of our age to go somewhere that is in conflict and I dont believe anything will be solved within the next four weeks”.

“A group of us are travelling to Tunisia in the last week in March with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]. We are Senior Citizens and are concerned regarding our safety and security. We now wish to cancel and require information re our rights to a refund of our deposits or a credit to an alternative destination or future holiday”.

“I am due to holiday in Tunisia with my daughter for 1 week commencing 13th March. (The balance was paid before I was aware of the situation). I have contacted [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] as I no longer wish to travel to Tunisia. I was informed I was extremely lucky to be given the option of paying £35.00 x 2 admin fee to have my holiday changed but I had 24 hours to do so. I made it quite clear I had no intention of holidaying in a country suffering such turmoil and was told if I cancelled I would have to pay over £400 to do so. Can holiday companies really treat their customers in such a shabby way”.

“We booked a.....hotel for golf on the 5th January in Tunisia. Departure date was 24th January. At the time of booking we were not forewarned of the Civil unrest already taking place- and we were unaware of it. We have been offered vouchers for another holiday, but we want our money back. Are we entitled to money back, and if so is it in full?”

“I have booked ([NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]) 4 weeks inclusive holiday in Tunisia starting 13 Feb. I have contacted them to arrange an alternative, anywhere within reason. They are unable to offer me any alternative for 28 days inclusive except for Goa at a 2 star hotel, which is not acceptable. Although they cannot offer me a suitable alternative, I have been told if I cancel at this stage I will lose a substantial percentage of my booking fee.  Is this correct ?”

“on the 12th Jan we flew out to Tunisia via [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]. they returned us to the uk on the 14th jan. stating if we did not return on that emergency flight they would not accept any further responsibility for us including any return flight at a later date. they are offering us £250.00 for the unused accommodation. they have retained £500.00 for our flights and 2 nights accommodation.  My argument is that the situation was unstable prior to our departure & we should have been informed as such prior to our departure giving us the option of not going. they even - via their rep allowed us to upgrade on the 13th ( the same day we were advised we were coming home) obviously encuring further expense. we are out of pocket to the value of £600.00”.

 “hi I need advice on our holiday being curtailed by the recent events in Tunisia am I entitled to reimbursement for expenses incurred during this time +any compensation for lost 2 weeks of holiday & 10 days of being under curfew”

“We have a dispute over the refund we received from our holiday which was brought to an end due to the trouble in Tunisia and being sent home. We asked for clarification on six points regarding the holiday.....
1) why they had not told us there was trouble in the country when we booked
2) why they agreed a booking 7 days before we travelled knowing about the trouble (looked in the tour guide in the hotel reception which stated it had started 12th December 2010)
3) at the hotel we were told that we be given a refund of monies paid for the difference in cost from the [NAME OF HOTEL] to the [NAME OF HOTEL], both in Yasmin Hammamet as it was easier for [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] to deal with when calculating a refund but at the airport we were given a promissory note which we have a copy of , stating we needed a refund not yet paid of 105 dinars, how was it to be paid as Tunisia has a closed currency.
4) we have been sent a voucher for pro-rata of unused accommodation for £220 even though we paid nearer £800 having just 5days of the 14 days booked
5) we tried to ask via the phone and e-mail for [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] to tell us where we cold book a 9day all inclusive holiday abroad for two people, would be very interested to know if we can.
6) we also e-mail [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] via the e-mail confirmation address but this came up as noreply@ [ADDRESS].net, but even though sent have not received a reply”

“We arrived in Tunisia 12/1/11 for a 4 week stay. 13/1/11 political troubles started and 2 days later we were evacuated on the last plane out of Monastir. Our [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] was £984.00 for 2 of us HB and the compensation voucher we have received is £365”.

“I don't know if you would be able to help or not , I just need some advice. I am due to fly to Tunisia on 20th Feb 2011 for a week with my husband.  Due to the problems in Tunisia, we believe that it is not safe for us to travel, and we are sure that we are entitled to change the holiday to another destination. However, the holiday company are not helping us change the holiday, we have been told several different things, one being that they can't transfer the holiday, one being that we have to wait until nearer the time. But I was under the impression that all holidays up until 28th Feb were entitled to change their holiday to another winter holiday. With no transfer fee, but obviously paying any difference between the two holidays.  We do not want to cancel the holiday completely , as we will loose money, but we do not feel safe travelling to Tunisia.  We are having problems with the company, they are called [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]. They are not answering our emails... And they have no contact number for me to be able to speak to someone one on one to discuss this matter, I have left them my telephone number several times, and they have not got back to me still”.

“on the 5-01-11 we went to Tunisia & when the trouble started we were told that we had to leave the hotel as it was closing & moved to another hotel which also closed leaving us to find our own place of safety which we had to pay for our selves our tour company offered no assistance or advice during this time so we had to help ourselves we contacted them on our return home about compensation & a refund of all expenses incured by us & were told they would'nt do this can you help?”

“Having returned from Tunisia on Foreign Office advice I contacted our travel agent [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] by telephone and email asking for some form of repayment. My wife and I were in country 10 nights of a 28night package. The travel agent has written acknowledging we are to receive £332 from a total cost of £1158. Their breakdown costs do not state the actual flight costs but working back from the rebate 28nts accommodation amount to £516 for both of us, which leaves an amount of £640 which they are claiming is the cost of the flights. Having checked the internet for [NAME OF AIRLINE] and [NAME OF AIRLINE] flight costs I find that they charge no where near the amounts quoted by [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]. The costs I have found vary between £98 return each [NAME OF AIRLINE], £179 each return [NAME OF AIRLINE] and £225 return each [NAME OF AIRLINE] all for 28 nt stays”.

“I have a holiday booked for Tunisia and i am very worried about it need to know what i can do , [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] keeps saying leave it another week see what happens but to be honest the family refuses to go now ! what are my rights”.

“can you help with holiday in Tunisia that went wrong due to civil unrest when our holiday operator abandoned us?”

“I recently booked a holiday in Tunisia with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]. The next day I learned of the unrest in that country, and found that it had been going on for a while. I was not told of this at the time of booking, and when I returned to the Travel Agent and asked for a change of destination, I was told that this would cost £140. I would be grateful if you would inform me of my rights in this situation”.

“I am a 70 year old female who has a Package Holiday booked to Tunisia with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR], due to fly from [LOCATION] on the first re-instated flight on the 13th March 2011! The FCO states that there is still a threat of terrorism and Brits. should be aware of this. I do not wish to be used as a guinea pig for the sake of Foreign Policy! [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] are refusing to allow me to re-book another holiday elsewhere unless I am prepared to forfeit 90% of my holiday cost and pay a further £50 fee plus the new holiday costs!!! The Tunisian Holiday is now significantly changed from the original contract in that I would be confined to my hotel and be in constant fear for my personal safety. What about my rights as a consumer? This holiday is no longer fit for purpose!”

EGYPT

NEWS LINKS ON EGYPT:

I have isolated several news items which will help you access information about the current state of Egypt.  These news areas will help you link in to their latest articles:

Al-Jazeera – A New Dawn for Egypt - (13 FEBRUARY 2011)
Al-Jazeera – Workers to Continue Egypt Strikes - (10 FEBRUARY 2011)
Al-Jazeera – Egypt Tensions Persist - (14 FEBRUARY 2011)
Al-Jazeera – Egyptians defy call to end strikes - (16 FEBRUARY 2011)
BBC – Egypt faces bumpy ride toward democracy - (15 FEBRUARY 2011)
BBC – Middle East Protests: Egypt - (16 FEBRUARY 2011)
BBC – Cairo braced for ‘Victory Parade’ (Analysis of current situation) - (18 FEBRUARY 2011)

TRAVEL ADVICES:

CURRENT FCO ADVICES ON EGYPT (16 FEBRUARY 2011)

“We continue to advise against all but essential travel to Cairo (all four governorates, including Giza), Alexandria, and Suez. However, we no longer advise against all but-essential travel to Luxor.  We have also removed the recommendation that British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo Alexandria and Suez leave by commercial means”

“Travel along the Suez Canal, which is operating normally”.

“There are widespread strikes in towns and cities across Egypt”.

“According to latest information, Luxor and the Red Sea Resorts, including Sharm el Sheikh, are calm.  However, the situation across Egypt is unpredictable and may change quickly.  You should stay in touch with your tour operator”.

“There is a nationwide curfew in place from 00:00 to 06:00 local time. This is not being enforced in the Red Sea Resort area or in Luxor”.

“During the recent unrest, we have received a number of reports of foreigners (including journalists) being harassed, attacked and in some instances arrested and interrogated... we have received no further such reports”.

“There is a high threat from terrorism in Egypt. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers, such as hotels and restaurants”.

“There were a number of deaths in the demonstrations and random acts of violence across the major cities of Egypt”.

“You should respect any advice or instruction from the local security authorities and tour operators”.

“Since 2004, there have been three separate bomb attacks in the Sinai Peninsula. British nationals were killed or injured in each of these attacks. The most recent incident involving British nationals occurred on 24 April 2006 in the resort town of Dahab”.

“We continue to receive a significant number of reports of cases of sexual assault cases against British Nationals. In 2009, we handled 26 cases of sexual assault and three cases of rape. Some assaults were against minors. Many occurred in what were considered to be safe environments e.g. hotel premises. Reports of sexual assault have increased during the recent unrest”.

“You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Make sure it covers the cost of local hospitalisation and medical repatriation to your country of residence. Check for any exclusions...”.

US STATE DEPARTMENT ADVICES EGYPT (6 FEBRUARY 2011)

“The U.S. Department of State continues to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel to Egypt at this time”.

“U.S. citizens should consider leaving Egypt as soon as they can safely do so, due to ongoing political and social unrest”

IRISH DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVICES ON EGYPT (16 FEBRUARY 2011)

“Irish citizens are advised to avoid non-essential travel to Egypt at this time”.

“The situation has now stabilised, but remains unpredictable”.

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTRY ADVICES ON EGYPT (18 FEBRUARY 2011)

The security situation is marked by a return to near normal in most areas. Foreigners in particular are not subject to any specific threat".

"Regarding the French present, they are asked to stay vigilant when traveling. They are particularly recommended to stay away from crowds and follow a curfew in effect from 24:00 to 06:00 in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria. French citizens living in Egypt and having temporarily left the country can prepare for their return, especially for the new school year, which is scheduled for February 27 French institutions"

"Drafts of travel, stays at major tourist centers are no longer [contra-indicated?]. The Red Sea area is experiencing a normal situation, as well as the cities of Luxor and Aswan. There is therefore no objection to reach by air. Road travel, particularly in Middle Egypt, however, are discouraged. The North Sinai is itself the scene of recurring problems and should be avoided"

"The proliferation of social movements and calls for protest on Friday, however, can have an impact on living conditions in Egypt, particularly Cairo, Alexandria and the cities that have experienced recent events (the Delta, Fayoum, Suez ). It is therefore necessary to maintain an attitude of vigilance general".

CANADIAN DEPARTMENT FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVICE ON EGYPT (15 FEBRUARY 2011)

“Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Egypt due to the unpredictable security situation, high levels of criminal activity and the threat of terrorist attacks”

“Civil unrest and demonstrations have occurred in many parts of Egypt since January 23, 2011, and some have turned violent. Although the security situation is improving, there is a risk of deteriorating conditions, which could include further demonstrations, restrictions on movement in major cities, further hotel property damage or closures, and restricted access to tourist attractions. Canadians should avoid road travel throughout the Sinai area”.

AUSTRALIAN DEPARTMENT FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVICE ON EGYPT (18 FEBRUARY 2011)

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Egypt due to the unsettled security situation and the high threat of terrorist attack. Following violent demonstrations at locations across Egypt, including Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, ex-President Mubarak resigned and transferred power to the Armed Forces on 11 February 2011. The security situation remains unsettled and demonstrations could occur at any time. Tahrir Square and its immediate surrounds have become the focus of protest activity in Cairo, although this could spill over into other areas with little or no warning. Protests have been accompanied by industrial action. Australians in Cairo are urged to avoid all protest sites.  If you are in Egypt, and hold concerns for your safety, you should consider leaving. If you decide to remain in Egypt you should exercise extreme caution. You should avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent and closely monitor media for information on events and developments that may affect your security and safety. A curfew is in place between midnight and 6am. These hours are subject to change. You should follow the instructions of local authorities and observe all curfews. You should avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent.  If you are in an area where a protest is occurring you should either leave, if it is safe to do so, or remain indoors and away from windows. Foreigners are prohibited by law from participating in demonstrations. Those who do so may be arrested.  The army is on the streets of the main towns and arson and looting has occurred. The presence of civil police to maintain law and order remains uncertain. Self protection groups have reportedly formed in some areas”.

EGYPT HOLIDAY ‘RISK DESTINATION’ COMPLAINTS

“It is now less than 24 hours before we are due to check in for the above holiday. Having seen the FCO website and watched news reports coming out of Egypt we do not wish to travel. [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR], however, seem oblivious to the situation. Their website advice reads as follows – [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] website - Luxor: We are advised that the situation in Luxor is peaceful and flights may operate as normal over the next few days. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is not advising repatriation of clients from Egypt. Clients due to travel to Luxor should keep in touch with us by calling [NUMBER]  We rang several times yesterday but were told each time that holiday travel is as normal. They will not cancel the holiday. If we cancel the holiday they will charge 100% cancellation charge. This does not appear to be right. We are left with two options:
1 We travel on a holiday against the FCO advice and nullify our insurance or
2 We act responsibly and cancel the holiday but lose all the money we have paid
We do not believe that travel for holiday purposes is essential travel. Furthermore, the outbound flight arrives into Cairo after the current nationwide curfew comes into operation, which the FCO advises must be observed. Other tour operators ([NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]) stated yesterday that they would not be operating holidays until the 1st February and offered their clients full refunds. It seems to us that [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] have made a commercial decision rather than take safety of customers into account”.

“We are booked to go to Cairo (Egypt) on the 22nd March for a 2 day stay and then on to Soma Bay in Hurgada for a further 12 days.  I have just started recovering from a course of radio and chemo therapy and cannot afford to take risks, or compromise my health, with the current and seemingly escalating problems in Egypt.  There is a risk of my losing my money if I cancel. Can you please advise”.

“I have a holiday to Cairo booked with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR], through [NAME OF TRAVEL AGENT], starting on 28th February, in view of the Foreign Offices ban on holiday travel To Egypt I have been in touch with [NAME OF TRAVEL AGENT] who in turn have been in touch with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR].... have refused to refund the cost of the holiday at this time, saying “the problems in Cairo might be over by the 28th”. As I am not prepared to put myself and my wife in any form of danger I will not be going to Egypt until long after this problem has been resolved. Am I within my rights to demand my money back from either the travel Agent or [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] at this time?”

“I would like some advice on what my consumer rights are in relation to travel/holidaying in Egypt. We were due to travel this morning but made a decision not to go based on our own risk assessment in light of the current situation there. Despite numerous attempts over the last 24 hours I have been unable to contact and speak directly either to the flight provider or the travel agent before making the decision that we have. My........insurance company has told her that if she had of travelled she would not have been covered by her travel insurance in the event that something happened. It may be the case that we have lost our monies but our lives are more important to us! I just want to know where we stand as I can't believe that the FCO and tour operators are still allowing citizens to travel to anywhere I n Egypt when other countries are evacuating their citizens. I feel we have been held to ransom through no fault of our own. Your advice would be gratefully received”.

“We have booked a red sea cruise and stay in Egypt for April. I have been informed that the cruise cannot take in the trips planned i.e Cairo and pyramids and Luxor and temples. I have been told that this is not a major change to the holiday but is the main reason I booked the cruise. Told by [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] that my only option is to cancel the holiday and loose £700 deposit but I am happy to book an alternative holiday. What are my rights”.

“On Feb 14 my husband and I were due to go to Luxor Egypt . On advice from the foreign office we cancelled. We have been refunded the hotel costs except one night and also transfers but [NAME OF AIRLINE] airline has refused to compensate us because they are still flying. Can they do this. Look forward to your thoughts”.

“We are a party of 8 people holidaying to Egypt on 2nd March. Our travel firm [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] have only an answer phone on their tel line. We want to know if we can make alternative holiday arrangements as the situation is dangerous. Can you help”.

“I booked a package holiday to Egypt on 31-12-2011 - when the situation in the country was peaceful and quiet. Since the demonstrations started - last week, I have tried to contact the travel agent called [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] and ask to change my holiday destination. I am supposed to travel on Friday, 4th February and I definitely don't want to go to Egypt.  I think it is too risky, the country is in turmoil and the situation is getting worse. However, [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] insist that there are no risks regarding going to the Red Sea resorts, including Hurghada, where I was supposed to go on holiday and they state that if I decide not to travel, I will lose 100% of my payment. I am very disappointed, as I didn't ask for a refund in the first place, I just wanted to change my holiday destination to somewhere safe. However, they don't want to know about my plea and are not answering to emails”.

“I have booked a holiday to Egypt on 11/6/2011 due to the unrest there at the moment I am reluctant to go I have been into the travel agents today to see if I can change my holiday to another place they cannot tell me how much administration fee would be until I pick another place but advises me it could be as much as I have paid for my holiday what can I do”.

“I have booked a holiday to Egypt flying out on 13th April for 7 days visiting Cairo for 4 days and Luxor for 3 days. Due to the conditions in Egypt at present I wish to cancel this holiday or transfer to another holiday, I have been told by [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] that if I cancel or even transfer now I lose £900 of my holiday money. I am taking my 4 year old grandson with me is there anything I can do to change this holiday please help”.

“We have just had our Nile cruise cancelled by [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]. We were due to fly 7/2/11. We are receiving a refund for the Nile cruise in cash but as [NAME OF AIRLINE] are saying they are still flying to Luxor apparently we are only entitled to vouchers for the flight. Is this correct as we are unable to fly as the [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] have cancelled our accomm?”

“[NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] have today today refused to allow me to postpone my holiday in Egypt on 16 March and say I must pay the full cancellation fee. Do I have any redress or legal rights? I informed them that they could hang onto the cost of the holiday which is paid in full, but they insist on charging the normal cancellation fee”.

“My husband and I are due to travel to Egypt at Easter this year. We booked a holiday consisting of a 7 day Nile cruise leaving from and returning to Luxor. Then to fly to Cairo for three days to visit the pyramids etc. then to fly back to Luxor for four nights. The holiday has been booked through a firm called [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]. We are unsure of what to do, whether to travel or not, how we would stand regarding getting a refund of our money if we decide to cancel. Really confused about what to do. Can you help us ? please”.

“HOLIDAY CUT SHORT BY 7 DAYS IN EGYPT BECAUSE OF THE RIOTS, WE ONLY HAD HALF OF THE NUMBER OF EXCURSIONS THE WEEK BEFORE. AND WE WERE DUE TO GO TO CAIRO AND THEN LUXOR IN HOTELS. THIS WAS A NILE CRUISE AND HOTEL HOLIDAY. A 60TH BIRTHDAY TREAT. WHERE DO I STAND?”

“We have booked our holidays with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] to Luxor (Egypt) departing on 16 Feb. And, due to civil unrest, we don’t feel safe to go ahead with this holiday; we have a 5 year old child. [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] say that they are "reviewing the situation"! I have been in touch with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] but they won’t refund the full sum if we were to cancel, and they will charge us if we amend our holiday. Can they do this? Surely, the situation in Egypt will not improve enough for us to leave on 16 Feb”.

“Two week Package holiday to Egypt with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] from 17th to 31st January. To Luxor from Manchester Airport [NAME OF AIRLINE] for Nile Cruise then Transfer to Hurghada for second week returning UK via Luxor on 31 January. Due internal troubles our transfer to Luxor for return flight was cancelled. We had to stay two more days at our hotel before flight back from Marsa Alam with [NAME OF AIRLINE] to Gatwick. [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] refuse to cover the cost of extra stay at hotel and the cost of getting back to Manchester to collect our car. [NAME OF INSURER] our travel insurers say it is a [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] matter to resolve, [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] say it is up to [NAME OF INSURER]".

“we returned from hurgada 4 february.we where there for 4 weeks.if our son or daughter where going to Egypt right now we would say definitely no. and we love Egypt. but there was demonstrations in hurgada”.

“I'm booked on a holiday with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] to Luxor in Egypt, this is a Nile cruise for 1 week from March the 23rd. I have tried to change this but they will not let me, they say I have to wait. I do not want to go to Egypt. They tell me I can cancel up to 29 days before the date but I will lose 50% of the original cost of the holiday. If I leave it any later I will lose 90% of my money if it is 7 days before I will lose the lot. As I do not want to go at all, mine and my husband’s safety is more important, I have no option but to cancel by the 20th of February and loose half my money. We have been into the travel agents [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] twice to ask to change holidays and they will not let us, we realise we would have to pay a admin fee which is not a problem but they say no. Basically, they are playing a game of chicken hoping people will cancel before they have to, then [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] won't lose so much money . We were looking forward to our holiday, but now are totally stressed and want to book somewhere else, [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] are keeping us hanging on and do not care about people’s feelings. Customer service has gone out of the window. We've read your consumer guide for Egypt and regulation 12/13, was wondering if this applies to us as ABTA are saying, [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] are within their rights to do what they are doing”.

“We are booked on a package holiday to egypt,one week Nile cruise .flight is to Luxor is on 2/3/2011......How long can we wait before our travel agent give an alternative Holiday or reimbursement, currently Luxor is a no go area”.

“But what can we do if the [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] is not doing the above?  The FCO says not to travel to Cairo.  Our T&C say we can cancel within 14 days of civil unrest ([NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR]) but each time we have phoned since the 14 days has commenced we got told "there is no on in that office today"  (on a Sat) we waited for return calls they didn't come, we phoned today, "they were out to lunch"  we are just being given the run around.  ABTA need an immediate complaint line for these issues.  Cairo of all places is not safe and I don't see it being safe in the next ten days when we are due to travel, we can't rebook till we get our 3.3k back.  Any suggestions please advise!”

“We are booked to go to Luxor in Egypt on 21st February 2011 through [NAME OF ONLINE TOUR OPERATOR] on a package holiday. At present [NAME OF ONLINE TOUR OPERATOR] are saying that they if the foreign office are still advising against travel to Luxor, they will offer us an alternative holiday or a credit note, but that they will not give a full refund - they say under their terms and conditions we can only have a refund of the air fare if the flight doesn’t go - and we cannot have a refund of the accommodation charge at all. We can’t see where it says this in the conditions, but could have missed it and haven’t yet had the conversation with them asking for clarification of which bit of their terms and conditions they are referring to........[NAME OF ONLINE TOUR OPERATOR] have not yet made a decision as to whether our holiday will still run, and we are having difficulty getting them to say when they will make that decision, even though we are supposed to be going in 11 days.

We looked at Regulations 12 and 13 of the package Travel Regulations and think we should be entitled to a refund.

We have two issues on we would like help from you.....

2.Assuming the Foreign Office continues to advise against travel, are we entitled to a full refund? Have we understood the Package Travel Regulations correctly? If [NAME OF ONLINE TOUR OPERATOR] can come up with a contractual term limiting any refund, can the Package Travel Regulations be amended or excluded by a term in the contract?”

“We booked a holiday with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] on 14 Jan. to depart to Cairo, Luxor and Nile Cruise for 10 nights starting 13 May. Last week we were quite concerned with the Egypt situation so rang them to ask their advice and they said that we could change to another holiday with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] for a cost of £30 a head and we wouldn't lose our deposit of £350. We hung on until last Monday and then, having decided on possible alternative venues. my husband rang to try and change whereupon he was told that we would lose our first deposit and pay the change fee also”.

 “Me and my [EU NATIONALITY] partner no longer want to travel to this country where the situation is unstable. I understand that how it is, we will lose our money if we do not go as they are still saying it is safe to travel to Sharm al sheik. However if the [NAME OF COUNTRY] government is advising its citizens no to travel to Egypt, will we be able to get our money back as my partner is [EU NATIONALITY]?”

“My holiday was cancelled due to Egypt crises, they have offer me other holidays but were not interested. I asked for a refund They have come back to me saying that there will be a charge of £125 each for cancelation ie boat , hotel@ transfer is this right”

“I booked a holiday through [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] to Egypt and they have cancelled the holiday because [NAME OF AIRLINE] are not flying to Egypt for the foreseeable future. Option were to book another holiday or a full refund. I requested a full refund but [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] will not give me the money until [NAME OF AIRLINE] refund them. My contract is with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] can they hold onto my money until they get a refund?”

“We paid about £1600 for a 2 week holiday with [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] to Egypt. Dept 26/1/11 for a 7 day Nile cruise followed by 7 nights in a hotel in Luxor and rtn on 9/2. [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] brought us home on 2/2 (1 week early) but we did nor receive the cruise we expected either. One of our included excursions we did not get. All optional excursions cancelled. We only really had 2 days cruising. We were not allowed off the boat unless a driven excursion. Verbally [NAME OF TOUR OPERATOR] tell us a cheque will come to us for £277. This seems unfair to us should more be forthcoming and who do we got to please?”

“I have booked a family holiday to Sharm, flights booked with [NAME OF AIRLINE] { 4 flights costing £2000} and [NAME OF HOTEL] booked directly, flying out 19 February 2011 returning 26 February 2011. With the recent uprising in Egypt I do not want to travel there. The Hotel were very understanding and offered a refund. [NAME OF AIRLINE] however are not acting in such a reasonable way. I informed them that I would like to cancel or postpone my trip due to security fears. Their stance was that it was still safe to travel to Sharm and they would continue to fly there. On that basis I asked to postpone my flight and to fly out for a break in December 2011. They then informed me that they will remove Sharm from their schedule from the 1st March 2011. I find this very underhand as they are obviously aware of the consumers concerns about travel to Egypt and have chosen to withdraw their service after the busy school half term week 19-26 February. They will not offer a refund or reroute or even a credit against a future trip to this or any other destination. The current FO advice on travel to Sharm deems it impossible to receive a refund through my travel insurance. This is clearly a case of the airline profiteering by the timing of its withdrawal, what recourse can I have for this matter?”

FINAL THOUGHTS (FOR THE MOMENT):

I found this interesting article about Consumer Rights in an online Russian Newspaper.  In the article it is clear that ‘Tunisian’ Russian Consumer’s have very clear rights in ‘force majeure’ scenarios – full refunds!

I also found interesting the range of travel advices for citizens of different countries – how can these points of view be so different; what is it that either we or they are missing?

With the events and range of information available, is it right that UK Consumers should suffer the ‘detriment’ of failing to have their Consumer Rights being automatically offered or their own fears unrecognised?

All in all it suggests a deeper Commercial/Political game in which the Consumer is the innocent pawn.  Is it right to treat the Consumer as a ‘foot-soldier’ in the pursuit of a Foreign or Commercial Policy?  Is it right that holidaymakers should ‘act’ as aid workers to an economy or country in the midst of strife?

I have spoken many times about ‘risk destinations’; it takes time to heal or repair – the people should be allowed to get on with it!  Surely it must be better to welcome holidaymakers without the prospect of fear to a destination and create a true sustainable product?

Don’t you think that Tunisians & Egyptians want their country’s to resolve their problems and for holidaymakers to see their country in a good light, not to be on edge during the whole of their visit?

None of what we say or advise is designed to hurt the good people of Tunisia or Egypt!  We are concerned that commercial and political entities are failing to recognise the correct way to guide tourism – tourism should not be used as a blunt tool in the event of civil strife!

In my view, the Travel Industry has missed a trick in looking after their customers and recognising their fears, instead they are behaving as if only the moment and the precious pound is king – it’s looks like business as normal!

I predict that as we approach the first major holiday exodus (half term) and beyond, the potential for further civil problems will arise in these and perhaps ‘newer’ destinations.  It’s not over yet!  The disquiet felt by ordinary decent Tunisians & Egyptians will potentially be further added to by transport problems, difficulty in accessing tourist areas, bank closures, lack of pay, strikes, and shortage of food or service, in all, the potential for a very unhappy experience!

I also predict that the short-term approach offered by the Travel Industry to ‘Risk Destinations’ will come home to roost in the review and publication of the new Package Travel Directive!

In summary, there is only one conclusion; British Holidaymakers have been treated shabbily and without respect!

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised here, no matter what your destination, then please contact us at HolidayTravelWatch.

For further details on our services, read our Legal Notice.

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