One rule for the big guys, one rule for us little people

It has been a ghastly year for the travel sector – but whilst I have every sympathy with the predicament travel companies find themselves in, they need to remember it’s not been a bundle of fun either for their customers, or virtual customers as they increasingly became as the year progressed.

Here’s my experience which, I strongly suspect, is similar to many of you reading this.

My wife and I had a cruise holiday cancelled in May. It’s taken me the best part of six months and an awful lot of emails and threats to have my £3,000 refunded – and even now we’re still owed £400.

Mindful of this experience, when another holiday company reminded me that the outstanding balance of a European river cruise we are supposed to be taking in  March was due on November 21, I developed a nervous twitch, starting under my eye and then spreading to my credit card. Did I fancy handing over £4,000 for a holiday which was looking pretty unlikely to take place, leaving me another potential six months of hassle retrieving my money.

So, I phoned Imagine Cruising, explaining my concerns and asking if there was any flexibility on the balance payment date. A rather, (no, let’s be honest here) completely unsympathetic woman at the other end of the phone said there wasn’t, the T&Cs were quite clear, and that if I didn’t pay the balance on the due date, I would in effect be cancelling my holiday and I would lose my £1,200 deposit.

I then asked what their refund turnaround time was, should the holiday be cancelled. At the moment, she said, it was 120 days. Well, I replied, it is supposed to be 14 days, Ah, she countered, but we are trading in unprecedented circumstances.

So, these unprecedented times were good reason for them to have the flexibility to flout refund rules, but not a good reason for them to be flexible on the due date for people paying an awful lot of money for a holiday on which, given the current pandemic situation, Imagine Cruising is unlikely to be delivering.

Seems to me a bit one-sided. It’s a bit like me saying to an advertiser, I want your £500 now for that advert you’ve kindly booked, but I can’t tell you when or if I’ll be printing the next magazine.

End result was that I, very reluctantly, said I wouldn’t be paying the balance so forfeited my £1,200 deposit.

As I said at the outset, it’s not a bundle of fun trading in the travel sector right now. But travel companies might engender a little more sympathy – and future customer loyalty – if they showed more understanding of their customers’ very justifiable concerns in these difficult times.