Gibraltar’s status as one of the few destinations on the UK government’s green list has prompted increased demand from Britons for Mediterranean sunshine without quarantine requirements.
But dozens of people were stranded last month after arriving at a hotel to find it was full.
Vincent Howell * and his partner were among those turned away from the Eliott Hotel in the Old Town at the start of a £ 1,800 package tour. They had booked through Lastminute.com, and say the agent didn’t help when they found there was no room.
“We were told that the hotel has been refusing new bookings for over a week, but Lastminute.com has continued to accept new customers,” he says.
“There were several people in the same situation at the reception. We were advised to call Lastminute.com immediately as the hotel could not accommodate us. We did and we were promised a callback within an hour, but it never came.
The couple tried to find alternative accommodation, but no hotel or vacation rental was available.
Eventually, The Eliott offered them the option of checking in and out of different rooms as they became available during the week. However, they had to pay £ 200 per night as the hotel said they had not received their initial payment from Lastminute.com.
And on top of that, they were told there was no room available for any of their seven nights. “We ended up with the prospect of sleeping on the beach, or having to cross the Spanish border to find accommodation, and then having to quarantine when we got home,” Howell explains. “We called again Lastminute.com to say that we were homeless in a foreign land, and in emotional and financial distress, and again we were promised a reminder that never came.
Howell says the hotel told him it had treated 51 people who had been affected by overbooking.
“He was dragging beds in rooms being renovated to accommodate people, including a man who told us he booked the vacation to help him recover from heart surgery,” says Howell, who finally found a bed after visiting a series of hotels. .
By the end of their stay, the couple had paid £ 1,490 for accommodation, on top of the £ 1,800 they had given for their flights and hotel.
Upon their return to the UK, they requested a refund, but three weeks after submitting the required documents, they were still awaiting a decision and an apology.
“In addition to reimbursement for our expenses, we believe we owe compensation to reflect the difference between the vacation we booked and what we received,” Howell said.
“The week was marred by the need to pack and leave our room every morning and then check in to another room at 3pm which meant we could never properly unpack or relax and waste time. hours of fun. ”
Customers who book a package travel are legally entitled to claim compensation from their supplier under the package travel and related travel arrangements if their trip is not as described.
Under the rules, a vacation business must provide prompt assistance, including alternative accommodation, if there is a problem during the vacation and possibly payment to reflect the difference between what the customer paid and what he got, out of pocket expenses and loss of enjoyment.
Customers who book with a member of the association of travel professionals Abta can turn to its dispute resolution system. He indicates that overbooking is more likely to occur during peak periods: “The usual cause is that the supplier sells more rooms than they have availability, based on a certain percentage of customers who will cancel. “
After the Guardian intervened, Lastminute.com agreed to reimburse the couple’s expenses and offered compensation of £ 150. He blamed the problem on a third-party commercial vendor who, he said, had not yet returned the initial payment.
After further pressure from the Guardian, he agreed to pay £ 500 compensation. Neither he nor the hotel responded to requests for comment. In February, Lastminute.com was threatened with legal action by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after missing a deadline to reimburse customers whose vacations were canceled due to Covid. The CMA had ordered her to pay more than £ 7million in December after finding that she had refused to reimburse more than 9,000 holidaymakers. Opinion on Trustpilot suggest that many others are still waiting for refunds for canceled or botched bookings, including one vacationer who arrived at his hotel only to find it was closed.
“It is concerning that a company as established as Lastminute.com does not have a crisis team with a set procedure to follow when customers have problems overseas,” Howell said. “They showed complete disregard for our safety and well-being and never even apologized [after]we had effectively paid double for a ruined vacation.
* Not his real name