Pricewatch: Holiday plans? Be careful what you book for

What about refunds? Two readers who lost out on holidays in Majorca and Kerry

Stories highlight the need to take great care when booking in pandemic times. Photograph: iStock

Stories highlight the need to take great care when booking in pandemic times. Photograph: iStock

 

We are still getting complaints and queries about travel plans left in disarray by Covid-19 – although some readers have come to the end of the road when it comes to redress.

First we have a story from a reader called Caroline who was due to travel to Majorca this July. She paid for the holiday in full last July on her Visa card. All told it cost €3,634.84 . “Ryanair changed our flight and gave us the option of a refund which I have received in full,” she says. “I made contact with the hotel and explained we cannot travel due to Covid [restrictions] and requested a refund,” she continues.

“They said they intend to be open and if it does not suit us to travel in July they can offer us a voucher. When I booked I got a prepaid rate which they say they cannot refund. I want a refund as next year my daughter will be doing the Leaving Cert and will not be coming on holiday with us.”

We don’t have anything by way of good news for this reader. The hotel is under no obligation to give her a refund – or even a voucher to be used at some future point. She has done well to get money from the airline and, we reckon, she should take the voucher and hope to use it at some future point with or without her daughter.

Next up we heard from Fiona who was writing from “sunny Galway”. She has found herself in a similar position although with an operator much closer to home. She wants to know about the “legality around refunds and re-booking of self-catering rentals in Ireland in periods of Level 4 and 5 restrictions when no inter-county travel is permitted”.

She booked a self-catering property in Kerry for 11 days in early June. “As per the booking agency’s policies, a 25 per cent non-refundable deposit was required to secure the booking,” she says. “While not ideal we entered into this part of the agreement with our eyes wide open. The full balance of the stay was deducted eight weeks prior to the planned holiday. On reading their updated Covid terms and conditions, the company clearly states that it does not give refunds but will allow us to re-book an equivalent value time of year within a designated period before the end of December 2021.”

She says that “for a number of reasons this is not a workable solution for our family; the same property is not available again until the middle of September when our boys will have returned to school, one of who will be in Leaving Cert [year] and we will not be in a position to take him out of school”. She says that while her family love the part of Kerry they had planned to visit at any time of year “a summer holiday on the beach is very different to the shorter days in October and November. My big question is if legally a rental agency is required to offer a refund if we cannot legally travel at the time of our booking”.

She adds that she has been visiting this part of Kerry “for years and years and the house we normally rent was sold during the first lockdown last year. We used this company last year and found them efficient and the house was very clean and we had no issues but then we booked once we had sight of the eased restrictions for the summer. Before we start to throw our dollies out of the cot, I thought I might fire the query in your direction to see what if any protection the consumer has in this regard”.

There is good and bad news for Fiona. As with the first story, the accommodation provider is not legally obliged to give her a refund. But the slightly better news is that – at least at the time of writing – the most severe travel restrictions have been lifted and she should be in a position to travel to Kerry next month if she so wishes.

The two stories highlight the need to take great care when booking in pandemic times and to always look for the greatest degree of flexibility when it comes to payments. If you agree to a set of terms and conditions and the provider subsequently makes you stick to them, then, unfortunately there is not a whole lot that can be done about it.