Evelyn Byrne, owner of Castle Travel Worldchoice, says don’t believe the hype – if you book your holiday with a licensed operator you’ll be looked after whatever happens - and your money will be safe. DIY holidays are another matter though.
There has been a rough few weeks in the travel industry. The media have been full of stories of “stranded” passengers and consumers out of pocket. Not many of the reports actually mentioned the good news which is that most Irish holidaymakers who booked with the companies that closed recently had little or no trouble. The reason being that the ITAA travel agents around the country moved quickly to reserve alternative holidays for people whose future trips with GreatEscapes and XL were cancelled. Agents also helped their customers reclaim 100 per cent of the money they were owed.
The vast majority of the tour operators Great Escapes and XL’s customers were brought home on schedule at the end of their holidays without having to spend an extra euro thanks to their local travel agent.
“I was contacted by Castle Travel staff while in Bulgaria, and advised that XL had collapsed. They reassured me and my family that they would arrange flights for us under the bonding scheme that was in place. They kept in constant touch with us until we returned home. It was great peace of mind just to be able to get reassurance. There was chaos at the airport. People who had booked directly with the airline were left stranded,” said Martin Corrigan.
On the other hand some people who booked flights themselves on the websites of low cost airlines are now seriously out of pocket. Many people who booked flights that will now not fly face serious costs – not just the loss of the air fares themselves but missed connecting flights, hotels bookings, etc. Last week, a UK survey revealed that more than 50 per cent of consumers believe there is a state backed financial protection scheme in the event of an airline shutting down. There isn’t one here nor in the UK as the people who booked with XL airways and Zoom recently found out to their cost.
The secret is to book your holiday through a professional, licensed, travel agent. Castle Travel will advise you what tour operators are bonded. They will explain what protection you’ll have depending on what airline you fly with. They also advise their customers on suitable travel insurance and what it really covers.
“A number of travellers are buying their flights directly with airlines today and airlines are outside the protection of the bond,” said Jim Vaughan, president of the Irish Travel Agents Association.
In this era of expensive fuel and economic turbulence it makes sense to buy a holiday thats bonded and to book it with the advice of a real human being who can be contacted for help if a problem does arise. Travel agents offer a level of after-sales service that airlines and websites can’t match. If something goes wrong, such as a pilots’ strike or a schedule-change not to mention the closure of an airline, your travel agent is on your side and will help to put things right again. When is the last time a website answered your phone call and sorted your problem?
Castle Travel, Ellison Street, Castlebar, is a travel professional who has been arranging trips for customers in County Mayo since 1989. It has over 60 years combined experience and is bonded and licensed by the Commission for Aviation. Telephone 094 902 4244, email [email protected] or log onto www.castletravel.ie