Questions of Cash: 'Holiday transfer costs in Cyprus left me out of pocket'
Friday 14 December 2012
Q. My wife and I had a holiday in Cyprus in September, booked through Thomson. Thomson failed to provide a transfer between Paphos airport and the Limassol Four Seasons Hotel, where we stayed. I had to pay €130 for taxis for the two transfers. After I booked the holiday in April I noticed that my booking confirmation did not mention a transfer, so I rang Thomson twice to query this.
I was informed that there would be a bus transfer. When we arrived at Paphos airport, the Thomson representatives said that no transfer had been booked, so I found a taxi willing to make the transfer at my own cost. A Thomson representative said that they would investigate this apparent error. Although I was unhappy with this situation it was very late in the evening and I reluctantly agreed. When we arrived at the hotel the duty manager asked why we were obtaining a receipt as taxi transfers were included with bookings for that hotel.
My previous holidays at the same hotel made through Thomson had included a taxi transfer. I have made complaints by email and letter, but I am now in dispute with Thomson as they will not make the refund. BE, Northamptonshire.
A. A spokeswoman for Thomson says: "Following a review we have refunded the €130 [the reader] paid and [he] has accepted this refund. Thomson strives to deliver excellent customer service and our resort teams all over the world organise private taxis for customers without incident every year."
Q I booked parking at Gatwick Airport from 05.30am on 8 September, with a flight leaving at 06.40am. I had used the service many times before without problem and I arrived at 05.30am. But there was a huge queue of drivers, who were being given maps by staff and told to park somewhere else. I only got into the car park at 05.51am – causing me to miss check-in by a few minutes and so missed my flight. Can I get compensation from Gatwick Airport? I have complained to Gatwick Parking, yet it refuses to acknowledge that anything went wrong. H, by email.
A. To be blunt, you didn't leave enough time. Airports often advise being two hours early. Arriving in the terminal anything less than an hour before departure is certainly cutting it fine. Your problems were made worse by not having travel insurance – though it seems very unlikely that a policy would have covered you when you arrived so late.
Gatwick Airport, which operates the Gatwick Parking service, has agreed to refund your car parking charge given your unhappiness with the way the service was managed on the day and in the response to your complaint. A spokeswoman says: "Unfortunately, [the reader] experienced a delay in reaching the car park due to congestion at the entrance caused by a large number of vehicles arriving at the same time." It declines to meet any costs relating to your missed flight as you did not realistically leave enough time to catch your plane.
Q. I booked a car hire through Auto Europe. When I collected the vehicle in Italy from the local agency, Goldcar, the representative filled up the tank at my expense and suggested I return it with a full tank of petrol. I did as they suggested, but there was no allowance for the petrol I bought – so they are sitting on a full tank of my petrol. AG, by email
A. Your car hire terms specified that the car would have full tank on collection and should be returned empty. In itself this is unsatisfactory – it means that you lose the value of unused fuel, which may be substantial if you are using the car for convenience locally, rather than doing a high mileage while on holiday.
It also means that the customer is at risk of running out of fuel by trying to return the car with a near empty tank. But the arrangement does allow a car hire company to increase its profits from the unused fuel and this may artificially suggest that a provider is cheaper than it is in practice. In your case, you suffered further by apparently being mis-advised to return the car with a full rather than empty tank.
Auto Europe apologises for your "disappointment" for what it calls your "rental experience". Molly Douglas, of Auto Europe, says: "As a tour operator, Auto Europe does have contracts with a wide variety of suppliers all over the world. Our customers, who are looking for the 'lowest' rates on our website, particularly in Spain and Italy, will often find their reservations are booked with smaller hire companies that have fuel purchase policies.
"We do also use more notable, international companies such as Avis, Hertz and Europcar. We can arrange a car hire with one of these companies, but please note, the daily rates are often significantly more expensive, even when taking into account the prepaid fuel purchased locally. Goldcar Italy has such a prepaid fuel policy, rather than an option, for rentals four days or longer.
In an attempt to be as transparent as possible, this is disclosed on the Auto Europe website as well as on the voucher, under the terms and conditions. It is also noted on the rental agreement, which one signs at check out. We apologise for any misunderstanding with relation to this policy. Due to any potential misunderstanding, Auto Europe had refunded, as a gesture of goodwill, the equivalent of half of Goldcar's prepaid fuel charge, in the amount of £47.45.
"As it is clear that [the reader] still feels that we have failed him in some way, Auto Europe is refunding the equivalent of the other half of Goldcar's fuel charge, in the amount of £47.45. It is our sincere hope that this goes some way to reinstate [the reader's] faith in Auto Europe and our commitment to customer satisfaction."
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