Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Do we have to wait till three weeks before departure before Egypt holiday is cancelled?


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The Independent Travel

Q Thomas Cook have told us that they cannot confirm that our holiday to Luxor, Nile, Aswan, Cairo and Sharm el Sheikh will be cancelled until three weeks prior to departure date which is 30 September. We would like to make alternative holiday arrangements and would like a full refund, which they told us at the time of booking we would get if the Foreign Office advise against travel to that area. Is there anything we can do to speed up this process?

Sarah Cooke

A No. You are caught in the same position as many other holidaymakers who booked trips to destinations along the Nile in good faith, but who are now watching with mounting alarm at the violence in Egypt. As you know, the Foreign Office advises against travel to anywhere in the country apart from two strips of coast on the Red Sea shore, as marked on this map: That of course rules out the normally friendly and fascinating destinations of Aswan, Luxor and Cairo (plus the Pyramids). Were you due to depart tomorrow, the Package Travel Regulations would clearly oblige the holiday company to give you a full refund: "Where the organiser is constrained before the departure to alter significantly an essential term of the contract … he will notify the consumer as quickly as possible in order to enable him to take appropriate decisions and in particular to withdraw from the contract without penalty".

Understandably, you want to eliminate all the uncertainty and arrange a different trip, ideally starting right now. The problem you face is that Thomas Cook - along with other holiday companies - understandably wants to hang on to your money in the hope that the trip will go ahead and that you will have a great experience in a fascinating part of the world. While many people fear that the situation in Egypt will get worse before it gets better, Thomas Cook is not yet in a situation when it will need "to alter significantly an essential term of the contract". While three weeks' notice may strike you as far too short a horizon, I am afraid I can see no alternative but to wait. Sorry not to be more optimistic.

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