As hundreds of holidaymakers start to return from disrupted Thomson packages to Mallorca, the travel firm is facing heavy criticism over the way it handled the late opening of new luxury resorts in the Balearics.
The night before the AluaSoul Mallorca Resort was due to open on 1 May, the owners told Thomson that it was not ready. Holidaymakers who flew in early on Monday were nonetheless taken to the hotel, where they were turned away. It was clear that building work and decorating was taking place.
Thomson now says the property will open on 10 May — as will a sister hotel on Ibiza, which also has been delayed because of overrunning work.
Angry holidaymakers have been talking about their treatment by Britain’s biggest tour operator.
Terry and Melanie Turner from Newcastle flew out on 1 May for an 11-night holiday. “This was meant to be a relaxing break to celebrate Terry's 65th birthday but turned out to be anything but relaxing,” said Mrs Turner.
Before they left home, the couple became aware of comments on a TripAdvisor forum that raised concerns about the AluaSoul’s readiness, but say they were assured by Thomson that it would open on schedule on the day they arrived.
But when they landed at Palma airport, they were told their hotel was not ready and they would be going to the Rocador Hotel instead. At that property, they spent two-and-a-half hours waiting to check in. It was not an all-inclusive hotel, as they had booked, so they were then offered a third hotel, the Protur Playa. They accepted the option but had to pay the €44 taxi fare themselves, which they were told to claim back from Thomson UK.
Mr and Mrs Turner had been promised the Protur Playa was all-inclusive, but it turned out not to be. They then asked to go home, and arrived back a week before their holiday was due to end.
“Why weren't Thomson monitoring the progress of the AluaSoul to ensure it would open on time,” asked Mrs Turner. The couple are seeking a complete refund of the £1,700 cost of their trip — plus the €44 taxi fare.
The Independent has been repeatedly told that, since the problem emerged, Thomson has contacted holidaymakers only on the afternoon before they are due to depart.
Bryan Pegg and his wife Shirley, both aged 80, checked in at Doncaster airport early in the morning of Friday 5 May. They had left their home in Sheffield the previous afternoon and stayed in an airport hotel.
“Only after my baggage had been tagged and placed on the conveyor was I handed a letter with my name on, with a new hotel and resort I had not booked and did not want," said Mr Pegg.
The letter included the offer to cancel for a full refund. But Mr Pegg said: “At 4.20 am what options did I have? On arrival at Majorca my wife and I had then to wait well over two hours at the Thomson desk before a taxi was ordered.
"Our original booking was for adult-only with a sea view. We now have a hotel 15 minutes from the beach facing a busy car park plus a very noisy main road, in a place with a lot of children ranging from babies to 11-year-olds. This holiday is a total disaster."
Thomson told The Independent: “We have currently placed all customers in suitable alternative accommodation and have offered guests a gesture of goodwill due to the unexpected disruption."
The standard compensation payment from Thomson has been £40. On the travel company’s Facebook page, Sheila Trinder wrote: “They charge us £50 to change an initial on a booking yet appear to think £40 is fair compensation for wrecking a holiday. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with this.”
Thomson's Facebook account also carries complaints about overrunning building work affecting the AluaSoul’s sister hotel in Ibiza. Dawn O’Henley Smith wrote: “Absolutely shocked and appalled with how your company has let down my parents who are in their sixties and seventies and were devastated to have received an email less than 12 hours before they were due to fly out this morning to say that the hotel that they were jetting out for my mum’s retiral holiday at AluaSoul Es Cana Ibiza hotel was still effectively a building site and would not be ready until mid May.”
Thomson responded: “We have been advised that, regrettably, there has been an unforeseen last minute delay with the work at this hotel which is a new addition to our programme for this summer. We are working with our hotel partners to ensure all of the facilities are completed to the high standards that we and our customers expect.”
A contributor named Simon Fielding then pointed out: “You were advised on here [the Thomson Facebook page] over a week ago what was happening but it took you til a few hours before people were due to fly yesterday to let them know.
“There is no defence for how badly Thomson have handled this."
The holiday company reiterated to The Independent that it is sorry for the disappointment caused by the late opening, and said: “Thomson would like to remind customers that we closely monitor the progress of work at the hotels we operate to and that situations such as this are rare.”
A spokesperson for Abta, the travel association, said: "Customers who have gone on holiday but are not happy with the replacement holiday or the level of compensation offered, should in the first instance contact our member, but if they cannot resolve the matter or they feel that our code had been breached, they should contact the Abta customer support team for assistance."
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