A LYMINGTON man had to threaten court action to win a refund on an almost £6,000 dream holiday that he cancelled on medical grounds because of the coronavirus.
Terry Earle and his wife Geraldine booked a flight for a Norway cruise to see the Northern Lights in March 2020.
But when he had to cancel it on doctor’s orders, the cruise ship firm, Norwegian company Hurtigruten was reluctant to give back their money.
Terry told the A&T: “It does show that with perseverance and a lot of hard work, David can beat Goliath.
“Whilst I am pleased to have received a full refund of nearly £6,000 I am still out of pocket as I paid £455 court fees and could have claimed interest due in excess of £200.
“More to the point, this matter had caused considerable unnecessary distress which has in turn not helped my general health.”
Terry, a retired businessman, booked the cruise through the shipping company’s agent, Fred Olsen Travel in Lymington. But as Covid-19 developed, in late February the Norwegian health authority advised that all non-Norwegian, Swedish and Danish persons should leave the country.
Terry consulted his GP who issued him with a letter saying that underlying health conditions meant he should not travel abroad.
Fred Olsen Travel advised that under normal conditions, no money could be given back at such a short notice. But because of the pandemic and doctor’s note, he could cancel seven days before departure and get a refund. He was told not to be a no-show for the cruise.
Subsequently the couple were assured in an email they would get a refund.
However, after they cancelled Hurtigruten reneged and instead offered a cruise voucher and a 10% discount for travel in 2021.
“It quickly became obvious that Hurtigruten had no intention of issuing a refund,” Mr Earle said.
Forced to consult their solicitors, Aldridge and Brownlee in Bournemouth, the couple learnt the pandemic was within the scope of a “force majeure”, so a full refund should be paid to any passenger who insisted upon a cash payment.
The couple progressed the matter to the county court, where they were pointed to a mediation service facility.
“After some negotiation, I refused a final offer of £1,800 compensation and felt that the strength of this case would result in the refund being paid,” Terry said.
Noting the Competitions and Marketing Authority had written to travel companies reminding them of their obligations with refunds, and reports the Norwegian health authority were looking into Hurtigruten, Terry contacted the A&T for help.
Following a phone call from the A&T to Hurtigruten, Terry received an email from the company solicitor stating that they had decided to pay the full refund.
Terry added: “I’m also at pains to point out the manager and staff of Fred Olsen Travel in Lymington behaved professionally throughout having been placed in a difficult position by the shipping company.”
A Hurtigruten spokesperson told the A&T: “To confirm what we have previously stated: in line with our corporate policy, we do not comment publicly on the details of individual cases such as Mr Earle’s, although I can assure you that the matter is considered now closed by mutual agreement.”