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Holidaymaker from Gravesend left in limbo waiting for £4,000 refund from TUI

A woman from Kent has been left in the lurch after waiting nine weeks for a refund on a holiday which had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Beth Kirchin, 26, from Gravesend, was looking forward to a glorious sunny getaway in Jamaica with her boyfriend Lewis when the Covid-19 crisis grounded flights around the world.

Beth has been waiting for the £4,000 refund for nine weeks.
Beth has been waiting for the £4,000 refund for nine weeks.

The pair's £4,000 holiday was cancelled on March 14 and they were told they would have to go in store to receive their refund.

They were assured they would receive the money in seven to 10 working days but nine weeks later they are still waiting.

Ms Kirchin said: "I know a few people who were due to go on holiday after me who have received refunds but we were in the first wave of holidays to be cancelled.

"Luckily we're in a fortunate position that we're both still working from home but I know there's a lot of people with families who are out of work and need that money, so that's who I really feel sorry for."

One such family from Medway are also stuck waiting for TUI to refund their cash.

Paul Olley and his wife Jemma.
Paul Olley and his wife Jemma.

Paul Olley, 35, of Castlemaine Avenue, Gillingham, expressed his frustration after the travel company told him he would receive his money back for a trip to the Greek island of Kos.

But three weeks after being promised the £2,200 payment would be back in his bank account, he had still not received it.

Mr Olley is on furlough from his job as a retail manager for Dixons Carphone, and said he knows the importance of communicating with customers.

He said: "When the pandemic started we had no email from TUI or anything.

"The only reason we knew about the cancellation was by constantly checking the site.

Joshua, 9, and Joseph, 4.
Joshua, 9, and Joseph, 4.

"On the website it said there would be an option for a credit note but if you couldn't accept the credit note you could give us a call and accept a refund."

Mr Olley, his wife Jemma and their two boys, Joshua, nine, and Joseph, four, were due to fly to Greece on May 31.

The dad-of-two was on the phone with a member of the TUI team for two-and-a-half hours before finally getting an agreement from them to refund his money.

But since then the money has not appeared and he has received no further correspondence, despite sending emails and tweeting its customer helpline.

He said: "We've had no contact from them whatsoever, and that's the worst part, not having any contact.

Mrs Olley and her son Joseph, pictured on their 2019 trip to Kos.
Mrs Olley and her son Joseph, pictured on their 2019 trip to Kos.

"To add salt to the wound, they tweeted that they have doubled the numbers of their team taking remaining balances from people, rather than making extra people available to help with refunds and exchanges."

The Olley family regularly visit Kos and have used TUI as their travel company for the past six years, but are now unsure if they will use them again.

Mr Olley said: "We always use TUI, it's disheartening and we've lost trust in them. If they can't support their customers during this particular time, what can they do?

"We're trying to get the money back for our financial security, to make sure that we're okay through the pandemic.

"I think we'll probably shop around from now on."

Many people could miss their 2020 holidays due to the pandemic.
Many people could miss their 2020 holidays due to the pandemic.

A spokesperson from TUI said: "We’re really sorry that refunds are taking longer than expected.

"Please be assured our teams are working tirelessly behind the scenes as quickly as possible.

"We have had to cancel holidays for more than 900,000 customers and we are currently processing all the refunds that have been requested; these take around four weeks."

It comes as budget airline Ryanair cancelled many of its flights scheduled in July, offering customers vouchers for future trips instead of refunds.

The airline had previously announced 40% of flights scheduled in July would take place but cancellations have left many holidaymakers stuck with vouchers instead of their money back.

"What employer is going to give four weeks off for a two week holiday? It's not going to happen..."

Holidaymakers across the county who have not yet had their trips cancelled now also face a difficult decision about what to do.

Many travel providers will not issue a refund to customers until the holiday has been officially cancelled, meaning those who have paid for deposits risk losing their money if they refuse to pay off the remaining balance.

But if the government allows international travel to go ahead as lockdown continues to be eased, those returning to the UK will have to enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

This could leave employers having to grant much longer holiday leave period for employees if they go away and cannot work from home when they return.

Mr Olley said: "What employer is going to give four weeks off for a two week holiday? It's not going to happen."

Ryanair has come under fire for only issuing credit vouchers to those who have had holidays cancelled.
Ryanair has come under fire for only issuing credit vouchers to those who have had holidays cancelled.

Professionals in the travel industry are also warning of the effects a 14-day quarantine could have.

Paul Wells, an independent travel agent from Staple, said: "The 14-day quarantine side of it really throws a spanner in the works - with that in place, as it currently stands, no matters whether you went for a short break or a longer holiday, you'd need to go into some kind of 14-day quarantine on your return.

"It doesn't look like exceptions in France will be tourism related, so if the tourism side isn't exempt you could end up going on a two-three day break to Disneyland Paris and then have to do a 14-day quarantine on your return.

"That would definitely put people off travelling."

Many in the industry are warning holidaymakers not to expect summer holidays abroad in 2020, instead telling them to look ahead to 2021.

But earlier today, EasyJet announced it is set to resume flights from a number of UK airports from June 15.

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