Travel compensation lawyers
Expert Travel Compensation Lawyer, Mark Watts, at national law firm Irwin Mitchell welcomed the findings of a recent survey which has highlighted practices by some tour operators which mislead consumers. The survey by consumer magazine Holiday Which? found that a number of tour operators gave misleading information about the location of some resorts, the proximity of hotels to busy roads and train lines and whether hotels were still under construction. Such misinformation can lead to holiday compensation, if the break is ruined as a result and a claim is made.
Irwin Mitchell client for travel compensation, the Lee family from Consett in County Durham, is a case in point. Mr and Mrs Lee were delighted when, having landed at Malaga Airport for their holiday in August 2003, the holiday rep informed them that they were to stay at the 3-star Las Chapas Hotel, Marbella. Unfortunately they ended up being among 37 claimants pursuing a holiday claim against Airtours concerning the hotel, which was in fact 10km from Marbella. This, however, was not the main issue.
Travel compensation lawyer, Mark Watts explains: "What should have been a relaxing break for Sean and Rosanna Lee and their daughter Rebecca turned out to be the start of a battle against gastric illness which Rosanna is still fighting to this day. Rebecca also suffered gastric illness but, compared to her long-suffering mother, her physical symptoms were short-lived."
Considering health and hygiene for a holiday compensation claim
Irwin Mitchell ITLG was instructed by the Lee family in October 2003. Airtours has admitted liability and the majority of the holiday claims have been settled but Mrs Lees personal injury claim is still on going.
"The Las Chapas Hotel was very run-down, as evidenced by broken sun beds, and the litter in the pool," continues Mark. "The food hygiene was poor, with insects in and on the food and dishes being re-heated and served up on more than occasion. Sean and Rosanna complained to the holiday reps but it appeared to make little difference."
The Lees became so concerned about the food standards that they had decided to eat elsewhere, despite the fact that they had already paid for their meals and that finding another venue would involve a bus or taxi journey. However, before they were able to put this plan into action, Rosanna and her daughter were struck down with gastric illness.
Sean was particularly concerned as his wife was well into her second pregnancy, and her gastric attacks - bouts of diarrhoea and bloating - continued when she returned home. She has since been diagnosed with post-infective Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which impacts upon her life and that of her family.
"When the Lee family booked their holiday they entered into a contract with Airtours," adds Mark. "It is incumbent on the tour operator to guarantee good health and hygiene standards and Airtours breached their duty in this by the poor levels of cleanliness at the Las Chapas Hotel."
Mr Lee had considered asking for a transfer to an alternative hotel within a short time of arriving at the Las Chapas Hotel. "We were told that we would be in a family-friendly hotel in Marbella", he says. "Instead, we found ourselves 10km from Marbella, in a hotel adjacent to a major four-lane highway, which had to be crossed to reach the beach, promised daily children's entertainment which failed to materialise, broken glass in the crazy golf, broken sun-beds, litter in the swimming pool and disinterested reps.
"The poor conditions at the hotel were in fact immediately so apparent that within two hours of our arrival I was making phone calls to the local representatives and back to the UK in a bid to be moved to alternative hotel accommodation, but my pleas were met with indifference."
Consider others affected & witnesses for your travel compensation claim
Sean soon discovered that he was not alone in his dissatisfaction. The day after we checked in, the holiday representative tried to sell excursions to new arrivals at the welcome meeting but found himself faced with unhappy guests, most of whom wanted to be relocated, says Sean. "The upshot of this was that guests were offered the opportunity to relocate if we paid anywhere up to £250 to do so. We felt this to be outrageous, as we had paid for what we believed would be a nice hotel with good facilities and entertainment. There was a limit as to how often one could listen to the same singer delivering the same repertoire night after night.
"Accessing the beach not only meant crossing the highway, it also involved negotiating a three foot deep drainage ditch, which was particularly challenging to Rosanna who was pregnant. It was even more of a challenge for another family who had two disabled children - one of whom had one leg. Once over the ditch, you had to walk along the grass verge by the crash barrier to get to a bridge which crossed the busy highway. It wasn't in the least relaxing. I would have expected the tour operator to bear such factors in mind when allocating accommodation."
Sean found the conditions in and around the buffet restaurant to be ghastly. As an example, the plumbing leaked water into the main lobby by the restaurant so the management placed mats on the marble floor, he explains. These were still in place at the end of the holiday, causing a slip hazard on the marble floor and unpleasant smells from the old water.
"Rebecca one day selected pork chops, only to find when she sat down that the chops had traces of cellophane on them. The rep assured us that these were the standards one would typically expect from a Spanish hotel.
"Even though my wife is half Spanish we didn't know any different, although her father put her straight when we returned home. We began to do some research. We found that a number of guests had posted scathing reviews of the Las Chapas Hotel on the Internet and the highway, the CN340, is notorious as a dangerous road.
"My wife and daughter were both ill on holiday and my wife suffers to this day. We cannot go anywhere without researching menus - as she can only manage plain food - and available toilet facilities because she can be struck by an attack of diarrhoea at any time. We are only grateful that her illness did not have a negative impact upon our as then unborn daughter, Sophie."
Sean was particularly aggrieved when, about a year later, he watched a consumer holiday programme which featured the Las Chapas Hotel and the same rep giving the same explanations.
"I had felt a degree of sympathy for him while out there as he seemed to be caught between the unhappy guests and his bosses," he says. "Seeing him still trotting out the same lame excuses to other guests was really upsetting. My advice to anyone going on holiday is to do some research before booking."
Travel Compensation Lawyer, Mark Watts of Irwin Mitchell ITLG adds: "It appears that the hotel management, the rep and the tour operator failed to ensure that health and hygiene standards were maintained to prevent guests from becoming ill.
A travel compensation claim could help
"Unfortunately a large number of people seem to have been affected by illness at this hotel. The condition of one guest on his return flight deteriorated rapidly and he was rushed straight from the airport to hospital by an ambulance waiting on the tarmac of the UK airport. He was subsequently diagnosed with campylobacter, a serious gastric infection giving rise to abdominal cramps, profuse diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting and fever
"Sadly, for many who fall ill whilst they are abroad, the symptoms continue long after they return home, concludes Mark. Many people go on to suffer long-term or permanent symptoms. Most cases could be avoided if hotels or tour operators reacted quickly to guests complaints and ensured they complied with simple health and hygiene practices relating to food and other hotel services."
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