Air fairs? Consumer group accuses airlines of ripping off customers over travel chaos
Chalkmarks: Sunglasses sunset

Good Morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 1st July 2022

There’s plenty to moan about right now when it comes to going on holiday. Look at the news: it’s wall to wall chaos. It feels like everything is in crisis. But like most travellers we have no plans to stop booking. We’re not alone. Figures out this week show that people are planning trips – and more every day. The destinations climbing to the top of the charts are surprising. It’s about navigating our way around the disruption. This is a post-Covid blip. We won’t let queues spoil our trips. As soon as we see the clouds out the plane window, it’s all worth it. And as the mission to travel continues the newsletter goes on. Here are the good, the bad and the ugly of the travel headlines this week. 

Grab your sunglasses!

Must read: Airlines are routinely “ripping off” customers with “little fear of facing any consequences”. Wow! These are the very strong words used by consumer group Which? in its travel reform report Final boarding call. And that is just the beginning. Not taking a softly, softly approach, yesterday it called for 12 immediate changes to protect travellers.

Confrontational: Which? said it found “most of the airlines” it looked at had terms and conditions which “our barristers believe are likely to be in breach of consumer rights law, and some terms are almost certainly in breach of the law”. Many airlines disputed the claims.

Blacklisting: One area of concern is when passengers have attempted to seek a refund with an airline and failed. The customer has then gone to their credit card company and asked it to reverse the transaction – to grant the refund – in a process known as chargeback. The Which? report found that some customers who used chargeback could then find themselves on a blacklist.

Response: Which? said Ryanair had responded to this claim saying that “fewer than 850 passengers had “unlawfully” processed chargebacks via their credit card company, and that these passengers were required to settle their outstanding debt before being allowed to fly with Ryanair again.”

Sign the petition: Which? has started a petition calling on the government to give “new stronger powers to the Civil Aviation Authority so it can hit airlines with heavy fines when they flout the rules”.

Which? says: Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy for Which?, said: “Our analysis shows some airlines are routinely ignoring their legal obligations and ripping off their customers, with little fear of facing any consequences.”

What is the government saying: Watchdog, the Civil Aviation Authority, told the Independent, it will look at the findings and respond.

Also happening: Yesterday, the Department for Transport published a 22-point plan to support the aviation industry to minimise delays during the upcoming summer holiday period and ensure passengers are compensated if there’s disruption. It calls on airline industry to do “everything within its power” to avoid the disruption seen at Easter and throughout June.

Grant Shapps says: The Transport Secretary says: “The 22 measures we’ve published today set out what we’re doing to support the industry. It’s now on airports and airlines to commit to running the flights they’ve promised or cancel them with plenty of time to spare so we can avoid the kind of scenes we saw at Easter and half term. With 100 days having passed since we set out that restrictions would be eased, there’s simply no excuse for widespread disruption.”

Holiday protection: For peace of mind, when travelling the best advice is book with a travel agent and to make sure trips are Atol or Abta protected. The Sun helpfully explains the difference.

Flight cancellations: This week saw British Airways pull 650 flights in July – affecting routes to Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona. The Daily Mail has the full list. There was also “total chaos” at Heathrow yesterday after the airport cancelled flights at the last minute saying it couldn’t serve the high passenger numbers. The BBC reported on the queues and “zero customer service”.

New train chaos: TSSA union workers in train stations at Avanti West Coast have voted for strikes and action short of a strike. Any walkout will cause disruption at stations from London Euston to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. The TSSA union has not yet set any dates.

Tomorrow: Greater Anglia has started to warn passengers about a driver strike on Saturday as Aslef members walk out over pay and conditions. Some 90 per cent of services on Saturday are cancelled with no buses replacing the train. The routes affected include London Liverpool Street to Cambridge, Norwich and Colchester. The Stansted Express will run a half hourly service.

Sekt in the city: We always thought there were just three choices when it came to fizz: Champagne, Prosecco and Cava. Who knew the Germans had their own version? Sekt! Pronounced as sect, this is crisp, fruity, golden and bubbly wine. This miracle can be found just a short hour away from Stansted Airport in the romantic Rhineland – an area of vineyards, castles and river cruises. Here’s what we got up to on a long weekend.

Delicious Italy: Italy must be one of the tastiest countries on the planet. We love our pizza, pasta, risotto, arancini balls and gelato so we went on a culinary pilgrimage with Gourmet on Tour in Villa Lucia just 20mins from Lucca in the valley of Vorno, Tuscany. The school offers hands-on experience with professional chefs, wine tasting and guided tours of the region. We tucked into platefuls of salamis, soft cheeses, black olives, artichokes, warm bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar – and we made ragu. Under the Tuscan sun this is definitely a recipe for happiness. Read all about it.

The mission continues: With delays and disruption in the headlines you might think passengers would also go on strike but no. According to travel agent Barrhead Travel bookings are back to 2019 highs. Warrington Worldwide has the story. 

Ticket to paradise: Elsewhere, research firm ForwardKeys posted its latest trend insights on Twitter. It says air travel is set to reach 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Africa and the Middle East are forecast to recover first, followed by North and South America then Europe and last the Asia Pacific. 

On the itinerary: According to this holiday data, the top three resilient beach destinations for Europe are Antalya, Turkey, Tirana, Albania and Greek island Mykonos. The top three headlining cities are Naples, Italy, Istanbul, Turkey, and Athens, Greece. And in the Americas the destinations seeing strong flight bookings are Costa Rica, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Clear the diary!!!

Bring me sunshine: The European Travel Commission, which promotes Europe, also put out its research this week. They revealed that 84 per cent of holidaymakers intend to travel between June-September, with most heading to the Mediterranean. Other regions doing well for tourism include Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. See their report here.

Shake, rattle and roll: Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis has caused a spike in bookings to America’s Deep South according to Newmarket Holidays. It told Travel Weekly their Elvis-inspired tours are at an all-time high with a 144 per cent increase in sales in the last six weeks. Huh-ah-hah!

Coupled-up: In a move that stumped some this week, Brighton in East Sussex and Santa Monica in California have become “friendship cities”. Why? The aim is to attract visitors from each other. How? No idea. Both have beaches and famous piers…perhaps that’s what brought them together. Simon Calder asks which is cooler and compares the two cities. We’ve been to both and we know which one we’d choose!

Sneak peak: On Wednesday we got a glimpse into the new Shakespeare North Playhouse opening in Prescot, Merseyside. The replica Shakespeare theatre with its timber structure is a 450-seat arts venue. Expect performances by candlelight for that authentic Elizabethan feel and tickets for as little as £3…for locals. Paid for by taxpayers, grants and donations, the £38million theatre opens its doors on 15th July.

Don’t miss: The Tower of London’s Superbloom. It’s finally here. Planted for the Queen’s Jubilee weekend the wild flower meadow didn’t come out in time for the June celebrations due to bad weather, but it has blossomed and is best seen RIGHT NOW! More than 20 million seeds have been planted in the moat to create a stunning display of blue cornflowers, red poppies and yellow corn marigolds. For £12 you can wander through the stunning Superbloom, or see it for free from the gate. It got a fantastic write up in Mail Plus.

Mountains of choice!

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