I booked a family holiday to Greece for myself, my husband and three children going out with British Airways and returning with easyJet.
In late March I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and told I could not travel abroad in the summer as I would be undergoing chemotherapy. EasyJet was amazing, offering a voucher for nearly the full cost of the flights and emailing it to me while I was on the phone.
BA has been a different story. I went on the website and phoned. However, it said I had made a normal cancellation, with no special circumstances taken into account.
It gave me a £66.20 refund on flights costing £1,181.20. The cancellation fee alone was £75.
I provided my medical records and chased it up, but finally got a response saying BA could help no further.
Mrs N. R., Kent.
One reader forced to cancel a trip to Greece after a cancer diagnosis was offered a £66.20 refund on flights costing £1,181.20 and charged a cancellation fee of £75 by BA
Looking at the email trail you sent me, the responses appear almost to have been done on a cut-and-paste basis. And BA contorted the English language horribly.
I quote: ‘I’d like to inform you that all the refund of your ticket have been done as per the fare rules, we are unable to assist you with this any further.’
If I were the U.K.’s national carrier, I would at least want to ensure I communicated with my customers in clear and proper English. I think you were trapped in a cycle of ‘computer says no’.
BA says that when a customer processes a refund online, it automatically refunds in line with the terms and conditions of the ticket. However, if a customer contacts it first, it will try to help on a case-by-case basis and can offer various options.
You cancelled online before phoning, and it seems no one had the wherewithal or authority to override the computer.
However, you told me you searched the website and struggled to find a number to call for cancelling under special circumstances.
The good news is that you have now been contacted by a senior customer service manager who has refunded the entire cost of your ticket.
A BA spokesman says: ‘When customers tell us they are unable to travel due to serious illness, we do all we can to help them. We’re very sorry to hear that Mrs R is unwell and have processed a full refund of her ticket.’
Can I add a plea to anyone reading this column to buy travel insurance at the time they book a holiday or to make sure you have an annual policy in place.
It’s not enough to buy it a week or two before you go, because the insurance is there to cover you if you are forced to cancel because you or a relative become sick or if the holiday company collapses.
For the record, BA’s customer service number is 0344 493 0787.
You have your say
Every week, Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories.
Here are some on our report about how you can top up your pension with a holiday let…
I have a friend who has bought a property to let in Portland, Oregon. She is making so much money through it. But there is the emerging problem of homes being bought and then just left empty.
T. S., by email.
Letting is not always as lucrative as it might seem. Buying self-catering properties in cities will bring in plenty of guests. Remote regions, such as small Scottish islands, have poorer transport and will attract fewer tourists.
W. Y., Glasgow.
It might be a good way for some people to make money, but I think holiday lets can have a negative effect on local areas. It can stop people who are born there buying a home, as prices are pushed up.
L. M., by email.
Letting out a property might raise some cash, but there’s got to be a better way of increasing your income without handing a house to strangers. I worry they wouldn’t treat it as well their own home.
B. Y., Nottingham.
It’s important to remember that if a holiday let is available for 140 days per year or more, then the owners have to switch from simply paying council tax to business rates. However, you may get small business relief.
G. S., email.
Too many people are investing in these at the moment, so soon, you’ll be making very little in returns. I think it’s better to buy several cheap properties across the country and rent them out.
W. O., Cardiff.
A staycation might sound nice, but if we have another summer like this one, the attraction of holidaying in the UK will soon decline. The sun has hardly come out where I am. I’d rather spend my money in Majorca.
M. S., Dunstable, Bedfordshire.
In 2017 a claims management company contacted Lloyds Bank on our behalf regarding payment protection insurance (PPI). Lloyds said there was nothing against our names.
Unexpectedly, in May this year, Lloyds wrote to my husband saying it had now identified a PPI policy on a mortgage account.
We completed a form to claim compensation and supplied what further information we could, though the claim dates back to 2001.
It seems the PPI was only signed by my husband even though the mortgage was in joint names. Neither of us can remember it being sold.
At the time, we were both working and had a good wage. My husband was also in receipt of an Army pension. We were, and still are, in good health. Lloyds appears to be suggesting we would not have been in a position to pay the mortgage if a problem occurred.
If I had to take sick leave from work, I would still have received six months’ full pay then six months’ half pay.
Mrs L. C., Derbyshire.
Lloyds wrote our reader saying it had identified a PPI policy on a mortgage account
Lloyds Bank has looked at your case again and still feels no mis-selling involved. Your case does raise some important points, though.
Firstly, you have mortgage payment protection insurance (MPPI) not the PPI randomly flogged with personal loans and credit cards. Two decades ago it was accepted that MPPI could be a sensible option for many people taking mortgages.
State benefits covering mortgage repayments to those who lost their jobs or became too sick to work had been cut back. The government was encouraging private insurance for mortgage repayments cover to avoid a repetition of the early Nineties.
In 1992 more than 350,000 borrowers were at least six months in arrears with their mortgage and 387,400 homes were repossessed between 1990 and 1996.
So was your MPPI mis-sold? I think you partly answer your own question as to why it covered your husband and not you. If you had been too sick to work, you would have been paid for a year — which gave plenty of cover before state benefits kicked in.
This suggests the financial adviser decided that in your case, insurance was not needed. Far from placing a question mark over the sale it suggests the process was rigorous.
Lloyds Bank’s PPI bill is now expected to be £2billion. PPI deserves its dirty reputation because so many sales were part of a frivolous, greed-driven, operation, but this does not mean that every policy was mis-sold.
Straight to the point
I received a letter in December from Booking.com offering me £55 if I booked another holiday by the end of January. I decided on a six-day break in Plymouth for March, but I didn’t receive the money until July 9. Why did it take so long?
J. C., Worthing, W. Sussex.
Customers were supposed to receive the cashback when they returned from their holiday. Your payment was delayed because you hadn’t added your credit card details to your booking.com account. When you contacted the website in July to chase the money, it informed you of this and the cash arrived in your account two days later.
In May, I bought a Simba memory foam mattress from John Lewis for £599. It is a large expense for a pensioner but I was in desperate need. However, it was incredibly uncomfortable and caused me leg and back pain. Now John Lewis refuses to refund me because it has been used.
M. S., London.
Simba mattresses come with a 100-night sleep trial promise, which allows you to return it for a full refund if you are unhappy. John Lewis says it is sorry if you were given the wrong information and has called you to offer a refund or exchange.
I want to close my Santander Isa and transfer the £23,000 balance to an account with Principality Building Society, but it is proving very difficult. When I eventually managed to speak to someone, he asked for my National Insurance number. I gave it to him without thinking and I am now terrified I will be scammed.
L. R., London.
Santander apologises for the problems you have had closing your Isa. The bank says that before closing an account, it verifies a customer’s identity by asking a number of questions, such as part of your National Insurance number.
- Write to Tony Hazell at Ask Tony, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email email@example.com — please include your daytime phone number, postal address and a separate note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Tony Hazell. We regret we cannot reply to individual letters. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.