The team discovers how airlines are working to stop drunk passengers from disrupting flights, meeting a boy caught in the crossfire and the bouncers recruited by airports.
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We asked you who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to
your holidays, and you came back with a catalogue
of travel disasters.
This can't be happening, it's a nightmare.
Wake me up from it, please.
It was just a shambles, that's the best way to say it.
It was just a shambles.
So, whether it's a deliberate rip-off, a simple mistake,
or a catch in the small print, we'll find out why you're out of pocket,
and what you can do about it.
Your stories, your money - this is Rip Off Britain.
Hello, and thank you so much for joining us on Rip Off Britain.
We've come to the sunshine island of Tenerife to investigate some of your
holiday stories, and it's lovely to have your company.
But not everyone you come across on a trip away is always going to be
quite so welcoming, and the fact is that who you end up
sharing your holiday with can make a real difference to
how much you enjoy it.
Now, don't get us wrong, because by that, of course,
we don't mean the people that you choose to travel with,
however frustrating they may turn out to be on the trip!
No, what we're talking about are the ones that you might
find yourself saddled with en route, or indeed when you arrive,
because the people that you sit next to or who are given a room next door
to you can have a major impact on your trip,
especially if their idea of a holiday is very different
and certainly a lot noisier than yours.
Now, each to their own of course,
and if what you're after is a good old party atmosphere,
you won't be very happy if you end up in a get-away-from-it-all
quiet retreat. So we'll be seeing how accurately we're given the
right impression of, say, a place's character and indeed its clientele,
as well as getting an exclusive peek at what's being done
to stop the sort of behaviour that can ruin a holiday
before it's even begun.
Coming up - a flight disrupted by drunken passengers
and a small boy caught in the crossfire.
This man, like, opened his bottle top and he, like,
threw it back and it hit my head,
and it made like this little hole in my head,
and a little scratch of blood came out.
And if your hotel's described as the lap of luxury,
is this what you'd expect to find when you arrive?
It just became mayhem, they were chucking drinks over each other,
being sick in the pool. It was more like an 18-30...
Plus, keep it to yourself, but we reveal an island paradise
that needn't break the bank.
For many of us, arriving at the airport signals
the start of the holiday, so it's perhaps no surprise that
to get in the holiday spirit, or to steady their nerves,
some travellers like to have a tipple at the bar
before they board their flight. Nothing wrong with that, of course,
unless, that is, the odd drink turns into a session.
Because being drunk in a bar is one thing,
but being drunk on a plane is quite another.
Not least because in recent years there's been a big rise
in delays caused by passengers who've had one too many.
Well, airlines and airport staff are determined to minimise
such disruption, and we went to see some of the methods
they're using to do it.
The golden age of air travel from the 1950s onwards
brought unparalleled access to the world for those who could afford it.
The luxury at airports and on board meant champagne corks were flying
as much as the passengers.
-Several bottles of bubbly were popped
and the passengers celebrated.
In the decades since, on long-haul flights especially,
we came to expect the drinks trolley to freely dispense all those
miniature bottles, but if these days it seems to come round
a little less often, there's a good reason for that.
Because, with pubs and champagne bars jostling for space
alongside the airport departure gates, there are concerns that
some passengers have already had one too many
before they even get on board.
Now, for many people, having a drink at the airport or on the plane
is just part of getting into the holiday spirit,
but police and airlines are warning that overindulging
could have consequences.
Over the last few years, hundreds of passengers
have been arrested on suspicion of being drunk on a plane, and,
according to news reports, some very high fliers indeed may also have
had more than just one for the road.
Kate Moss has been escorted off a plane at Luton Airport
for reportedly being disruptive.
The French film star Gerard Depardieu was removed
from an aeroplane after urinating in a bottle during takeoff.
And we didn't have to look very hard to find people who'd shared
a flight with passengers who'd gone overboard at the bar.
It is annoying when somebody gets smashed on a plane.
You don't really want to hear a crowd of people really drunk on the plane.
I think it's a massive issue, actually, especially for the
cabin crew on there as well, the things they have to deal with.
I was on a flight to Spain and there was a group of guys,
obviously drunk, and they were making a lot of noise,
shouting a lot. It was just not comfortable.
That discomfort is a feeling that single mum Sarah Gregory
can certainly relate to after a flight she took to Ibiza in 2016.
She was flying with her two children,
seven-year-old Aston and four-year-old India,
for a two-week family break in the sun.
The children were really excited about going on holiday.
It had taken me a year to save up,
so it was aimed at being a lovely family break in Ibiza,
which would be suitable for the children.
Sarah booked her flights with Ryanair, which,
two days before the family was due to fly,
sent an e-mail explaining it was tightening the rules
around alcohol consumption on its flights to Ibiza.
It explained that any passenger considered to be drunk
wouldn't be allowed to board their flight, and no pre-purchased alcohol
could be brought on board either.
All very reassuring for Sarah.
It was going to be really easy to travel with the children,
they were going to be safe and have a comfortable flight,
and that it was going to be very manageable on my own
travelling with the children.
But when Sarah got to Leeds Bradford Airport
and through to the departure lounge, it appeared that Ryanair's message
hadn't got through to some of the other passengers on her flight.
There was quite a lot of merriment, shouting, singing, obviously,
as you would probably expect on boarding a flight to Ibiza.
But nobody checked baggage, nobody looked in the bags,
nobody was really assessing anyone to see if they were worse for wear
And, as Sarah and her children boarded the plane,
her heart sank when one visibly drunk passenger was doing so, too.
The individual we'd actually seen staggering around earlier in the
airport, to our surprise, actually got on the flight,
was allowed to board it,
walked down the aisle...
..quite clearly worse for wear,
and swearing profusely in front of my children.
He then sat in the seat directly behind my son,
continued to swear profusely, and then fell asleep.
Hoping the other well-oiled passengers would also drop off,
Sarah was dismayed to hear the announcement heralding the arrival
of the drinks trolley, and she was disappointed to see
drinks being served to people who, in her opinion,
already appeared rather too merry,
in complete contrast to what Ryanair's e-mail
had said would happen.
Things started to get very rowdy and disruptive,
and I felt that the cabin crew were very much struggling to cope
with the disruption at that point.
And when the drunken passengers began throwing items
across the cabin, Sarah's son, Aston, found himself
in the firing line.
Everyone was scared of them.
They were shouting, they were screaming, they were putting
fists out at everyone.
This man, like, opened this bottle top and he, like,
threw it back and it hit my head and it made, like,
this little hole in my head and a little scratch of blood came out.
The flight had degenerated into such a point where it became
absolutely unbearable. It was just awful.
When my son was actually struck on the head with the cans
and bottle tops, it did make me really angry.
The cabin crew, they didn't actually intervene or do anything
to make the situation any better or any safer for my children.
Sarah couldn't wait for the flight to come to an end,
and once her holiday was over and she was back in the UK,
she wanted to know not just why drunk and disorderly passengers
had been allowed to board the flight in the first place,
but why they were then able to buy and drink more alcohol,
So, she wrote to Ryanair.
But when the airline replied, its version of how things were handled
was rather different from the way Sarah remembered them.
I actually received a letter from the airline saying that it was
regrettable that we hadn't enjoyed the flight.
However, they had interviewed all the crew on board that flight
and they were satisfied that procedures were followed.
I don't feel that the airline took my complaint seriously
or actually realised how bad the situation had been,
particularly for my children.
Well, when we contacted Ryanair, the airline agreed that
a number of individuals caused a minor disturbance on Sarah's flight
and were warned to behave.
It said it operates strict guidelines
for disruptive passengers who, in addition to being cautioned
by the crew or captain,
could be liable for further sanctions upon landing.
Ryanair says it won't tolerate unruly behaviour,
and the safety and comfort of customers,
crew and aircraft is its number one priority.
And it reiterated that, after consulting with passengers and airports...
But it's not just the behaviour of
drunken passengers that can cause problems on flights.
Identifying and tackling those intoxicated passengers,
not to mention their friends and luggage, can have quite an impact, too,
disrupting and even delaying flights.
So, to prevent such incidents,
Glasgow Prestwick Airport has employed extra staff who've been likened to
bouncers, because it's their job to keep an eye on passengers' pre-flight
boozing, and intervene if it looks as if things are getting out of hand.
Security operations manager Kate Kilgour is overseeing the new initiative.
Introducing the bouncers,
we obviously want to try and achieve the early intervention,
so building rapport.
As soon as the passengers come into the terminal,
we want to try and obviously gauge how they are, to see if they've actually had
any alcohol consumption before they've arrived.
Kate plans ahead,
checking the make-up of passenger lists for flights to destinations
popular with stag, hen and general partygoers, such as Magaluf and Ibiza.
When she identifies potential flashpoints, she books extra security,
specifically to deal with alcohol-related problems.
On duty today is Tommy Mitchell,
a doorman with ten years' experience in pubs and clubs.
Passengers booked on the 3.15 Ibiza flight are starting to roll in,
and he's keeping a watchful eye on them.
And it doesn't take long before Kate spots a group she'd like Tommy
to have a chat with.
Obviously, because they're in a large group, they're quite noisy,
so I've asked them to watch their noise levels,
and obviously just to think of the comfort and safety of others around
about them. Foul language, that kind of thing. I've also
advised them about alcohol levels,
and we would be off-loading if anybody was deemed to be too under
-I'll just go over and show my presence...
-..and have a chat with them. Thanks, Kate.
Tommy's approach to simply introduce himself to groups such as these is often all
it takes to curb any overenthusiastic behaviour.
-How are you doing, boys, all right?
Good, I like that. You know my name, I like that.
I believe my colleague had a wee chat with you earlier.
Just to say, "Calm down." Aye, that's all right.
-We're all right, Tommy.
-No, it's just because there's a group of you,
-you are having a bit of chat.
-No, no, aye.
-That's fine. Where are you going,
When I go over, have a little chat, I make sure,
I do a quick look at them and make sure
none of them are intoxicated or on drugs,
and I'm also looking for their attitude.
And to be fair, they're a good bunch of guys, we just had a bit of chat.
Having a laugh with them.
And though Tommy's quick once-over of the group hasn't raised any
immediate concerns, he knows how quickly the mood can change.
It's all about an early intervention
before they go through airside and get some more alcohol.
So, when I engage with them, that's what...
I know there's 20 of them there, it takes a minute or two to do it,
but I've had a good look at every one of them,
and they're actually all right, to be fair.
Kate's confident that such interventions are doing the trick.
We've definitely seen a marked improvement since introducing the stewards
within the terminal.
Obviously just having that extra pair of eyes,
that early intervention is definitely key for us.
Glasgow Prestwick isn't the only airport to operate such a scheme.
Glasgow's other airport and London Gatwick
are among those to have also introduced initiatives to tackle excessive
drinking before passengers get on board.
And in summer 2016, many
other airports and airlines signed up to a UK aviation industry code of practice.
According to aviation expert Julian Bray,
that's not before time.
Bad behaviour on aircraft, this has been a wake-up call to the industry because previously
they were prepared to allow a little bit of merriment to go on.
The point is, you are entering an environment, it's a strange environment,
you're excited, you're breathing
recirculated air, so you're very dry.
And so alcohol will react very, very quickly.
So the industry's finally realised this, and they've said, "Right, OK,
"we're going to try and make sure it's safe for everybody, because everybody
"has a right to quiet enjoyment on a flight."
It's now written into some airlines' terms and conditions that staff can
deny boarding to anyone's who's drunk, and if that happens,
there's no chance of a refund.
Their holiday might be ending there and then at the airport.
And of course they will lose their money, because if they're not fit to
fly, or the captain, for whatever reason,
and he doesn't have to give a reason,
if he's just unhappy about taking a particular person,
or a particular group, that is the end of their holiday.
And they have lost the money, and there is no redress.
For her part, after her flight last summer,
Sarah would welcome more initiatives such as the one at Glasgow.
I am concerned that this could actually happen again if we go on
holiday again next year, so unless something is done in the interim to
prevent this, then it is quite worrying.
It's difficult enough to travel with children, and given the situation,
it's not one that I would wish any other family to go through.
Now, before arriving at a holiday hotel,
each of us will have a very clear idea of what sort of atmosphere we'd
like it to have. For example,
you might be looking for somewhere peaceful and relaxing and very much
geared to adults only.
Or maybe you want a place more family focused with all the hubbub and fun
that that involves. Or, of course, you could be looking for a full-on
party atmosphere... Is it me?
You'll have to guess. ..with music going on around the clock.
Now, whichever is your preference,
and I'm absolutely sure which one I like,
you're not going to be happy if you don't get it,
especially if instead you end up with quite the opposite of what you
thought that you'd chosen and indeed
what it seemed that the holiday company had promised.
Quality time relaxing quietly.
With the only noise to disturb you,
the gentle sound of waves lapping at the shore.
Veterinary nurse Debbie Parry's requirements for her week away with
her boyfriend was simple.
We've both got full-time jobs,
we don't really see a lot of each other,
even though we live together.
Holidays are very, very important to us.
And this is why we like to spend quiet time together.
To have our own privacy, and just to enjoy together time.
To make sure rest and relaxation
would be what she got on her holiday in September 2015,
Debbie restricted her search to hotels that particularly
described themselves as adults only.
We have nothing against children, I do have two young nephews.
But I wouldn't want a holiday with them.
After a bit of searching online,
Debbie found what sounded like the perfect option,
with the holiday giant Thomson.
It was a seven night stay in the five-star
Insula Alba Resort and Spa in Crete,
one of the company's platinum resorts.
Which means it's part of a hand-picked selection of first-rate properties.
Not only did the hotel offer designer decor and sea views,
but Thomson's website clearly stated that the resort was adults only.
Now, for Debbie, it was just what she was looking for,
so she enthusiastically booked.
It was adults only, it just ticked the right boxes as far as I was concerned,
and it just sounded absolutely fantastic.
17 weeks later, when the holiday came around,
Debbie and her boyfriend, Steve, were well and truly ready for a
peaceful and relaxing week in the sun.
But the childfree haven they were expecting wasn't quite the scene
they were greeted with on their first morning.
Unfortunately, when we went in for breakfast,
we noticed that there were quite a few families in there.
So that was fine, the breakfast was lovely.
But it did raise an alarm bell.
Not thinking too much about it,
the couple returned to their room to make the most of their private pool.
But their much wanted peace and quiet was shattered by the screams
of a baby crying in the adjoining room.
I just then got frustrated. I went to the reception,
I was given the e-mail address for the Thomson rep and
I then came back, sent her an e-mail explaining the situation.
Debbie's point was that although of course she understands babies do
cry, she hadn't expected that to be an issue in a hotel described as
adults only. The rep agreed to move them to a different room,
which they all hoped would be more peaceful, and at first it was.
This room was lovely, and then within sort of 24 hours,
a group of young adults had then moved into the room next door and
they were just playing music from nine o'clock in the morning until,
after about five, six phone calls to the reception,
the manager finally came and told them to turn the music down.
But by this time, three days
into their seven-day break, Debbie's hopes of a relaxing trip were fading
-We ate out most nights,
simply just to have some quiet time to ourselves.
I just couldn't wait to get home.
As soon as they returned to the UK,
Debbie got in touch with Thomson to complain.
She didn't feel the hotel had been what she'd expected at all.
And she certainly couldn't understand why it was described as adults only
on Thomson's website, as well as the hotel's own website,
when clearly that was not the case.
I do feel that I was mis-sold the holiday.
The reason that I chose that hotel was because it clearly stated
Thomson responded to Debbie with an e-mail that she found preposterous.
Although the company apologised for any inconvenience caused,
it also explained that the hotel was in fact adult focused,
which means that although it's recommended for adults,
there may be children there from other tour operators.
And while they pointed out that this was stated in its terms and conditions,
as far as Debbie is concerned, if that's the case,
it shouldn't really have been labelled,
and indeed sold, as adults only.
I was very upset by the response,
and nowhere in the advertisement did it say "adult focused".
And you can see her point. When we checked,
both Thomson's website and the hotel's were still very clearly describing the
hotel as adults only and not adult focused.
Well, when we got in touch with Thomson,
the company told us it was very sorry to hear of her experience,
and while it does have agreements in place with hoteliers at all
adult-only resorts, it conceded that on this occasion these may not have
been adhered to.
Describing circumstances such as this is extremely rare,
it added that it was carrying out a full investigation with the hotel
management and will make any necessary changes.
And it said it has now offered Debbie a goodwill gesture of £100,
or £150 off her next holiday,
which she has refused because she doesn't feel it covers her
disappointment for what happened.
But a very similar complaint has landed Thomson in hot water before.
Back in 2012, the company was rapped over the knuckles by the
Advertising Standards Authority after breaks advertised as adult only
turned out to be a resort hosting families with young children.
And another couple to contact us after staying in a Thomson hotel,
where they say the vibe didn't quite match expectations,
is Jeffrey Gardner and his wife, Geraldine.
They got in touch to tell us that although kids weren't a complete no-no
on a trip they took to Mexico with friends David and Trish,
they did expect to have a peaceful and relaxing time.
We'd found out that probably the best place for us to go would be Riviera Maya,
as it's a nice, quiet resort.
Having stayed in one of Thomson's Gold collection of resorts in the
past, described by the company as classic holidays designed for adults,
the foursome, keen to experience a similar type of break,
plumped this time for a hotel from the tour operator's Platinum range,
believing it would provide even higher levels of peace and relaxation.
We were very much looking for a relaxing holiday,
but somewhere that wasn't totally quiet,
but equally we wanted to be able to kind of relax during the day and,
you know, kind of just generally have a nice, peaceful time.
They paid £7,200 between them for two weeks at the
Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Resort and Spa,
described on Thomson's website as the lap of luxury.
But when they arrived,
the couples were surprised at the sort of clientele already lapping up
that luxury, and the volume at which they were doing it.
When we actually arrived on the resort,
the first impression was that it was very loud and it was
more like an 18-30 holiday club.
In fact, Jeffrey and Geraldine were astonished to find themselves caught up in the
notorious annual spring break celebrations of hundreds of students
aged from 18 to 21. So notorious that television programmes have even
made about it. And our couples' photos tell a very similar story.
It just became mayhem, they were chucking drinks over each other, being sick in the pool.
The noise was of a level where you couldn't really escape it.
The couples complained to the Thomson rep and asked to move
hotels. But with nowhere else available at such short notice,
they had no choice but to stay put.
We definitely felt as though our complaints were falling on deaf ears.
The standard response seemed to be, "We will talk to the hotel manager about it."
We came back feeling really frustrated,
not rested and really unhappy with a large percentage
of the time that we had there.
Now, nowhere on Thomson's brochures, or indeed on its website, does the company make
any promises about the age or type of customers that you might expect to be
sharing a hotel with. And however noisy they might have been,
those students were adults.
But when Jeffrey complained to Thomson,
his argument was that as these students' idea of a holiday was so obviously
very different to his own,
he was never going to have got the relaxing holiday he presumed he'd
booked by choosing a top-of-the-range platinum hotel.
So the company did offer him some money back.
They offered us £60 compensation each,
which we thought was like a derogatory offer.
And which we refused.
Then they said they would pass it to somebody senior,
and it would take another 56 days to investigate.
Well, forget 56 days, or even 56 weeks,
a lot longer has passed and the couple say that they are yet to
receive a final response to their complaint.
This complaint was made nearly two and a half years ago.
And I feel that Thomson have just totally ignored,
ignored everything that I've said.
The complaints that I've made, they've not taken seriously.
Whilst Thomson didn't comment directly on why Jeffrey and Geraldine are
still waiting to hear from it regarding their complaint,
it did say it's sorry the two couples were unhappy with their
holiday experience. It said the management at its hotels worked closely with its
destination services teams to monitor guests' behaviour and ensure
that all customers are able to enjoy the holiday.
It added that it's offered a gesture of goodwill to apologise.
Geraldine and Jeffrey, however,
say that they have rejected that offer and point out that on various
holidays booked with Thomson, both before and since,
they've paid a lot less to stay in nicer hotels.
And following their experience in Mexico,
they now spend time combing through the small print before handing over
any money, so that they can be confident they'll end up with the sort of
holiday they're expecting.
I've booked with Thomson many times,
and I've had a fantastic experience with them,
but it was just this one resort that we went to,
where they said they weren't in control of what other companies
brought in. If I'd have known this before I went, I wouldn't have gone.
As for Debbie, well, she still feels that whatever the terms and conditions may say,
a hotel is either adult only or it's not.
If you book an adult only hotel, you should expect adults only.
Whereas now I would be always thinking,
"Is it going to be adults only?"
And the answer to that question is - who knows?
Still to come on Rip-Off Britain,
a company that says that it specialises in holidays for single travellers.
So how did it get this one so wrong?
When I got there and discovered I had no accommodation,
I must admit I felt quite abandoned.
I could have gone home at that point, to be quite honest.
Our travel expert, Simon Calder, has all the secrets to save
you money on your money on your travels. He's full of tips on everything
from how to avoid the crowds, to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.
This time, the Azores.
I've organised some truly dreadful holidays.
Just ask my family about the fly drive to Denmark,
where it turned out there was no car!
Or the expedition to Greenland and Baffin Island that was basically two
weeks sitting and stewing on an old Polish ferry.
But there was one trip that delivered fantastic experiences and formidable value.
The Azores are a collection of islands in the middle of the Atlantic,
and since the Portuguese government allowed budget airlines to fly there
in 2015, the price of flights has dropped by two thirds.
Even better, once you arrive,
Simon says it's easy to explore on the cheap.
Prices in most remote islands are annoyingly high,
but in the Azores they're gratifyingly low.
You could spend more than £50 for a decent hotel room,
or over a tenner for a good dinner with a glass of wine,
but there's not really much point.
And taxis are so inexpensive,
you might consider using them instead and simply not renting a car.
And Simon has a list of must sees and things to do.
The volcanic observatory,
a hike up to the Lake of Fire in the east of the island,
a steam and soak with naturally heated water in the centre at
Caldeira Velha, and the stunning Seven Cities,
a cascade of volcanic craters near the western edge.
By the end of the day, you'll feel you've witnessed the raw edge of the
world, but you've still got a fish dinner to look forward to.
Travelling solo is a topic that we've covered on this programme on a number of occasions.
In particular, we've looked into something that I especially have
strong views on myself, and that is those dreaded single supplements.
But this year, we've been contacted by a number of people with some very
different concerns about trips that they've booked,
either travelling on their own or as part of a group of other single
travellers. Because when you are by yourself, in a foreign country,
it really does become especially important that what you expect to
get from your holiday is how things turn out.
Unfortunately, the people who've been in touch with us would say that
that definitely is not what has happened to them.
The freedom to explore a new country or city at my own pace,
which is pretty fast,
has meant that some of my favourite trips away have been ones with just
myself for company.
Whenever I have been away on a break my own,
I've always tried to ensure in advance that I'm going to get
exactly what I plan for.
Are the restaurants and the bars nice and close so I don't have to walk
too far, particularly at night?
Will there be other people at the resort with the same interests and
tastes? And I have to say that so far, most of the things I've planned
have worked out pretty well, but I know that unfortunately that's not the case
Mary Kelso from Darvel in Ayrshire for one.
Until her last trip, she loved travelling alone.
It's a good way of meeting new friends.
I've met a lot of nice people that I would never have met unless I'd gone
on holiday on my own, so it's been very worthwhile.
And Mary's always known that keeping safe can be extra important when
-she's by herself.
-The last few holidays I've been, city breaks,
and that's more concerning because you're always being told about the
security and pickpockets and going out in the dark at night on your own,
but during the day, it's not an issue for me.
So, Mary's never let any of that put her off,
and in August 2015 she booked a week in Barcelona with a company called
I was in the travel agents that day for two hours, to make sure
that... I wanted half-board because
at night-time and in the dark, I didn't have to go out if I didn't want to
go out, and she had said that
the place she had booked me in Barcelona was
ideal for where I wanted to be.
Barrhead Travel calls itself "the UK's leading independent travel company,"
its website promising perfect trips and top-notch customer service.
What's more, though not catering solely for single travellers,
it does claim to be a specialist in that market,
and one that will take care of everything.
So, Mary felt she was in safe hands.
I knew most of the places I wanted to visit,
because Barcelona's known for its architecture.
I still like to go out and not know where I'm going.
It's the sort of place you could spend all day.
But while Mary arrived in Barcelona fully prepared for her break,
it seems Barcelona wasn't quite prepared for her.
Or at least, the hotel that she'd arrived at wasn't.
In fact, it had no record of her booking at all.
When I got there and discovered I had no accommodation,
I must admit I felt quite abandoned.
I had received all these promises from Barrhead Travel that this was a
good hotel, I would be well received and
it was within the areas that I wanted to be,
to discover that I didn't even have a bed for the night.
I could have gone home at that point, to be quite honest.
The hotel told Mary it looked as if Barrhead Travel had incorrectly
booked her into another hotel with a very similar name,
but that hotel was a 40-minute drive away, in a resort called Calella,
far from the central Barcelona area where she wanted to be.
By now it was getting late, and seeing Mary was devastated,
the hotel staff agreed to let her stay for the night,
although they didn't have room for her for the rest of the week.
She immediately rang Barrhead Travel,
who said it would find her a suitable alternative the next morning.
But what the company came up with didn't match the criteria that Mary
had made clear when she booked the trip.
The hotel wasn't half-board, and though there were restaurants nearby,
it meant she'd have to eat in them alone,
which was exactly the situation she'd hoped to avoid.
I had nowhere I could go for breakfast.
I couldn't even get a drink of any sort.
It was far too far away. I mean, it took
me half an hour that day to walk in to some of
the sights that I wanted to see. It was just not acceptable.
So, once again, Mary got on the phone to Barrhead Travel,
who agreed to move her to a third hotel.
This one was closer to the sights that she'd come to see,
and it had its own rooftop restaurant.
And though she did eventually settle here,
the booking bungle totally spoiled her enjoyment of the trip,
and on this occasion,
travelling solo certainly wasn't the positive experience she'd hoped that
it would be.
When we put all of this to Barrhead Travel, the company said it..
..so was extremely disappointed to hear of Mary's experience.
It puts the blame for what happened on "a supplier system error",
but says it immediately made arrangements for alternative accommodation in
the centre of Barcelona, covered all additional hotel fees and,
in line with ABTA guidelines, reimbursed all expenses.
It says it was in contact with Mary on a daily basis,
as her safety and wellbeing were its top priorities.
Barrhead added that as well as sincerely apologising for the inconvenience
caused, as a goodwill gesture, it offered Mary further compensation,
which she's accepted.
Travel expert Simon Calder is used to trips away by himself,
but he can see why Mary would have felt the way she did.
I travel loads on my own, and it's fantastic.
Of course, it's got some challenges,
particularly for women travelling alone,
which is why if you can sign up with a good tour operator,
who's going to guarantee you a great experience with a certain amount of
security as well, that's quite possibly a good solution.
And it's one that Nicola Murphy from Oxfordshire went for when she was
planning a solo holiday. She plumped for a trip travelling as part of a
group, with a company that promised the best holidays for single
travellers, but that didn't mean quite what she'd thought,
as she explained to Simon before he jetted off on his next expedition.
I did the modern thing, which was to Google single holidays for over-50s,
scrolled down and found one called Archers Direct Holidays.
Looked through their tours and really liked the tour,
a two-week tour of Thailand.
But a few weeks after she'd booked, Nicola rang the company to check something,
and as the chat continued, she discovered something she hadn't realised.
I said to them, "So, how many people are on the tour?"
And they said, "Well, X number of couples and four single people."
So I said, "Well, actually that isn't therefore a singles holiday."
And so how did that conversation develop?
They basically said to me because it was only a couple of weeks before the departure date,
that I couldn't have my money back, so it was left...
-Tough luck, really, to me.
-And you decided to cancel?
I did, because like I said, I didn't want to go on a holiday where
there were only three other single travellers and
probably about 16 couples,
that wasn't what I was looking for.
The trouble was, though Archers Holidays does claim to offer singles
breaks that attract like-minded people,
it doesn't promise that those people will also be
travelling alone. Indeed, on the website, it states that as well as
single travellers, there's every chance that you could be travelling with couples, or even groups.
I've had a good look at what Archers offers and they most certainly make
a big play for single travellers.
They say, "Come away with us, you'll have a lovely time,
"you'll meet new people."
They've even got this really nice single share option to help keep the
costs down. But, crucially, Nicola,
nowhere can I see anything where they say, "On one of
"our holidays, you will be the minimum on a trip
"with mostly single people, or it might be exclusively single people."
I made the assumption that they were advertising it as singles holidays,
I'll be honest with you.
I just feel that it is quite difficult to go away when you're on your own,
older in life. Um...
So where do you go, how do I not make that mistake again?
I think that picking up the phone and talking to someone before you commit
quite a lot of money is a good idea.
If you'd just had a conversation to start off with rather than just
relying on going online, that might have helped.
And that's advice Simon thinks all solo travellers should bear in mind
when planning a trip.
I think if she'd perhaps just picked up the phone,
or indeed talked to a travel agent and said, "Is this really going to be the right holiday for me?
"It's important that I'm not stuck with a bunch of boring old couples,
"I want to meet new people," she would have found out, I think,
pretty quickly that maybe it wasn't the holiday for her.
When we spoke to Archers Holidays, the company with which Nicola booked,
it said that it promotes its holidays to all types of customer,
with no specific departures for single travellers.
It added that at no time did Nicola specify that she was looking for a
dedicated singles holiday
with only single people, and went on to say that unfortunately,
as Nicola cancelled her holiday within 30 days of departure,
in accordance with its terms and conditions,
it had to apply a 100% cancellation
charge due to obligations to suppliers.
Of course, one company's definition of a singles holiday may differ greatly from
another, and once you've thrown in your own personal expectations of
what such a trip should offer, it's very easy, I think,
to see why situations like the one that Mary and Nicola found themselves in
can occur. But Simon thinks that there is one simple way to minimise confusion
and disappointment before you've even booked your trip.
These days, it's really tempting to do everything online.
But I reckon that a good old-fashioned chat
with somebody, whether that's a travel agent or indeed somebody at
the company on the phone, is a very good way to answer your questions.
And if it's important for you that solo travellers are in the majority,
or perhaps entirely everyone on that trip is a solo traveller,
then have a discussion with the company,
is that what they're going to deliver?
Unfortunately, if a company doesn't quite deliver on what was expected,
as was the case with Mary's trip to Barcelona,
it might have the very unwelcome consequences of putting you off
travelling by yourself altogether.
I would have to think seriously about going on that type of holiday on my
own again. I doubt if I would go on a city break or a city on my own
again. I would definitely take someone with me,
or go with friends or whatever. It's too much of a risk.
If you've got a story you'd like us to investigate,
then get in touch with us via our Facebook page, BBC Rip Off Britain,
our website, bbc.co.uk/ripoffbritain...
Or, if you'd like to send us a letter, then our new address is:
Well, it's one thing having to spend time with people who rub you up the
wrong way at home, but quite another when it's during your precious
holiday time for which you may have paid a lot of money.
That'll put a dampener on even the sunniest of vacations!
And, whether that's been for the whole duration of the trip or just
the flight, having the wrong sort of travelling companions really can
mean that you get home rather more stressed than you were before you went away,
which sort of defeats the whole point of going on holiday, really,
-I think it does rather,
but it's a good job that the three of us get on as well as we do,
that's all I can say, otherwise it might be a very different picture.
But I'm afraid it's time to part company for now,
as we're right out of time, but, of course,
we'll be back to investigate more of your stories very soon.
Please keep them coming in, we love them and we read every one.
In the meantime, we hope your next holiday goes exactly the way you'd
planned, and until the next time, from all of us, it's goodbye.
Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and Julia Somerville discover how airlines are working to stop drunk passengers from disrupting flights, meeting a small boy caught in the crossfire and the bouncers recruited by airports to tackle the problem once and for all.
Plus the surprising reason why a hotel sold as 'adults-only' could still be full of children.
Travel expert Simon Calder reveals the island paradise that needn't break the bank, and the booking mix-ups that left one single traveller wary of travelling alone again.