Episode 13 Rip Off Britain


Episode 13

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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Transcript


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We asked you who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to

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your holidays, and you came back with a catalogue

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of travel disasters.

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This can't be happening, it's a nightmare.

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Wake me up from it, please.

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It was just a shambles, that's the best way to say it.

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It was just a shambles.

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So, whether it's a deliberate rip-off, a simple mistake,

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or a catch in the small print, we'll find out why you're out of pocket,

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and what you can do about it.

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Your stories, your money - this is Rip Off Britain.

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Hello, and thank you so much for joining us on Rip Off Britain.

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We've come to the sunshine island of Tenerife to investigate some of your

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holiday stories, and it's lovely to have your company.

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But not everyone you come across on a trip away is always going to be

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quite so welcoming, and the fact is that who you end up

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sharing your holiday with can make a real difference to

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how much you enjoy it.

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Now, don't get us wrong, because by that, of course,

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we don't mean the people that you choose to travel with,

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however frustrating they may turn out to be on the trip!

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No, what we're talking about are the ones that you might

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find yourself saddled with en route, or indeed when you arrive,

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because the people that you sit next to or who are given a room next door

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to you can have a major impact on your trip,

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especially if their idea of a holiday is very different

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and certainly a lot noisier than yours.

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Now, each to their own of course,

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and if what you're after is a good old party atmosphere,

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you won't be very happy if you end up in a get-away-from-it-all

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quiet retreat. So we'll be seeing how accurately we're given the

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right impression of, say, a place's character and indeed its clientele,

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as well as getting an exclusive peek at what's being done

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to stop the sort of behaviour that can ruin a holiday

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before it's even begun.

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Coming up - a flight disrupted by drunken passengers

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and a small boy caught in the crossfire.

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This man, like, opened his bottle top and he, like,

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threw it back and it hit my head,

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and it made like this little hole in my head,

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and a little scratch of blood came out.

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And if your hotel's described as the lap of luxury,

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is this what you'd expect to find when you arrive?

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It just became mayhem, they were chucking drinks over each other,

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being sick in the pool. It was more like an 18-30...

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holiday club.

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Plus, keep it to yourself, but we reveal an island paradise

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that needn't break the bank.

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For many of us, arriving at the airport signals

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the start of the holiday, so it's perhaps no surprise that

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to get in the holiday spirit, or to steady their nerves,

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some travellers like to have a tipple at the bar

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before they board their flight. Nothing wrong with that, of course,

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unless, that is, the odd drink turns into a session.

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Because being drunk in a bar is one thing,

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but being drunk on a plane is quite another.

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Not least because in recent years there's been a big rise

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in delays caused by passengers who've had one too many.

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Well, airlines and airport staff are determined to minimise

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such disruption, and we went to see some of the methods

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they're using to do it.

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The golden age of air travel from the 1950s onwards

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brought unparalleled access to the world for those who could afford it.

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The luxury at airports and on board meant champagne corks were flying

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as much as the passengers.

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-NEWSREEL:

-Several bottles of bubbly were popped

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and the passengers celebrated.

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In the decades since, on long-haul flights especially,

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we came to expect the drinks trolley to freely dispense all those

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miniature bottles, but if these days it seems to come round

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a little less often, there's a good reason for that.

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Because, with pubs and champagne bars jostling for space

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alongside the airport departure gates, there are concerns that

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some passengers have already had one too many

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before they even get on board.

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Now, for many people, having a drink at the airport or on the plane

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is just part of getting into the holiday spirit,

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but police and airlines are warning that overindulging

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could have consequences.

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Over the last few years, hundreds of passengers

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have been arrested on suspicion of being drunk on a plane, and,

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according to news reports, some very high fliers indeed may also have

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had more than just one for the road.

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Kate Moss has been escorted off a plane at Luton Airport

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for reportedly being disruptive.

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The French film star Gerard Depardieu was removed

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from an aeroplane after urinating in a bottle during takeoff.

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And we didn't have to look very hard to find people who'd shared

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a flight with passengers who'd gone overboard at the bar.

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It is annoying when somebody gets smashed on a plane.

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You don't really want to hear a crowd of people really drunk on the plane.

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I think it's a massive issue, actually, especially for the

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cabin crew on there as well, the things they have to deal with.

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I was on a flight to Spain and there was a group of guys,

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obviously drunk, and they were making a lot of noise,

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shouting a lot. It was just not comfortable.

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That discomfort is a feeling that single mum Sarah Gregory

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can certainly relate to after a flight she took to Ibiza in 2016.

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She was flying with her two children,

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seven-year-old Aston and four-year-old India,

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for a two-week family break in the sun.

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The children were really excited about going on holiday.

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It had taken me a year to save up,

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so it was aimed at being a lovely family break in Ibiza,

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which would be suitable for the children.

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Sarah booked her flights with Ryanair, which,

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two days before the family was due to fly,

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sent an e-mail explaining it was tightening the rules

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around alcohol consumption on its flights to Ibiza.

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It explained that any passenger considered to be drunk

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wouldn't be allowed to board their flight, and no pre-purchased alcohol

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could be brought on board either.

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All very reassuring for Sarah.

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It was going to be really easy to travel with the children,

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they were going to be safe and have a comfortable flight,

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and that it was going to be very manageable on my own

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travelling with the children.

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But when Sarah got to Leeds Bradford Airport

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and through to the departure lounge, it appeared that Ryanair's message

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hadn't got through to some of the other passengers on her flight.

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There was quite a lot of merriment, shouting, singing, obviously,

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as you would probably expect on boarding a flight to Ibiza.

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But nobody checked baggage, nobody looked in the bags,

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nobody was really assessing anyone to see if they were worse for wear

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through alcohol.

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And, as Sarah and her children boarded the plane,

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her heart sank when one visibly drunk passenger was doing so, too.

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The individual we'd actually seen staggering around earlier in the

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airport, to our surprise, actually got on the flight,

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was allowed to board it,

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walked down the aisle...

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..quite clearly worse for wear,

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and swearing profusely in front of my children.

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He then sat in the seat directly behind my son,

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continued to swear profusely, and then fell asleep.

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Hoping the other well-oiled passengers would also drop off,

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Sarah was dismayed to hear the announcement heralding the arrival

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of the drinks trolley, and she was disappointed to see

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drinks being served to people who, in her opinion,

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already appeared rather too merry,

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in complete contrast to what Ryanair's e-mail

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had said would happen.

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Things started to get very rowdy and disruptive,

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and I felt that the cabin crew were very much struggling to cope

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with the disruption at that point.

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And when the drunken passengers began throwing items

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across the cabin, Sarah's son, Aston, found himself

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in the firing line.

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Everyone was scared of them.

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They were shouting, they were screaming, they were putting

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fists out at everyone.

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This man, like, opened this bottle top and he, like,

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threw it back and it hit my head and it made, like,

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this little hole in my head and a little scratch of blood came out.

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The flight had degenerated into such a point where it became

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absolutely unbearable. It was just awful.

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When my son was actually struck on the head with the cans

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and bottle tops, it did make me really angry.

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The cabin crew, they didn't actually intervene or do anything

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to make the situation any better or any safer for my children.

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Sarah couldn't wait for the flight to come to an end,

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and once her holiday was over and she was back in the UK,

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she wanted to know not just why drunk and disorderly passengers

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had been allowed to board the flight in the first place,

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but why they were then able to buy and drink more alcohol,

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So, she wrote to Ryanair.

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But when the airline replied, its version of how things were handled

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was rather different from the way Sarah remembered them.

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I actually received a letter from the airline saying that it was

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regrettable that we hadn't enjoyed the flight.

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However, they had interviewed all the crew on board that flight

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and they were satisfied that procedures were followed.

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I don't feel that the airline took my complaint seriously

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or actually realised how bad the situation had been,

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particularly for my children.

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Well, when we contacted Ryanair, the airline agreed that

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a number of individuals caused a minor disturbance on Sarah's flight

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and were warned to behave.

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It said it operates strict guidelines

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for disruptive passengers who, in addition to being cautioned

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by the crew or captain,

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could be liable for further sanctions upon landing.

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Ryanair says it won't tolerate unruly behaviour,

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and the safety and comfort of customers,

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crew and aircraft is its number one priority.

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And it reiterated that, after consulting with passengers and airports...

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But it's not just the behaviour of

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drunken passengers that can cause problems on flights.

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Identifying and tackling those intoxicated passengers,

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not to mention their friends and luggage, can have quite an impact, too,

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disrupting and even delaying flights.

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So, to prevent such incidents,

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Glasgow Prestwick Airport has employed extra staff who've been likened to

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bouncers, because it's their job to keep an eye on passengers' pre-flight

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boozing, and intervene if it looks as if things are getting out of hand.

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Security operations manager Kate Kilgour is overseeing the new initiative.

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Introducing the bouncers,

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we obviously want to try and achieve the early intervention,

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so building rapport.

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As soon as the passengers come into the terminal,

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we want to try and obviously gauge how they are, to see if they've actually had

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any alcohol consumption before they've arrived.

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Kate plans ahead,

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checking the make-up of passenger lists for flights to destinations

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popular with stag, hen and general partygoers, such as Magaluf and Ibiza.

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When she identifies potential flashpoints, she books extra security,

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specifically to deal with alcohol-related problems.

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On duty today is Tommy Mitchell,

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a doorman with ten years' experience in pubs and clubs.

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Passengers booked on the 3.15 Ibiza flight are starting to roll in,

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and he's keeping a watchful eye on them.

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And it doesn't take long before Kate spots a group she'd like Tommy

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to have a chat with.

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Obviously, because they're in a large group, they're quite noisy,

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so I've asked them to watch their noise levels,

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and obviously just to think of the comfort and safety of others around

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about them. Foul language, that kind of thing. I've also

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advised them about alcohol levels,

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and we would be off-loading if anybody was deemed to be too under

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-the influence.

-I'll just go over and show my presence...

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-Thank you.

-..and have a chat with them. Thanks, Kate.

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Tommy's approach to simply introduce himself to groups such as these is often all

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it takes to curb any overenthusiastic behaviour.

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-How are you doing, boys, all right?

-Aye.

-Great, Tommy.

-Good, good.

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Good, I like that. You know my name, I like that.

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I believe my colleague had a wee chat with you earlier.

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Just to say, "Calm down." Aye, that's all right.

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-We're all right, Tommy.

-No, it's just because there's a group of you,

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-you are having a bit of chat.

-No, no, aye.

-That's fine. Where are you going,

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-Ibiza?

-Ibiza.

-Fantastic.

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When I go over, have a little chat, I make sure,

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I do a quick look at them and make sure

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none of them are intoxicated or on drugs,

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and I'm also looking for their attitude.

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And to be fair, they're a good bunch of guys, we just had a bit of chat.

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Having a laugh with them.

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And though Tommy's quick once-over of the group hasn't raised any

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immediate concerns, he knows how quickly the mood can change.

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It's all about an early intervention

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before they go through airside and get some more alcohol.

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So, when I engage with them, that's what...

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I know there's 20 of them there, it takes a minute or two to do it,

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but I've had a good look at every one of them,

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and they're actually all right, to be fair.

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Kate's confident that such interventions are doing the trick.

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We've definitely seen a marked improvement since introducing the stewards

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within the terminal.

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Obviously just having that extra pair of eyes,

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that early intervention is definitely key for us.

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Glasgow Prestwick isn't the only airport to operate such a scheme.

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Glasgow's other airport and London Gatwick

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are among those to have also introduced initiatives to tackle excessive

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drinking before passengers get on board.

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And in summer 2016, many

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other airports and airlines signed up to a UK aviation industry code of practice.

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According to aviation expert Julian Bray,

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that's not before time.

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Bad behaviour on aircraft, this has been a wake-up call to the industry because previously

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they were prepared to allow a little bit of merriment to go on.

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The point is, you are entering an environment, it's a strange environment,

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you're excited, you're breathing

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recirculated air, so you're very dry.

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And so alcohol will react very, very quickly.

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So the industry's finally realised this, and they've said, "Right, OK,

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"we're going to try and make sure it's safe for everybody, because everybody

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"has a right to quiet enjoyment on a flight."

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It's now written into some airlines' terms and conditions that staff can

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deny boarding to anyone's who's drunk, and if that happens,

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there's no chance of a refund.

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Their holiday might be ending there and then at the airport.

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And of course they will lose their money, because if they're not fit to

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fly, or the captain, for whatever reason,

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and he doesn't have to give a reason,

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if he's just unhappy about taking a particular person,

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or a particular group, that is the end of their holiday.

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And they have lost the money, and there is no redress.

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For her part, after her flight last summer,

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Sarah would welcome more initiatives such as the one at Glasgow.

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I am concerned that this could actually happen again if we go on

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holiday again next year, so unless something is done in the interim to

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prevent this, then it is quite worrying.

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It's difficult enough to travel with children, and given the situation,

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it's not one that I would wish any other family to go through.

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Now, before arriving at a holiday hotel,

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each of us will have a very clear idea of what sort of atmosphere we'd

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like it to have. For example,

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you might be looking for somewhere peaceful and relaxing and very much

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geared to adults only.

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Or maybe you want a place more family focused with all the hubbub and fun

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that that involves. Or, of course, you could be looking for a full-on

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party atmosphere... Is it me?

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You'll have to guess. ..with music going on around the clock.

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Now, whichever is your preference,

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and I'm absolutely sure which one I like,

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you're not going to be happy if you don't get it,

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especially if instead you end up with quite the opposite of what you

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thought that you'd chosen and indeed

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what it seemed that the holiday company had promised.

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Quality time relaxing quietly.

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With the only noise to disturb you,

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the gentle sound of waves lapping at the shore.

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Veterinary nurse Debbie Parry's requirements for her week away with

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her boyfriend was simple.

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We've both got full-time jobs,

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we don't really see a lot of each other,

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even though we live together.

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Holidays are very, very important to us.

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And this is why we like to spend quiet time together.

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To have our own privacy, and just to enjoy together time.

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To make sure rest and relaxation

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would be what she got on her holiday in September 2015,

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Debbie restricted her search to hotels that particularly

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described themselves as adults only.

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We have nothing against children, I do have two young nephews.

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But I wouldn't want a holiday with them.

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After a bit of searching online,

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Debbie found what sounded like the perfect option,

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with the holiday giant Thomson.

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It was a seven night stay in the five-star

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Insula Alba Resort and Spa in Crete,

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one of the company's platinum resorts.

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Which means it's part of a hand-picked selection of first-rate properties.

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Not only did the hotel offer designer decor and sea views,

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but Thomson's website clearly stated that the resort was adults only.

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Now, for Debbie, it was just what she was looking for,

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so she enthusiastically booked.

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It was adults only, it just ticked the right boxes as far as I was concerned,

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and it just sounded absolutely fantastic.

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17 weeks later, when the holiday came around,

0:18:020:18:05

Debbie and her boyfriend, Steve, were well and truly ready for a

0:18:050:18:08

peaceful and relaxing week in the sun.

0:18:080:18:11

But the childfree haven they were expecting wasn't quite the scene

0:18:110:18:15

they were greeted with on their first morning.

0:18:150:18:18

Unfortunately, when we went in for breakfast,

0:18:190:18:21

we noticed that there were quite a few families in there.

0:18:210:18:25

So that was fine, the breakfast was lovely.

0:18:250:18:27

But it did raise an alarm bell.

0:18:270:18:30

Not thinking too much about it,

0:18:310:18:33

the couple returned to their room to make the most of their private pool.

0:18:330:18:36

But their much wanted peace and quiet was shattered by the screams

0:18:360:18:41

of a baby crying in the adjoining room.

0:18:410:18:44

I just then got frustrated. I went to the reception,

0:18:440:18:46

I was given the e-mail address for the Thomson rep and

0:18:460:18:51

I then came back, sent her an e-mail explaining the situation.

0:18:510:18:54

Debbie's point was that although of course she understands babies do

0:18:560:18:59

cry, she hadn't expected that to be an issue in a hotel described as

0:18:590:19:03

adults only. The rep agreed to move them to a different room,

0:19:030:19:08

which they all hoped would be more peaceful, and at first it was.

0:19:080:19:11

This room was lovely, and then within sort of 24 hours,

0:19:130:19:17

a group of young adults had then moved into the room next door and

0:19:170:19:20

they were just playing music from nine o'clock in the morning until,

0:19:200:19:25

after about five, six phone calls to the reception,

0:19:250:19:29

the manager finally came and told them to turn the music down.

0:19:290:19:32

But by this time, three days

0:19:340:19:36

into their seven-day break, Debbie's hopes of a relaxing trip were fading

0:19:360:19:40

-very fast.

-We ate out most nights,

0:19:400:19:44

simply just to have some quiet time to ourselves.

0:19:440:19:47

I just couldn't wait to get home.

0:19:470:19:48

As soon as they returned to the UK,

0:19:510:19:54

Debbie got in touch with Thomson to complain.

0:19:540:19:56

She didn't feel the hotel had been what she'd expected at all.

0:19:560:20:00

And she certainly couldn't understand why it was described as adults only

0:20:000:20:05

on Thomson's website, as well as the hotel's own website,

0:20:050:20:08

when clearly that was not the case.

0:20:080:20:10

I do feel that I was mis-sold the holiday.

0:20:100:20:14

The reason that I chose that hotel was because it clearly stated

0:20:140:20:17

"adults only".

0:20:170:20:19

Thomson responded to Debbie with an e-mail that she found preposterous.

0:20:200:20:24

Although the company apologised for any inconvenience caused,

0:20:240:20:28

it also explained that the hotel was in fact adult focused,

0:20:280:20:31

which means that although it's recommended for adults,

0:20:310:20:34

there may be children there from other tour operators.

0:20:340:20:37

And while they pointed out that this was stated in its terms and conditions,

0:20:370:20:41

as far as Debbie is concerned, if that's the case,

0:20:410:20:44

it shouldn't really have been labelled,

0:20:440:20:46

and indeed sold, as adults only.

0:20:460:20:48

I was very upset by the response,

0:20:480:20:50

and nowhere in the advertisement did it say "adult focused".

0:20:500:20:54

And you can see her point. When we checked,

0:20:550:20:58

both Thomson's website and the hotel's were still very clearly describing the

0:20:580:21:03

hotel as adults only and not adult focused.

0:21:030:21:07

Well, when we got in touch with Thomson,

0:21:080:21:10

the company told us it was very sorry to hear of her experience,

0:21:100:21:13

and while it does have agreements in place with hoteliers at all

0:21:130:21:17

adult-only resorts, it conceded that on this occasion these may not have

0:21:170:21:21

been adhered to.

0:21:210:21:23

Describing circumstances such as this is extremely rare,

0:21:230:21:27

it added that it was carrying out a full investigation with the hotel

0:21:270:21:31

management and will make any necessary changes.

0:21:310:21:34

And it said it has now offered Debbie a goodwill gesture of £100,

0:21:350:21:40

or £150 off her next holiday,

0:21:400:21:42

which she has refused because she doesn't feel it covers her

0:21:420:21:45

disappointment for what happened.

0:21:450:21:47

But a very similar complaint has landed Thomson in hot water before.

0:21:510:21:54

Back in 2012, the company was rapped over the knuckles by the

0:21:540:21:58

Advertising Standards Authority after breaks advertised as adult only

0:21:580:22:03

turned out to be a resort hosting families with young children.

0:22:030:22:07

And another couple to contact us after staying in a Thomson hotel,

0:22:090:22:13

where they say the vibe didn't quite match expectations,

0:22:130:22:16

is Jeffrey Gardner and his wife, Geraldine.

0:22:160:22:19

They got in touch to tell us that although kids weren't a complete no-no

0:22:190:22:23

on a trip they took to Mexico with friends David and Trish,

0:22:230:22:26

they did expect to have a peaceful and relaxing time.

0:22:260:22:29

We'd found out that probably the best place for us to go would be Riviera Maya,

0:22:290:22:33

as it's a nice, quiet resort.

0:22:330:22:36

Having stayed in one of Thomson's Gold collection of resorts in the

0:22:380:22:41

past, described by the company as classic holidays designed for adults,

0:22:410:22:46

the foursome, keen to experience a similar type of break,

0:22:460:22:49

plumped this time for a hotel from the tour operator's Platinum range,

0:22:490:22:53

believing it would provide even higher levels of peace and relaxation.

0:22:530:22:57

We were very much looking for a relaxing holiday,

0:22:570:23:01

but somewhere that wasn't totally quiet,

0:23:010:23:04

but equally we wanted to be able to kind of relax during the day and,

0:23:040:23:09

you know, kind of just generally have a nice, peaceful time.

0:23:090:23:13

They paid £7,200 between them for two weeks at the

0:23:150:23:18

Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Resort and Spa,

0:23:180:23:22

described on Thomson's website as the lap of luxury.

0:23:220:23:26

But when they arrived,

0:23:260:23:27

the couples were surprised at the sort of clientele already lapping up

0:23:270:23:31

that luxury, and the volume at which they were doing it.

0:23:310:23:35

When we actually arrived on the resort,

0:23:350:23:38

the first impression was that it was very loud and it was

0:23:380:23:42

more like an 18-30 holiday club.

0:23:420:23:46

In fact, Jeffrey and Geraldine were astonished to find themselves caught up in the

0:23:470:23:51

notorious annual spring break celebrations of hundreds of students

0:23:510:23:56

aged from 18 to 21. So notorious that television programmes have even

0:23:560:24:00

made about it. And our couples' photos tell a very similar story.

0:24:000:24:05

It just became mayhem, they were chucking drinks over each other, being sick in the pool.

0:24:050:24:09

The noise was of a level where you couldn't really escape it.

0:24:090:24:15

The couples complained to the Thomson rep and asked to move

0:24:150:24:18

hotels. But with nowhere else available at such short notice,

0:24:180:24:22

they had no choice but to stay put.

0:24:220:24:24

We definitely felt as though our complaints were falling on deaf ears.

0:24:240:24:28

The standard response seemed to be, "We will talk to the hotel manager about it."

0:24:280:24:32

We came back feeling really frustrated,

0:24:320:24:35

not rested and really unhappy with a large percentage

0:24:350:24:41

of the time that we had there.

0:24:410:24:43

Now, nowhere on Thomson's brochures, or indeed on its website, does the company make

0:24:440:24:48

any promises about the age or type of customers that you might expect to be

0:24:480:24:52

sharing a hotel with. And however noisy they might have been,

0:24:520:24:56

those students were adults.

0:24:560:24:58

But when Jeffrey complained to Thomson,

0:24:580:25:00

his argument was that as these students' idea of a holiday was so obviously

0:25:000:25:05

very different to his own,

0:25:050:25:07

he was never going to have got the relaxing holiday he presumed he'd

0:25:070:25:10

booked by choosing a top-of-the-range platinum hotel.

0:25:100:25:14

So the company did offer him some money back.

0:25:140:25:17

They offered us £60 compensation each,

0:25:180:25:22

which we thought was like a derogatory offer.

0:25:220:25:25

And which we refused.

0:25:250:25:26

Then they said they would pass it to somebody senior,

0:25:280:25:32

and it would take another 56 days to investigate.

0:25:320:25:34

Well, forget 56 days, or even 56 weeks,

0:25:360:25:39

a lot longer has passed and the couple say that they are yet to

0:25:390:25:43

receive a final response to their complaint.

0:25:430:25:45

This complaint was made nearly two and a half years ago.

0:25:450:25:49

And I feel that Thomson have just totally ignored,

0:25:490:25:54

ignored everything that I've said.

0:25:540:25:57

The complaints that I've made, they've not taken seriously.

0:25:570:26:00

Whilst Thomson didn't comment directly on why Jeffrey and Geraldine are

0:26:000:26:04

still waiting to hear from it regarding their complaint,

0:26:040:26:08

it did say it's sorry the two couples were unhappy with their

0:26:080:26:11

holiday experience. It said the management at its hotels worked closely with its

0:26:110:26:15

destination services teams to monitor guests' behaviour and ensure

0:26:150:26:20

that all customers are able to enjoy the holiday.

0:26:200:26:23

It added that it's offered a gesture of goodwill to apologise.

0:26:230:26:27

Geraldine and Jeffrey, however,

0:26:290:26:30

say that they have rejected that offer and point out that on various

0:26:300:26:34

holidays booked with Thomson, both before and since,

0:26:340:26:37

they've paid a lot less to stay in nicer hotels.

0:26:370:26:39

And following their experience in Mexico,

0:26:390:26:42

they now spend time combing through the small print before handing over

0:26:420:26:46

any money, so that they can be confident they'll end up with the sort of

0:26:460:26:49

holiday they're expecting.

0:26:490:26:52

I've booked with Thomson many times,

0:26:520:26:54

and I've had a fantastic experience with them,

0:26:540:26:56

but it was just this one resort that we went to,

0:26:560:27:02

where they said they weren't in control of what other companies

0:27:020:27:06

brought in. If I'd have known this before I went, I wouldn't have gone.

0:27:060:27:10

As for Debbie, well, she still feels that whatever the terms and conditions may say,

0:27:130:27:18

a hotel is either adult only or it's not.

0:27:180:27:22

If you book an adult only hotel, you should expect adults only.

0:27:220:27:26

Whereas now I would be always thinking,

0:27:260:27:30

"Is it going to be adults only?"

0:27:300:27:32

And the answer to that question is - who knows?

0:27:320:27:34

Still to come on Rip-Off Britain,

0:27:400:27:42

a company that says that it specialises in holidays for single travellers.

0:27:420:27:46

So how did it get this one so wrong?

0:27:460:27:49

When I got there and discovered I had no accommodation,

0:27:490:27:52

I must admit I felt quite abandoned.

0:27:520:27:55

I could have gone home at that point, to be quite honest.

0:27:550:27:58

Our travel expert, Simon Calder, has all the secrets to save

0:28:020:28:05

you money on your money on your travels. He's full of tips on everything

0:28:050:28:08

from how to avoid the crowds, to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.

0:28:080:28:13

This time, the Azores.

0:28:150:28:18

I've organised some truly dreadful holidays.

0:28:180:28:21

Just ask my family about the fly drive to Denmark,

0:28:210:28:25

where it turned out there was no car!

0:28:250:28:27

Or the expedition to Greenland and Baffin Island that was basically two

0:28:270:28:32

weeks sitting and stewing on an old Polish ferry.

0:28:320:28:36

But there was one trip that delivered fantastic experiences and formidable value.

0:28:360:28:42

The Azores are a collection of islands in the middle of the Atlantic,

0:28:440:28:48

and since the Portuguese government allowed budget airlines to fly there

0:28:480:28:52

in 2015, the price of flights has dropped by two thirds.

0:28:520:28:56

Even better, once you arrive,

0:28:560:28:58

Simon says it's easy to explore on the cheap.

0:28:580:29:02

Prices in most remote islands are annoyingly high,

0:29:020:29:06

but in the Azores they're gratifyingly low.

0:29:060:29:09

You could spend more than £50 for a decent hotel room,

0:29:090:29:13

or over a tenner for a good dinner with a glass of wine,

0:29:130:29:17

but there's not really much point.

0:29:170:29:18

And taxis are so inexpensive,

0:29:180:29:21

you might consider using them instead and simply not renting a car.

0:29:210:29:25

And Simon has a list of must sees and things to do.

0:29:250:29:30

The volcanic observatory,

0:29:300:29:31

a hike up to the Lake of Fire in the east of the island,

0:29:310:29:35

a steam and soak with naturally heated water in the centre at

0:29:350:29:39

Caldeira Velha, and the stunning Seven Cities,

0:29:390:29:42

a cascade of volcanic craters near the western edge.

0:29:420:29:47

By the end of the day, you'll feel you've witnessed the raw edge of the

0:29:470:29:51

world, but you've still got a fish dinner to look forward to.

0:29:510:29:55

Travelling solo is a topic that we've covered on this programme on a number of occasions.

0:30:010:30:05

In particular, we've looked into something that I especially have

0:30:050:30:08

strong views on myself, and that is those dreaded single supplements.

0:30:080:30:13

But this year, we've been contacted by a number of people with some very

0:30:130:30:16

different concerns about trips that they've booked,

0:30:160:30:20

either travelling on their own or as part of a group of other single

0:30:200:30:24

travellers. Because when you are by yourself, in a foreign country,

0:30:240:30:28

it really does become especially important that what you expect to

0:30:280:30:31

get from your holiday is how things turn out.

0:30:310:30:35

Unfortunately, the people who've been in touch with us would say that

0:30:350:30:40

that definitely is not what has happened to them.

0:30:400:30:43

The freedom to explore a new country or city at my own pace,

0:30:450:30:49

which is pretty fast,

0:30:490:30:51

has meant that some of my favourite trips away have been ones with just

0:30:510:30:55

myself for company.

0:30:550:30:57

Whenever I have been away on a break my own,

0:30:570:30:59

I've always tried to ensure in advance that I'm going to get

0:30:590:31:04

exactly what I plan for.

0:31:040:31:06

Are the restaurants and the bars nice and close so I don't have to walk

0:31:060:31:09

too far, particularly at night?

0:31:090:31:11

Will there be other people at the resort with the same interests and

0:31:110:31:14

tastes? And I have to say that so far, most of the things I've planned

0:31:140:31:18

have worked out pretty well, but I know that unfortunately that's not the case

0:31:180:31:22

for everyone.

0:31:220:31:24

Mary Kelso from Darvel in Ayrshire for one.

0:31:240:31:28

Until her last trip, she loved travelling alone.

0:31:280:31:32

It's a good way of meeting new friends.

0:31:320:31:34

I've met a lot of nice people that I would never have met unless I'd gone

0:31:340:31:38

on holiday on my own, so it's been very worthwhile.

0:31:380:31:42

And Mary's always known that keeping safe can be extra important when

0:31:430:31:48

-she's by herself.

-The last few holidays I've been, city breaks,

0:31:480:31:53

and that's more concerning because you're always being told about the

0:31:530:31:58

security and pickpockets and going out in the dark at night on your own,

0:31:580:32:03

but during the day, it's not an issue for me.

0:32:030:32:06

So, Mary's never let any of that put her off,

0:32:080:32:11

and in August 2015 she booked a week in Barcelona with a company called

0:32:110:32:16

Barrhead Travel.

0:32:160:32:18

I was in the travel agents that day for two hours, to make sure

0:32:180:32:23

that... I wanted half-board because

0:32:230:32:27

at night-time and in the dark, I didn't have to go out if I didn't want to

0:32:270:32:31

go out, and she had said that

0:32:310:32:35

the place she had booked me in Barcelona was

0:32:350:32:37

ideal for where I wanted to be.

0:32:370:32:41

Barrhead Travel calls itself "the UK's leading independent travel company,"

0:32:410:32:46

its website promising perfect trips and top-notch customer service.

0:32:460:32:51

What's more, though not catering solely for single travellers,

0:32:510:32:55

it does claim to be a specialist in that market,

0:32:550:32:58

and one that will take care of everything.

0:32:580:33:01

So, Mary felt she was in safe hands.

0:33:010:33:03

I knew most of the places I wanted to visit,

0:33:030:33:06

because Barcelona's known for its architecture.

0:33:060:33:09

I still like to go out and not know where I'm going.

0:33:090:33:14

It's the sort of place you could spend all day.

0:33:140:33:17

But while Mary arrived in Barcelona fully prepared for her break,

0:33:170:33:21

it seems Barcelona wasn't quite prepared for her.

0:33:210:33:26

Or at least, the hotel that she'd arrived at wasn't.

0:33:260:33:28

In fact, it had no record of her booking at all.

0:33:280:33:32

When I got there and discovered I had no accommodation,

0:33:320:33:35

I must admit I felt quite abandoned.

0:33:350:33:38

I had received all these promises from Barrhead Travel that this was a

0:33:390:33:44

good hotel, I would be well received and

0:33:440:33:48

it was within the areas that I wanted to be,

0:33:480:33:51

to discover that I didn't even have a bed for the night.

0:33:510:33:53

I could have gone home at that point, to be quite honest.

0:33:530:33:57

The hotel told Mary it looked as if Barrhead Travel had incorrectly

0:33:570:34:01

booked her into another hotel with a very similar name,

0:34:010:34:05

but that hotel was a 40-minute drive away, in a resort called Calella,

0:34:050:34:09

far from the central Barcelona area where she wanted to be.

0:34:090:34:13

By now it was getting late, and seeing Mary was devastated,

0:34:130:34:17

the hotel staff agreed to let her stay for the night,

0:34:170:34:20

although they didn't have room for her for the rest of the week.

0:34:200:34:23

She immediately rang Barrhead Travel,

0:34:230:34:26

who said it would find her a suitable alternative the next morning.

0:34:260:34:30

But what the company came up with didn't match the criteria that Mary

0:34:300:34:34

had made clear when she booked the trip.

0:34:340:34:37

The hotel wasn't half-board, and though there were restaurants nearby,

0:34:370:34:41

it meant she'd have to eat in them alone,

0:34:410:34:44

which was exactly the situation she'd hoped to avoid.

0:34:440:34:47

I had nowhere I could go for breakfast.

0:34:470:34:50

I couldn't even get a drink of any sort.

0:34:500:34:52

It was far too far away. I mean, it took

0:34:520:34:54

me half an hour that day to walk in to some of

0:34:540:34:59

the sights that I wanted to see. It was just not acceptable.

0:34:590:35:04

So, once again, Mary got on the phone to Barrhead Travel,

0:35:050:35:09

who agreed to move her to a third hotel.

0:35:090:35:12

This one was closer to the sights that she'd come to see,

0:35:120:35:15

and it had its own rooftop restaurant.

0:35:150:35:18

And though she did eventually settle here,

0:35:200:35:22

the booking bungle totally spoiled her enjoyment of the trip,

0:35:220:35:26

and on this occasion,

0:35:260:35:27

travelling solo certainly wasn't the positive experience she'd hoped that

0:35:270:35:31

it would be.

0:35:310:35:32

When we put all of this to Barrhead Travel, the company said it..

0:35:330:35:37

..so was extremely disappointed to hear of Mary's experience.

0:35:410:35:45

It puts the blame for what happened on "a supplier system error",

0:35:450:35:49

but says it immediately made arrangements for alternative accommodation in

0:35:490:35:53

the centre of Barcelona, covered all additional hotel fees and,

0:35:530:35:57

in line with ABTA guidelines, reimbursed all expenses.

0:35:570:36:02

It says it was in contact with Mary on a daily basis,

0:36:020:36:05

as her safety and wellbeing were its top priorities.

0:36:050:36:09

Barrhead added that as well as sincerely apologising for the inconvenience

0:36:090:36:14

caused, as a goodwill gesture, it offered Mary further compensation,

0:36:140:36:19

which she's accepted.

0:36:190:36:21

Travel expert Simon Calder is used to trips away by himself,

0:36:230:36:27

but he can see why Mary would have felt the way she did.

0:36:270:36:31

I travel loads on my own, and it's fantastic.

0:36:310:36:34

Of course, it's got some challenges,

0:36:340:36:36

particularly for women travelling alone,

0:36:360:36:39

which is why if you can sign up with a good tour operator,

0:36:390:36:43

who's going to guarantee you a great experience with a certain amount of

0:36:430:36:47

security as well, that's quite possibly a good solution.

0:36:470:36:52

And it's one that Nicola Murphy from Oxfordshire went for when she was

0:36:520:36:56

planning a solo holiday. She plumped for a trip travelling as part of a

0:36:560:36:59

group, with a company that promised the best holidays for single

0:36:590:37:03

travellers, but that didn't mean quite what she'd thought,

0:37:030:37:07

as she explained to Simon before he jetted off on his next expedition.

0:37:070:37:12

I did the modern thing, which was to Google single holidays for over-50s,

0:37:120:37:16

scrolled down and found one called Archers Direct Holidays.

0:37:160:37:22

Looked through their tours and really liked the tour,

0:37:220:37:25

a two-week tour of Thailand.

0:37:250:37:26

But a few weeks after she'd booked, Nicola rang the company to check something,

0:37:290:37:33

and as the chat continued, she discovered something she hadn't realised.

0:37:330:37:38

I said to them, "So, how many people are on the tour?"

0:37:380:37:42

And they said, "Well, X number of couples and four single people."

0:37:420:37:46

So I said, "Well, actually that isn't therefore a singles holiday."

0:37:460:37:51

And so how did that conversation develop?

0:37:510:37:55

They basically said to me because it was only a couple of weeks before the departure date,

0:37:550:37:59

that I couldn't have my money back, so it was left...

0:37:590:38:02

-Tough luck, really, to me.

-And you decided to cancel?

0:38:020:38:06

I did, because like I said, I didn't want to go on a holiday where

0:38:060:38:09

there were only three other single travellers and

0:38:090:38:13

probably about 16 couples,

0:38:130:38:16

that wasn't what I was looking for.

0:38:160:38:19

The trouble was, though Archers Holidays does claim to offer singles

0:38:190:38:23

breaks that attract like-minded people,

0:38:230:38:26

it doesn't promise that those people will also be

0:38:260:38:29

travelling alone. Indeed, on the website, it states that as well as

0:38:290:38:33

single travellers, there's every chance that you could be travelling with couples, or even groups.

0:38:330:38:39

I've had a good look at what Archers offers and they most certainly make

0:38:390:38:44

a big play for single travellers.

0:38:440:38:46

They say, "Come away with us, you'll have a lovely time,

0:38:460:38:49

"you'll meet new people."

0:38:490:38:51

They've even got this really nice single share option to help keep the

0:38:510:38:55

costs down. But, crucially, Nicola,

0:38:550:38:58

nowhere can I see anything where they say, "On one of

0:38:580:39:02

"our holidays, you will be the minimum on a trip

0:39:020:39:06

"with mostly single people, or it might be exclusively single people."

0:39:060:39:10

I made the assumption that they were advertising it as singles holidays,

0:39:100:39:17

I'll be honest with you.

0:39:170:39:19

I just feel that it is quite difficult to go away when you're on your own,

0:39:190:39:23

older in life. Um...

0:39:230:39:25

So where do you go, how do I not make that mistake again?

0:39:270:39:30

I think that picking up the phone and talking to someone before you commit

0:39:300:39:35

quite a lot of money is a good idea.

0:39:350:39:37

If you'd just had a conversation to start off with rather than just

0:39:370:39:40

relying on going online, that might have helped.

0:39:400:39:42

And that's advice Simon thinks all solo travellers should bear in mind

0:39:440:39:48

when planning a trip.

0:39:480:39:50

I think if she'd perhaps just picked up the phone,

0:39:500:39:53

or indeed talked to a travel agent and said, "Is this really going to be the right holiday for me?

0:39:530:39:58

"It's important that I'm not stuck with a bunch of boring old couples,

0:39:580:40:02

"I want to meet new people," she would have found out, I think,

0:40:020:40:05

pretty quickly that maybe it wasn't the holiday for her.

0:40:050:40:09

When we spoke to Archers Holidays, the company with which Nicola booked,

0:40:090:40:13

it said that it promotes its holidays to all types of customer,

0:40:130:40:18

with no specific departures for single travellers.

0:40:180:40:22

It added that at no time did Nicola specify that she was looking for a

0:40:220:40:26

dedicated singles holiday

0:40:260:40:28

with only single people, and went on to say that unfortunately,

0:40:280:40:31

as Nicola cancelled her holiday within 30 days of departure,

0:40:310:40:35

in accordance with its terms and conditions,

0:40:350:40:38

it had to apply a 100% cancellation

0:40:380:40:41

charge due to obligations to suppliers.

0:40:410:40:45

Of course, one company's definition of a singles holiday may differ greatly from

0:40:450:40:50

another, and once you've thrown in your own personal expectations of

0:40:500:40:54

what such a trip should offer, it's very easy, I think,

0:40:540:40:56

to see why situations like the one that Mary and Nicola found themselves in

0:40:560:41:01

can occur. But Simon thinks that there is one simple way to minimise confusion

0:41:010:41:06

and disappointment before you've even booked your trip.

0:41:060:41:10

These days, it's really tempting to do everything online.

0:41:100:41:13

But I reckon that a good old-fashioned chat

0:41:130:41:17

with somebody, whether that's a travel agent or indeed somebody at

0:41:170:41:21

the company on the phone, is a very good way to answer your questions.

0:41:210:41:25

And if it's important for you that solo travellers are in the majority,

0:41:250:41:30

or perhaps entirely everyone on that trip is a solo traveller,

0:41:300:41:34

then have a discussion with the company,

0:41:340:41:37

is that what they're going to deliver?

0:41:370:41:39

Unfortunately, if a company doesn't quite deliver on what was expected,

0:41:400:41:44

as was the case with Mary's trip to Barcelona,

0:41:440:41:47

it might have the very unwelcome consequences of putting you off

0:41:470:41:51

travelling by yourself altogether.

0:41:510:41:54

I would have to think seriously about going on that type of holiday on my

0:41:540:41:59

own again. I doubt if I would go on a city break or a city on my own

0:41:590:42:04

again. I would definitely take someone with me,

0:42:040:42:07

or go with friends or whatever. It's too much of a risk.

0:42:070:42:11

If you've got a story you'd like us to investigate,

0:42:200:42:23

then get in touch with us via our Facebook page, BBC Rip Off Britain,

0:42:230:42:27

our website, bbc.co.uk/ripoffbritain...

0:42:270:42:31

or e-mail...

0:42:330:42:35

Or, if you'd like to send us a letter, then our new address is:

0:42:370:42:40

Well, it's one thing having to spend time with people who rub you up the

0:42:530:42:56

wrong way at home, but quite another when it's during your precious

0:42:560:43:00

holiday time for which you may have paid a lot of money.

0:43:000:43:03

That'll put a dampener on even the sunniest of vacations!

0:43:030:43:06

And, whether that's been for the whole duration of the trip or just

0:43:060:43:09

the flight, having the wrong sort of travelling companions really can

0:43:090:43:13

mean that you get home rather more stressed than you were before you went away,

0:43:130:43:16

which sort of defeats the whole point of going on holiday, really,

0:43:160:43:19

-doesn't it?

-I think it does rather,

0:43:190:43:20

but it's a good job that the three of us get on as well as we do,

0:43:200:43:23

that's all I can say, otherwise it might be a very different picture.

0:43:230:43:26

But I'm afraid it's time to part company for now,

0:43:260:43:29

as we're right out of time, but, of course,

0:43:290:43:31

we'll be back to investigate more of your stories very soon.

0:43:310:43:34

Please keep them coming in, we love them and we read every one.

0:43:340:43:36

In the meantime, we hope your next holiday goes exactly the way you'd

0:43:360:43:40

planned, and until the next time, from all of us, it's goodbye.

0:43:400:43:43

-Goodbye.

-Goodbye.

0:43:430:43:45

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.


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