Episode 6 Rip Off Britain


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Episode 6

Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville investigate holiday disasters that can occur before people have even reached their destination.


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Transcript


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We asked you - who's left you feeling ripped off

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when it comes to your holidays?

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And you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.

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Letting us come all this way

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to be told we're going home on the next day, just furious.

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It has tainted the whole experience

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of booking holidays and trusting companies.

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Whether it's a deliberate rip-off, a simple mistake,

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or a catch in the small print,

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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 welcome to Rip-Off Britain, where, for this series,

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we're in Tenerife and the Canary Islands,

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so that as well as tips and advice

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on all your holiday and travel problems, we can bring a bit

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of much-needed sunshine into your homes.

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And today's show is all about those heart-stopping moments

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that I imagine most of us have experienced when going away.

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Will the taxi to the airport turn up on time?

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Have I got all the right documents?

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And, of course, that old chestnut -

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am I ever going to see my suitcase again?

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Oh, I've been through a few of those scenarios in my time.

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And although all the people whose stories we'll be hearing about

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wish that their experiences had never happened,

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at least they now know how to avoid the same situations again.

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And what's more - and this is really good -

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that's advice that they're willing to share with the rest of us as well.

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Coming up...

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How you could find yourself barred from boarding your flight

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thanks to something only the airline sees as a problem.

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I ended up in tears, just wanting to be with my family,

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especially after everything that we'd been through.

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And with this woman's bag,

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one of the millions that go missing each year...

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..and I panicked. I said, "Oh, God, my case, I haven't got my case."

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Is the problem of lost luggage about to be solved once and for all?

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I'm sure we all label all sorts of things as being holiday essentials,

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but the truth is that there are only a couple of things

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that you really cannot manage without on a trip abroad,

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and one of them is this, your passport.

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You really won't get very far without one.

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And, of course, you obviously DO need to make sure that it's kept

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up to date. But having the right documentation is not always

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quite as straightforward as you might assume.

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It certainly wasn't for the couple that we're about to meet.

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Now, they had no reason at all

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to believe that THEIR paperwork was not in order,

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but when they got to the airport,

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I'm afraid the airline staff saw things rather differently,

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and the implications of that were disastrous.

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So to ensure that you don't get caught up in a similar situation,

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we're going to be cutting through the confusion around this kind of thing,

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so that you, and indeed the airlines,

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know what IS valid and what ISN'T.

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Whether it's a mistake on the visa or an invalid passport,

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being told you've got the wrong paperwork

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can bring a swift end to your holiday plans.

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And as we've reported before, that can be devastating.

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I was like, "Dad has to go, like, he has to," and I was like,

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I just didn't believe that it was happening, and I just, like, started crying.

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And if it's only at the airport that the error comes to light,

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it's likely to be too late to do much about it.

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Arriving at the airport, all the stress at the airport,

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having to rebook flights.

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It had been incredibly stressful.

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I think we both aged about five years!

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Being turned away at check-in could mean you're waving goodbye to part,

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if not ALL of your holiday,

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which is especially upsetting if, according to the official advice,

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there's no reason why you shouldn't fly.

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As was the case for personal trainer Erica Cordock from Cheshire.

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In April 2017, she and her husband John

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were desperate for a holiday following a recent health scare

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that had shaken the whole family.

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Our son Ryan was admitted to hospital

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with a suspected brain tumour,

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or MS, we weren't sure what it was at the time.

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Quite a traumatising time,

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so he had to go through multiple painful tests as well.

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That was what led us to say we really needed a family break.

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Thankfully, Ryan's tests came back clear

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and he's now made a full recovery.

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But the stress of the previous few months meant that a break in the sun

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was long overdue.

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We wanted somewhere to be sunny, somewhere peaceful,

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and somewhere that we hadn't been before.

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We found some flights to Cape Verde, thought we'd give that a go,

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and my husband booked the flights online.

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Erica found a last-minute deal to the African island with Thomas Cook,

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leaving the following week.

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We went online to do our bookings, put the dates in,

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put our information in, names and everything that was required,

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your passport number,

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but it also asked for the expiry date on your passport.

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So we put the expiry dates in on all our passports

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and thought nothing of it, they were all in date.

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Mine still had almost five months on the passport.

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-Penalty!

-No issue or problem came up when that information was entered

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online, but it was a different story when the family arrived at check-in.

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We arrived at the airport, all happy, smiling,

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all ready to go on a holiday, have our little break.

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We got to the desk, Thomas Cook desk, handed our passports in...

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Even the lady behind the desk,

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she was all smiley and happy too, as our bags were going on.

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And suddenly, her face changed,

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and we knew that there was something wrong then.

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Erica was told that while Ryan and his dad's passports were fine,

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because hers only had five months until it expired, rather than six,

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she wouldn't be able to fly.

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Why would I need six months on it?

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There was nearly five months on my passport,

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and I was only going for ten days.

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But they just replied to me that I couldn't get on

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without having the minimum of six months on the passport.

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Erica was flabbergasted,

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but Thomas Cook staff insisted that because she was flying to a country

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outside of the EU, the company required her

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to have AT LEAST six months left on her passport,

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or she simply couldn't board the plane.

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Her reply to us then was an apology, she said,

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"I'm sorry, but it is in our terms and conditions

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"that your documents must be valid."

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At this point, we thought our documents were valid.

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Cos if someone asks me to check my passport is in date,

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and it has nearly five months on it, that, for me, is a valid document.

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Desperate, Erica contacted the Cape Verde consulate and was told

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that her passport WAS entirely valid

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for entry into the country when she arrived.

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But Thomas Cook was having none of it

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and poor Erica had no choice but to admit defeat.

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Ryan was in tears, not knowing what was going on.

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I ended up in tears, um,

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just wanting to be with my family,

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especially after everything that we'd been through,

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it was horrible, it was absolutely horrible.

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It was decided that Ryan and his dad would go on ahead,

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whilst Erica stayed behind to sort out a replacement passport.

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But as it was the Saturday of a bank holiday,

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it wasn't until the following Tuesday that she was able

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to get one from the passport office.

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And by the time she'd bought another flight to Cape Verde later that day,

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she'd already missed three days of the trip.

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When I got there and saw my little boy running towards me,

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as exhausted as I was through the flight,

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it was just so nice to see his face

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and he finally got a smile on his face

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that his mum could join him on holiday.

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This was an experience Ryan will never forget.

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I was really sad about Mum having to stay at home

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and miss out all the fun.

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It was really upsetting.

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Since the holiday, Thomas Cook has refused Erica's request for a refund

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or compensation for the missed flights and lost days.

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In its terms and conditions, it says,

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"All passports should have more than six months left on them

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"if travelling outside the EU."

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But Erica can't understand why,

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if the airline considered her passport to be a problem,

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that hadn't been flagged when she'd entered the expiry date

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when she booked.

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And she's baffled as to how Thomas Cook can have a policy

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that contradicts the entry requirements for the country

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to which she was travelling.

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So, I'm just on the gov.uk website,

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looking specifically at the passport validity,

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and it clearly states here,

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"Your passport should be valid for the full duration of your stay

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"in Cape Verde."

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There's nowhere stating that it has to have six months on there.

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And while the website does also suggest checking

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if any travel company you are using has its own requirements,

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Simon Calder agrees that the information out there can be confusing.

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It's so tricky.

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I've heard of so many sad stories where people get to an airport,

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they've got maybe two hours before the flight goes, somebody says,

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"Oh, you're not getting on this plane with that paperwork,"

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and they've got a limited and diminishing amount of time

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to prove that they are entitled to get there.

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Well, when we contacted Thomas Cook,

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it told us that while sorry to hear of Erica's problems,

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like many other airlines,

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it takes its information from a website

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run by the International Air Transport Association, which is...

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The company accepts, however, that in the case of Cape Verde,

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there is some inconsistency between the website's information

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and the official government advice.

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It says it's raised this with the association to ensure that...

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The confusion that left Erica out of pocket is bad enough,

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but the situation Roland and Carol Lind from Worthing ended up in

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proved even more expensive. They wrote to us

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about a once-in-a-lifetime trip they'd planned to Japan.

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We were looking forward to see Tokyo,

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and the trip would be around the Japanese Alps,

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and Kyoto and Hiroshima.

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I was looking forward to seeing all the lovely cherry blossom

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and just seeing the whole culture, really.

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We were really looking forward to it.

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A once-in-a-lifetime trip.

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The couple paid out over £8,000 for the two-week holiday.

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Temples, shrines, museums, gardens...

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Yeah, I was looking forward to that.

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But before that trip,

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the couple had time to fit in another short break to Germany,

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where Roland is from.

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We decided to go to the Christmas market in Aachen, in Germany,

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having a lovely time, enjoying that,

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but unfortunately, we lost our passport,

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and that was a big problem because we had to drive from Aachen

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to Dusseldorf to get emergency passports.

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Once back in the UK,

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Carol had a replacement British passport within two weeks,

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but it wasn't so simple for Roland.

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As a German national,

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getting HIS new passport was likely to take over three months,

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too long for his planned trip to Japan.

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However, he still had the emergency German passport,

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which had a full eight months left until it expired.

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We phoned the Japanese embassy to actually ask

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whether the 12-month temporary German passport would be OK,

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and they said it would be absolutely fine,

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there'd be no problem at all.

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So, you can see why they headed off to the airport,

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confident that all would be fine.

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But once again, their airline - in this case, Etihad -

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had other ideas.

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When we arrived at the airport, we checked in our luggage.

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We then handed over our passports.

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Carol's was first.

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And when I handed over my green passport,

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I could see by the check-in guy's face

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that something was going to be wrong with my passport.

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Check-in staff informed Roland that

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it couldn't accept his emergency German passport

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because their Tokyo flight

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involved a change of planes en route.

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We were told by the supervisors in London airport that it was

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the Abu Dhabi stopover that was the problem,

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and we were a little bit shocked and a bit upset that that was the case.

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According to Etihad's checks,

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Abu Dhabi would not allow Roland entry without a full passport

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and it made no difference when Roland explained

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they weren't even leaving the airport in Abu Dhabi.

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They were just connecting to Tokyo.

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I had explained to the Etihad check-in staff

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that I've actually checked

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with the Japanese embassy, prior to leaving,

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that my passport, my green passport,

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is perfectly all right to travel to Japan.

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The couple's £8,000 trip was over before it had even begun.

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We just didn't know what to say or what to think.

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We were both really shocked and very, very upset,

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and on the way home from Heathrow to Worthing,

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we just looked out of the window and couldn't speak.

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-No.

-We were so horrified and shocked.

-And numb.

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What's more, Etihad was not prepared

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to offer any compensation to the couple,

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pointing out that the responsibility

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for ensuring they were carrying

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all the correct documentation was THEIRS,

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which is clearly listed in their terms and conditions.

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They said it was our responsibility to check our travel documents

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and everything else. We thought we had done everything right,

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checked all the documents, as much as you can do, as a normal punter,

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and we were really, really upset about it.

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And it's hard not to sympathise,

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especially as when we double-checked with the embassies in Japan

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and Abu Dhabi, both confirmed that Roland should have been allowed

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to board and travel, and that as far as they were concerned,

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his emergency German passport was valid.

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So, with Roland and Carol out of pocket to the tune of £8,000,

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and with their travel insurance not covering problems arising from visas

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and paperwork, we asked Etihad about their case.

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The airline said it's sorry

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that Roland and Carol's plans were disrupted,

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but that it is obliged by regulation to ensure that all passengers have

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the right documentation before they travel,

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and to do that it too relies on the passport and visa information

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provided by the International Air Transport Association system,

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which, in this case, indicated that Roland's temporary passport

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was not valid for Japan and that German nationals require a visa

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to enter the country. Well, when we contacted

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the International Air Transport Association to find out

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what had gone wrong, it said this incident is regrettable

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and it's sorry Roland and Carol

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weren't able to enjoy their trip to Japan.

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But it says while its systems are...

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..it can only be totally up to date

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if governments pass on any changes to visa regulations in advance,

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which, in this case, didn't happen.

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But none of this really washes with Simon Calder,

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who says regardless of whether they think they're using the right information,

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it shouldn't be airlines that have the final say

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on a country's entry requirements.

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The only thing that counts is -

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what is the rule of the country you are going to

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about the documentation that you need?

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And the airline should be, first of all, aware of that and, secondly,

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it shouldn't impose anything different.

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And back home in Worthing,

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Roland and Carol remain frustrated that despite

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doing all the right checks to ensure that their documents WERE correct,

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their dream holiday was ruined.

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We'd lost an awful lot of money and...

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hugely disappointed because it was a once-in-a-lifetime holiday

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to Japan, which we were really looking forward to.

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Now, anyone who's ever checked their bag in on a flight

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will be very familiar with that feeling of utter relief

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when you see it appear on the baggage carousel at the other end,

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because it still is very much the case

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that bags do go missing, and if it's yours that can't be found,

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the inconvenience and hassle of trying to sort everything out,

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not to mention suddenly having to shop for all those essentials

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that you packed, really can put a dampener on the entire holiday.

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But I'm very glad to bring you the good news.

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It seems a solution is in sight

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and it could even be that lost baggage

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is on its way to becoming a thing of the past.

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May bank holiday 2017, and as much of the UK

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was enjoying one of the hottest days of the year...

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Hello there, it's another scorcher across the country today.

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Lots of sunshine.

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..thousands of holiday-makers found temperatures rising

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for an entirely different reason.

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At Heathrow and Gatwick airports, 75,000 passengers were stranded

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after British Airways' computer systems failed

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and hundreds of flights were cancelled.

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Now, British Airways says that it hopes to restore some normality to its services today

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after yesterday's catastrophic computer failure

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left thousands of passengers around the world stranded.

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Booking systems, check-in desks and baggage handling systems all crashed

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and thousands of pieces of luggage

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that had already been checked onto planes were now stuck in the system.

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One of the passengers caught up in the chaos was 19-year-old

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football fanatic John Pritchard, from Bangor in Northern Ireland.

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The best way for me to describe Heathrow on the 27th of May

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was just like a concert.

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Literally, like, people wall to wall.

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John was passing through Heathrow on his way to spend the summer

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teaching football at a soccer school in the States.

0:18:050:18:09

I travelled to America to coach football in the Midwest.

0:18:090:18:12

Yeah, I went out there for ten weeks coaching summer camps.

0:18:120:18:16

But with all British Airways flights from Heathrow cancelled,

0:18:160:18:20

John was going nowhere.

0:18:200:18:22

He headed to London to find a hotel for the night without, of course,

0:18:220:18:25

the luggage he'd checked in at Belfast,

0:18:250:18:27

which was somewhere in the BA systems.

0:18:270:18:30

So, without spare clothes, or indeed enough money to pay for the hotel,

0:18:300:18:34

he called his mum Paula, back in Northern Ireland, for some help.

0:18:340:18:37

He phoned me and he said,

0:18:370:18:39

"I've found a hotel, but I don't know how I'm going to pay for it."

0:18:390:18:42

I told him not to worry, that we would pay for the hotel.

0:18:420:18:47

British Airways didn't try to help at all.

0:18:470:18:51

I mean, even whenever we were watching it on the TV,

0:18:510:18:53

there was hundreds and hundreds of people sleeping in the airport.

0:18:530:18:57

John was actually one of the lucky ones to get a room.

0:18:570:18:59

The next day, another flight was organised for John,

0:18:590:19:03

this time via Atlanta,

0:19:030:19:04

where BA staff assured him that his luggage would be waiting.

0:19:040:19:07

But when he arrived at the airport ten hours later,

0:19:070:19:11

the case was nowhere to be seen.

0:19:110:19:13

At that point in time I was just looking at all the other bags,

0:19:130:19:16

and every bag was getting taken off and we were just sitting there.

0:19:160:19:19

Couldn't believe it. Yeah, I was very, very nervous

0:19:190:19:21

whenever I got there and realised I had no clothes.

0:19:210:19:24

So, with no clue as to where his suitcase was,

0:19:240:19:27

it was a very bad start to John's stay in America.

0:19:270:19:30

But back home, his mum Paula was none too impressed either.

0:19:300:19:33

I felt very let down by British Airways.

0:19:330:19:36

Very angry.

0:19:360:19:37

All he had was the clothes he was standing up in

0:19:370:19:40

and his football boots in his backpack.

0:19:400:19:44

That was all he had with him.

0:19:440:19:46

Everything else was in his bag.

0:19:460:19:48

I was furious, absolutely furious.

0:19:480:19:51

And despite Paula's efforts to track down the missing case,

0:19:510:19:55

eight months on, it's still missing.

0:19:550:19:58

And to make matters worse,

0:19:580:19:59

Paula says she's run up a huge phone bill

0:19:590:20:02

trying to find out where it's gone to.

0:20:020:20:04

She'd like the airline to compensate her for that

0:20:040:20:07

and for the missing items.

0:20:070:20:09

£220 I've spent on phone bills

0:20:090:20:14

trying to get through to British Airways.

0:20:140:20:17

I'm not asking them for anything other than

0:20:170:20:20

what we are owed cost-wise

0:20:200:20:22

and for John's lost bag.

0:20:220:20:25

Ideally, I would like the bag back, but that seems to be long gone.

0:20:250:20:30

Well, since filming, there's been some good news for Paula and John.

0:20:320:20:36

British Airways has agreed to refund the cost of John's hotel stay

0:20:360:20:40

and his transport costs, as well as paying Paula all of her phone bills.

0:20:400:20:45

It also told us that after finally being able to pin down with John

0:20:450:20:49

the details of his bag and contents,

0:20:490:20:51

it's been able to refund the cost of those as well,

0:20:510:20:54

and it's also paid him £539 that was owed to him

0:20:540:20:58

under EU regulations following the cancelled flight.

0:20:580:21:01

But John's missing case is just one of the 21 million

0:21:030:21:07

that across all the airlines disappear,

0:21:070:21:09

and whilst the majority of them are returned within 48 hours,

0:21:090:21:13

some just vanish without a trace.

0:21:130:21:15

And while that sounds a lot,

0:21:150:21:16

it's in fact only around 3% of the total number of cases

0:21:160:21:20

they collectively shuffle around the globe every year.

0:21:200:21:22

Although, let's be honest,

0:21:220:21:24

those figures are no consolation if it's YOUR bag that's disappeared,

0:21:240:21:28

as indeed happened to Karen Hines from Warrington

0:21:280:21:30

when she was flying back from a holiday in Turkey with Jet2.

0:21:300:21:33

In my case was obviously all my clothes...

0:21:330:21:37

and me ironing board and me iron, cos I do take everything.

0:21:370:21:42

I seem to take the kitchen sink when I go on holiday,

0:21:420:21:44

but I do like to have everything there.

0:21:440:21:47

Unfortunately, none of it was there

0:21:470:21:49

when Karen was waiting for her case to appear on the baggage carousel.

0:21:490:21:53

So, we waited and waited and everybody seemed to be going,

0:21:530:21:56

and I was getting a little bit worried.

0:21:560:21:58

And then all of a sudden the carousel stopped.

0:21:580:22:01

And I panicked. I said, "Oh, God, my case, I haven't got my case."

0:22:010:22:04

Karen reported it missing to Jet2 staff.

0:22:050:22:08

They just asked for a description of my case.

0:22:080:22:11

I gave them a good description.

0:22:110:22:13

They asked me items that was in the case,

0:22:130:22:15

and obviously the things that stood out.

0:22:150:22:18

I thought, "They'll know it's mine, there's an ironing board in there."

0:22:180:22:21

So, they said, "Leave it with us."

0:22:210:22:22

Well, after four weeks and no sign of her case or her ironing board,

0:22:220:22:26

Karen asked Jet2 for some compensation for her lost belongings.

0:22:260:22:30

But despite claiming for around £2,000 worth of clothes

0:22:300:22:33

and other items, the company offered only £175.

0:22:330:22:38

Because I didn't have a receipt for every item that was in my case,

0:22:380:22:42

they went through the list of the clothing that I'd actually sent to them

0:22:420:22:46

and some clothing, if it was 100, I get £10, and if it was £10,

0:22:460:22:52

I get £1, and that is how they've worked it out.

0:22:520:22:55

Now, although Karen WAS able to claim the value of

0:22:570:23:00

the rest of the lost items on her travel insurance,

0:23:000:23:02

she still feels that she was short-changed by Jet2.

0:23:020:23:06

But under the Montreal Convention,

0:23:060:23:07

which regulates international airlines,

0:23:070:23:10

companies are well within their rights

0:23:100:23:12

to offer just 10% of the estimated value of goods in a loss case

0:23:120:23:17

if you don't have the original receipts for those items,

0:23:170:23:20

which means that passengers like Karen

0:23:200:23:23

could end up hundreds of pounds out of pocket.

0:23:230:23:26

When we spoke to Jet2 about what had happened,

0:23:260:23:28

the airline apologised to Karen

0:23:280:23:30

for what it described as an isolated incident.

0:23:300:23:32

Jet2 went on to say that as Karen has accepted an offer from her

0:23:320:23:36

insurance company, it's unable to process this claim any further.

0:23:360:23:41

But Karen, like dozens of you who got in touch with us about bags that

0:23:410:23:45

have been lost on your travels,

0:23:450:23:46

has been left wondering whether she can be confident

0:23:460:23:49

that her luggage will arrive safely the next time she flies.

0:23:490:23:53

So, it's changed everything about the way I feel of holidays,

0:23:530:23:57

the excitement of getting your things packed and...

0:23:570:24:00

It's changed everything.

0:24:000:24:02

I will be sat in that airport, thinking,

0:24:020:24:04

"Am I going to get my case at the other end?"

0:24:040:24:08

Well, now, that's been a concern

0:24:080:24:10

for the International Air Transport Association, or Iata,

0:24:100:24:13

for quite a few years,

0:24:130:24:15

and now it seems that they've come up with a solution.

0:24:150:24:17

By June this year, the organisation wants all airlines and airports

0:24:170:24:22

to have signed up to a new baggage tracking system,

0:24:220:24:26

one that should mean that lost luggage is a thing of the past.

0:24:260:24:30

David Steer runs a company which specialises in tracking bags

0:24:300:24:33

and preventing them from going missing.

0:24:330:24:35

There are a number of reasons why bags go missing in the system.

0:24:350:24:38

They can be mishandled, simply inadvertently put onto the wrong trolley in an airport,

0:24:380:24:42

or onto the wrong conveyor belt, that can happen.

0:24:420:24:45

There can be situations where the bag has no identification

0:24:450:24:48

because the tag has torn,

0:24:480:24:50

the tag has become caught on something accidentally

0:24:500:24:52

and has pulled off. These are all, you know,

0:24:520:24:55

accidents that happen, much like anything else.

0:24:550:24:57

Where there's human intervention

0:24:570:24:59

or mechanics involved, things can go wrong.

0:24:590:25:01

In fact, there are so many stages involved in tracking luggage -

0:25:010:25:05

seven, by the way, in total -

0:25:050:25:07

that David isn't surprised that somewhere along the line

0:25:070:25:10

some slip through the gaps and go missing.

0:25:100:25:12

But the new system, which has already been rolled out

0:25:120:25:15

in some UK airports, should put an end to all of that.

0:25:150:25:18

The industry's doing an enormous amount of work over the last few years,

0:25:180:25:23

and they've just introduced a lot of changes designed to address a new

0:25:230:25:27

programme being introduced next year, called Resolution 753,

0:25:270:25:31

which is designed to track bags all the way through the process at each

0:25:310:25:35

airline and at each airport to make sure that baggage loss is minimised.

0:25:350:25:39

They hope to halve, or even reduce by three-quarters,

0:25:390:25:42

the amount of mislaid bags.

0:25:420:25:44

Now, essentially, the new system -

0:25:440:25:46

which has already been successfully trialled here at Gatwick -

0:25:460:25:49

will eventually mean that every case

0:25:490:25:51

will be tagged with either a barcode,

0:25:510:25:53

or at some airports, a microchip.

0:25:530:25:55

Scanners put in place along its journey will then track its progress when loaded onto the plane

0:25:550:26:00

and then again if it's transferred,

0:26:000:26:02

and finally when it arrives at your destination.

0:26:020:26:04

That means at all of these stages, unlike at present,

0:26:040:26:08

the airline should be able to tell exactly where your case is,

0:26:080:26:12

and a mobile phone app can help passengers stay updated as well.

0:26:120:26:15

It's expected that the system,

0:26:150:26:17

which will be rolled out extensively in the summer,

0:26:170:26:19

will dramatically lessen the risk of bags going missing.

0:26:190:26:23

By having increased traceability, it means that the chances

0:26:230:26:26

of a bag disappearing during the process are reduced,

0:26:260:26:29

and that will obviously bring down

0:26:290:26:30

the number of bags that get misplaced.

0:26:300:26:32

And if the worst happens and a bag does still go astray,

0:26:320:26:36

the system will hold details of the passenger it belongs to

0:26:360:26:39

and allow it to be traced using GPS,

0:26:390:26:41

which should mean it can be found more or less anywhere in the world.

0:26:410:26:46

Now, for John and Karen,

0:26:460:26:47

these changes are long overdue and they've had to get used to the fact

0:26:470:26:51

that their missing bags are probably now lost for good.

0:26:510:26:54

I don't believe I'll see my bag ever again.

0:26:540:26:56

If I was going to ever get it, I would have had it by now.

0:26:560:26:59

Unless it's flying around the world and then it comes back to me.

0:26:590:27:01

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'd be made up if I get my case back,

0:27:010:27:04

but deep down, I don't think I'm ever going to see that case again.

0:27:040:27:08

Still to come on Rip-Off Britain...

0:27:140:27:16

The airport transfer business

0:27:160:27:18

that promises reliable, stress-free trips.

0:27:180:27:21

So, why were these passengers left waiting for cars that never arrived?

0:27:210:27:24

We were all really anxious.

0:27:250:27:27

We didn't know when they were going to come and get us.

0:27:270:27:29

We were stood outside in 35 degrees heat with four children.

0:27:290:27:33

Our travel expert Simon Calder

0:27:360:27:38

is full of the secrets of saving money on your travels.

0:27:380:27:41

He's full of tips on everything from how to avoid the crowds,

0:27:410:27:45

to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.

0:27:450:27:48

This time, increasingly affordable Shanghai.

0:27:480:27:52

It's a gateway to the People's Republic

0:27:530:27:55

and a great introduction to the world's most populated country.

0:27:550:27:59

What's more, with return flights from the UK to the city

0:27:590:28:02

from just over £300,

0:28:020:28:04

Shanghai is a city not to be missed -

0:28:040:28:06

that is, once you've navigated the complicated visa system.

0:28:060:28:09

This is a Chinese visa

0:28:090:28:12

and it's annoyingly difficult and expensive to obtain.

0:28:120:28:16

But the chances are

0:28:160:28:18

if you're going to Shanghai for less than a week, you may not need one.

0:28:180:28:22

Instead, you can apply for a transit permit,

0:28:230:28:26

as long as you're staying for a maximum of six days.

0:28:260:28:29

It's much easier to get hold of and will save you the price

0:28:290:28:33

of a full entry visa, which can set you back £180.

0:28:330:28:37

Sounds complicated? Yeah, it is a bit, but it's still a heck of a lot easier than getting one of these.

0:28:370:28:42

From the UK, it's likely you'll fly into Shanghai's Pudong Airport,

0:28:430:28:48

home to one of the world's fastest shuttle trains.

0:28:480:28:51

The magnetic levitation railway,

0:28:510:28:53

which runs from Shanghai's Pudong Airport into the city.

0:28:530:28:58

It travels at an astonishing 267mph -

0:28:580:29:02

that's half the speed of a jumbo jet!

0:29:020:29:04

But there are only eight trains each way in the morning

0:29:040:29:08

that travel at that speed and another eight in the afternoon.

0:29:080:29:12

The rest of the time it only reaches a pathetic 186mph.

0:29:120:29:17

That's barely three miles a minute.

0:29:170:29:19

The normal fare is 50 yuan - about £6 -

0:29:220:29:26

but you save one-fifth if you can show you're arriving

0:29:260:29:28

or departing on a flight, which you probably will be.

0:29:280:29:31

As for somewhere to rest your head, Shanghai, like most cities,

0:29:330:29:37

has everything from cheap and cheerful to five-star accommodation.

0:29:370:29:41

But for a place resonating with character,

0:29:410:29:43

Simon suggests booking into the iconic Peace Hotel

0:29:430:29:47

with its very own museum on the first floor.

0:29:470:29:50

But I'm afraid you'll have to go much higher

0:29:500:29:52

if you want to get a bird's-eye view of this spectacular city -

0:29:520:29:55

to the top floor of the Hyatt hotel.

0:29:550:29:58

Now, admission will cost you around £11 or £12, but that does include

0:29:590:30:04

a standard drink and, of course, magnificent scenes like this.

0:30:040:30:08

It's a good job that, in most cases,

0:30:110:30:14

going on holiday is worth it when you arrive,

0:30:140:30:16

cos all the last-minute preparations and the rush to get away

0:30:160:30:20

can sometimes be so stressful

0:30:200:30:22

that we swear we'll never go anywhere again.

0:30:220:30:24

For some people, and I know the feeling,

0:30:240:30:27

it's only the moment when you're in the car on the way to the airport

0:30:270:30:30

that you can start to relax, provided, that is,

0:30:300:30:33

that you're going to make it on time.

0:30:330:30:35

Well, for dozens of people who booked an airport transfer

0:30:350:30:38

with one particular company, that was the whole problem.

0:30:380:30:41

It seemed to offer bargain fares,

0:30:410:30:44

but the money saved paled into insignificance

0:30:440:30:46

when the drivers they were relying on to get them to their flights

0:30:460:30:50

were either delayed or simply didn't turn up at all.

0:30:500:30:53

Part of the appeal of a package holiday is that everything,

0:30:560:30:59

including the transfers to and from your accommodation,

0:30:590:31:02

is sorted out for you.

0:31:020:31:04

But booking each part of your trip separately can work out cheaper,

0:31:040:31:08

which is why there's been a 19% increase

0:31:080:31:10

in holiday-makers doing it this way over the last three years.

0:31:100:31:14

That's led to a surge in the number of companies

0:31:150:31:18

offering to organise each individual bit of your holiday,

0:31:180:31:22

including those transfers.

0:31:220:31:24

So, when Lindsey Burton booked a private villa in Tenerife

0:31:260:31:29

for no less than eight members of her family and friends,

0:31:290:31:32

making sure they all got there hassle-free

0:31:320:31:35

felt especially important.

0:31:350:31:37

It's a lot of money that you spend on a holiday,

0:31:370:31:39

you want it to run smoothly, so, yeah,

0:31:390:31:42

the idea of booking a transfer company

0:31:420:31:44

was to make sure that we got from A to B

0:31:440:31:46

in a country that we didn't know.

0:31:460:31:48

Lindsey was confident that she'd found the perfect company -

0:31:500:31:53

hoppa - which, through its website,

0:31:530:31:55

organises airport transfers in countries right across the world.

0:31:550:31:59

She paid £41.78 for the return journey

0:32:000:32:03

between the accommodation and Tenerife's South Airport,

0:32:030:32:07

and just as promised, when they landed in Tenerife,

0:32:070:32:10

a driver from the company was waiting for them at the agreed spot,

0:32:100:32:14

ready to whisk them off to their villa.

0:32:140:32:16

We'd saw the road that we needed to go up to get to our villa

0:32:160:32:20

and we all just started to relax then

0:32:200:32:21

and just looked forward to the rest of the week there.

0:32:210:32:24

Seven days later at the end of their trip,

0:32:250:32:28

Lindsey and her family once again

0:32:280:32:30

waited at the agreed meeting time and place

0:32:300:32:33

for the driver, booked via hoppa, to arrive.

0:32:330:32:36

But this time, things didn't run as smoothly.

0:32:360:32:39

We waited until four o'clock,

0:32:390:32:41

which was the time we were told that the bus would come and get us,

0:32:410:32:44

and it didn't arrive.

0:32:440:32:46

So, we gave it ten minutes

0:32:460:32:48

and we phoned the number that we'd got on the e-mail, um,

0:32:480:32:51

for them to tell us that the driver would be coming for us

0:32:510:32:54

and we should just give him a few minutes.

0:32:540:32:56

After a further 30 minutes, with now just two and a half hours

0:32:570:33:01

before they needed to be at the airport,

0:33:010:33:03

Lindsey rang the company again

0:33:030:33:05

and the advice she was now given was very different

0:33:050:33:08

and not at all what you'd expect.

0:33:080:33:11

They told me that we would have to

0:33:110:33:13

make our own way to the airport using taxis.

0:33:130:33:15

We were all really anxious.

0:33:150:33:17

We didn't know when they were going to come and get us.

0:33:170:33:19

We were stood outside in 35 degrees heat with four children,

0:33:190:33:23

not knowing that we would get to the airport on time.

0:33:230:33:26

In desperation, Lindsey rang hoppa's UK office

0:33:270:33:30

to see if it could sort things out.

0:33:300:33:32

We explained the situation, that there was eight of us -

0:33:320:33:35

four children, four adults - nobody was helping us,

0:33:350:33:39

and again, they just told us to make our own way,

0:33:390:33:42

finding our own taxis for eight people.

0:33:420:33:44

I did get angry with him on the phone, because, obviously,

0:33:440:33:47

we were all quite stressed out, we were all very anxious

0:33:470:33:50

and he just gave us the same answer of make your own way to the airport.

0:33:500:33:55

Outraged at the way hoppa was leaving them to fend for themselves,

0:33:560:34:00

Lindsey finally found someone local willing to help.

0:34:000:34:03

The manager, or the receptionist,

0:34:030:34:05

in the hotel where we were being picked up from,

0:34:050:34:08

he offered to help us and he got on the phone

0:34:080:34:11

to a local taxi company which they use.

0:34:110:34:14

Within ten minutes there was two taxis that had arrived to

0:34:140:34:17

pick us up and take us to the airport,

0:34:170:34:19

and they tried their hardest to get us there.

0:34:190:34:22

We finally pulled up at the airport

0:34:220:34:24

with ten minutes to go before the gate closed.

0:34:240:34:27

Well, once back in the UK, Lindsey phoned hoppa

0:34:280:34:31

and was told she WOULD get a refund

0:34:310:34:33

for the transfer that didn't show up,

0:34:330:34:35

provided she had the taxi receipts.

0:34:350:34:37

But in the rush to make their flights,

0:34:370:34:39

Lindsey had only managed to get a receipt from one of the two taxis.

0:34:390:34:43

So without the other,

0:34:430:34:44

hoppa said it would only be able to refund part of the costs.

0:34:440:34:48

I can't believe that they would leave

0:34:480:34:52

a family of eight people, with four children,

0:34:520:34:55

and not want to compensate or apologise.

0:34:550:34:57

We didn't once have an apology from them

0:34:570:34:59

throughout all of the phone calls.

0:34:590:35:01

It was just, "We can't do anything, you've got to sort yourselves out."

0:35:010:35:05

And that's what Lindsey is annoyed about the most,

0:35:060:35:09

because despite promises on the company's website

0:35:090:35:12

to be there 24/7, 365 days a year to help,

0:35:120:35:17

she certainly didn't get the stress-free journey she'd paid for.

0:35:170:35:21

We'd paid a lot of money for the transfers

0:35:210:35:24

to give us that security of getting home.

0:35:240:35:27

Now, no company gets things right all the time,

0:35:280:35:31

even one that calls itself the world's number one specialist

0:35:310:35:35

in smooth, reliable transfers.

0:35:350:35:37

But we've heard from plenty of other people who say they had problems

0:35:370:35:40

after booking with hoppa,

0:35:400:35:42

or one of the several similar businesses it operates.

0:35:420:35:45

Among them are John Amey from Essex and his wife Elizabeth.

0:35:470:35:50

He got in touch after his holiday to Slovenia in July 2016.

0:35:510:35:56

He'd arranged a car to take his family

0:35:560:35:58

between Ljubljana Airport and his hotel

0:35:580:36:01

booked through A2B Transfers,

0:36:010:36:03

which is part of the same company as hoppa.

0:36:030:36:06

So, we needed the assurance that there was a vehicle guaranteed to be

0:36:060:36:11

there to take us that was big enough for us and our luggage.

0:36:110:36:14

John paid the £120 fee online

0:36:150:36:18

and was happy that the transfer was sorted.

0:36:180:36:20

But on the day they flew, a technical problem with the plane

0:36:210:36:24

meant that they were delayed by six hours.

0:36:240:36:27

So instead of arriving just after 6pm,

0:36:270:36:29

it was midnight when they finally picked up their luggage

0:36:290:36:33

and were ready to meet their taxi to go to their hotel.

0:36:330:36:36

The airport was pretty much closing, so we were looking around

0:36:360:36:39

for someone that might be holding up a family name,

0:36:390:36:42

or have a company name so we knew that, "Oh, yeah,

0:36:420:36:45

"that's who we should speak to about getting a transfer."

0:36:450:36:48

But there was no taxi waiting for them and no-one around to ask.

0:36:480:36:53

So, John called A2B Transfers's 24-hour hotline

0:36:530:36:56

and was told that the driver who was supposed to be collecting him

0:36:560:37:00

had arrived but had given up waiting

0:37:000:37:02

and it was now too late for them to come back.

0:37:020:37:05

Because it had gone midnight,

0:37:050:37:06

the taxi company weren't going to come and collect us

0:37:060:37:09

to take us to our hotel.

0:37:090:37:12

I was very surprised by this.

0:37:120:37:13

They are a transfer company.

0:37:130:37:15

Airports normally run early to late nights.

0:37:150:37:19

It seemed strange for a taxi company not to be available to take us

0:37:190:37:24

on a pre-booked contract.

0:37:240:37:27

Now, John understands that hoppa's terms and conditions make clear that

0:37:270:37:31

customers must try and inform them of any delays where possible,

0:37:310:37:35

but you might have assumed

0:37:350:37:36

the taxi firm would be monitoring the flight arrival times.

0:37:360:37:39

As far as John's concerned, there's very little point

0:37:390:37:42

in having a 24-hour helpline

0:37:420:37:44

if on calling it you can't get a 24-hour service.

0:37:440:37:48

Eventually, John managed to find

0:37:480:37:50

another taxi to make the 90-minute journey to their hotel,

0:37:500:37:53

but at a cost of 100 euros.

0:37:530:37:56

And sharing very similar frustrations is George Waddington from Clitheroe.

0:37:560:38:01

He'd booked a return transfer with hoppa from Faro Airport in Portugal.

0:38:010:38:05

We was going to Albufeira in Portugal for a Christmas break.

0:38:050:38:12

The reason being, we'd both had quite bad years

0:38:120:38:14

and that we just wanted to make it

0:38:140:38:15

so that we had a stress-free period over Christmas.

0:38:150:38:18

But when George arrived at Faro Airport,

0:38:190:38:21

he discovered customs staff were on strike.

0:38:210:38:24

As a result, by the time he got to the hoppa desk,

0:38:240:38:27

where he'd been told to meet his vehicle,

0:38:270:38:30

an hour had passed and his driver was nowhere to be seen.

0:38:300:38:34

And, according to George,

0:38:340:38:35

he wasn't the only one to find himself in this predicament.

0:38:350:38:38

I'd seen so many people argue with the guy at the counter

0:38:380:38:41

before we actually got there,

0:38:410:38:43

um, it was obviously futile arguing with them,

0:38:430:38:48

so we decided immediately to just pay the transfer again

0:38:480:38:52

in order to get to the destination.

0:38:520:38:55

George ended up paying nearly 30 euros for another taxi -

0:38:550:38:59

not the relaxing start to his holiday he'd hoped for.

0:38:590:39:02

Yeah, we were looking for a stress-free break and, of course,

0:39:020:39:05

that didn't happen because we were upset immediately

0:39:050:39:08

with the transfer situation.

0:39:080:39:10

Well, when we put all three of these cases to hoppa,

0:39:100:39:14

the company told us it was disappointed to hear them

0:39:140:39:17

and that the vast majority of

0:39:170:39:19

the three million passengers it carries each year

0:39:190:39:21

have a positive experience with the company.

0:39:210:39:24

But it said while it's...

0:39:240:39:27

..it's clear that on these occasions it did not deliver,

0:39:290:39:32

for which it's apologised.

0:39:320:39:34

It went on to say that having investigated,

0:39:340:39:37

it's now changed its local supplier in both Tenerife and Portugal.

0:39:370:39:41

hoppa reiterated that it does clearly stipulate

0:39:410:39:45

that customers will need to provide a receipt

0:39:450:39:48

if they've had to use alternative transfers

0:39:480:39:50

so that the company can verify the costs.

0:39:500:39:53

But as a gesture of goodwill,

0:39:530:39:55

all three people we spoke to have now had their taxi costs refunded.

0:39:550:40:00

And while that's great news for THEM,

0:40:020:40:04

if YOU'RE wondering how best to arrange the journey

0:40:040:40:06

from the airport and back again on your next trip,

0:40:060:40:09

Simon Calder questions whether transfers are necessarily

0:40:090:40:13

the best way to do it.

0:40:130:40:14

There's a really good form of airport transfer

0:40:140:40:17

which you don't need to book in advance and that's called a taxi.

0:40:170:40:20

You get into one at the airport.

0:40:200:40:21

Now, it depends where you are.

0:40:210:40:23

I find that if you're in Portugal, um, Greece,

0:40:230:40:26

that's generally pretty good value.

0:40:260:40:27

If you're in Italy, you're going to be paying

0:40:270:40:30

an arm and a leg for the privilege.

0:40:300:40:32

And if your budget won't stretch to a cab,

0:40:320:40:34

Simon's advice is to rely on the very reliable public transport

0:40:340:40:38

that serves so many holiday destinations.

0:40:380:40:42

Palma in Majorca, for example,

0:40:420:40:44

has a new Aerotib network of buses

0:40:440:40:47

which go direct from the airport to all the big resort areas.

0:40:470:40:52

In Faro, there's a marvellous bus.

0:40:520:40:55

Number 17 takes you into the city centre and drops you

0:40:550:40:58

right by the bus station,

0:40:580:41:00

where you can get a bus anywhere you want along the Algarve.

0:41:000:41:03

Or my favourite airport of all time in terms of transfers is Nice,

0:41:030:41:08

partly because the airport is so close to the city that you can,

0:41:080:41:12

and I have, walked into town.

0:41:120:41:14

There's loads of buses, very high frequency,

0:41:140:41:18

both into Nice itself and along the coast to other destinations.

0:41:180:41:22

As for Lindsey in Nottingham, for whom public transport

0:41:220:41:26

and a large family is too much of a headache,

0:41:260:41:28

though she's glad she's no longer out of pocket,

0:41:280:41:31

the whole experience is not one she'd like to repeat.

0:41:310:41:34

I mean, we paid money for a service. The service wasn't delivered.

0:41:350:41:39

We weren't offered, I think,

0:41:390:41:41

a fair amount of money back for the stress and the emotional stress

0:41:410:41:45

that they caused us.

0:41:450:41:47

The truth is that Rip-Off Britain

0:41:540:41:55

wouldn't be here without your stories

0:41:550:41:57

and we've got plenty of ways you can get in touch.

0:41:570:42:00

You can send us an e-mail to...

0:42:000:42:02

Or you can write to us at...

0:42:060:42:08

But please do not send original copies of any documents.

0:42:150:42:18

And even if you haven't got a story that you'd like us to investigate,

0:42:210:42:24

you can always join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

0:42:240:42:27

Just search "BBC Rip-Off Britain".

0:42:270:42:31

Well, I'm afraid we've reached the end of the programme already,

0:42:320:42:35

but how frustrating were some of the situations we've heard about today?

0:42:350:42:39

Especially being stopped from boarding your flight

0:42:390:42:41

at the very last moment and losing all that money...awful.

0:42:410:42:44

That really is a terrible experience, isn't it?

0:42:440:42:46

But on a more positive note,

0:42:460:42:48

I was delighted to hear about the technology that's being introduced

0:42:480:42:51

to keep a closer eye on our suitcases when they board the plane.

0:42:510:42:54

Who knows? Now, this is me being positive...

0:42:540:42:56

Maybe by the time we're back here next year,

0:42:560:42:59

lost luggage will be a thing of the past. What d'you reckon, Gloria?

0:42:590:43:02

I reckon that would be brilliant.

0:43:020:43:04

Actually, my suitcase might end up at the same destination as me.

0:43:040:43:07

Who knows? Now, in the meantime, if you're off on your holiday,

0:43:070:43:10

then have the most wonderful time.

0:43:100:43:12

And although we hope, of course, that it all goes smoothly,

0:43:120:43:14

if it doesn't, you know exactly where we are and, indeed,

0:43:140:43:17

how to find the three of us.

0:43:170:43:18

And we'd really, really love to hear from you.

0:43:180:43:21

We'll be back, though, with more of your stories very soon.

0:43:210:43:23

-So, until then, from all of us on the team, bye-bye.

-Goodbye.

-Goodbye.

0:43:230:43:27

Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville investigate holiday disasters that can occur before people have even reached their destination - and that are totally outside their control. Among the stories is that of the holidaymakers left thousands of pounds out of pocket after being denied boarding thanks to an issue only the airline saw as a problem.

Plus why lost luggage could be close to becoming a thing of the past, and the airport transfer company that left passengers stranded without the cars they had booked and paid for.

Travel expert Simon Calder has tips on visiting increasingly affordable and accessible Shanghai.