This followed weeks of worry about their luxury spa package trip to Lanzarote that was booked long before coronavirus changed everything. Although the pair had made repeated efforts to find out from their tour operator Loveholidays what was going on, they remained in the dark. The trip to the Secrets Lanzarote Resort & Spa had meant to be a special treat to mark the 35th wedding anniversary of assistant headmistress Caron and her husband, a key hospital worker.
“We chose it specifically and once we had booked there was no flexibility on times,” she says.
As the holiday approached, she was asked, as is standard, to complete the booking and pay £2,000.
++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer and small business champion Maisha Frost on email@example.com ++
“I thought in light of everything, I would email the hotel directly just to check and that’s when they told me they were closed,” she explains.
“Since it has just been automated requests to pay the balance. We didn’t want to pay for something that didn’t exist. We know package holidays are protected if there is a cancellation, but the stress has been immense.”
Aware however of the general consumer advice that customers should complete payments and honour their contract so as not to lose their deposit, Caron tried valiantly to settle.
But the technology blocked her. “I tried to get into our booking but was constantly denied access and with no humans to help we were stuck,” she recalls.
“Just sending messages about the problems meant I had no evidence that I had tried.
“I was directed time after time to the website login and was going round in circles, so then I also sent emails to what they call their ‘social team’. At least I knew I had proof should there be a dispute.
“It was all so different to previous holidays we had booked with the company. Before this crisis we’ve been really happy with the service.”
And, unlike some other tour operators facing similar customer complaints Crusader is also looking into, when we contacted Loveholidays to highlight the problems it responded immediately.
Apologising for the difficulties its customers had experienced and pledging they would not lose out, it said:
“We have heard their frustrations, are taking on their feedback and have invested significant resources to improve our customer services capabilities during this difficult time.
“Our commitment to our customers is clear and absolute – none will lose money on their package holiday bookings due to cancellations as a result of COVID-19.
“We have made significant progress in accelerating hotel and transfer refunds. By the end of this week, we expect to have refunded more than 80,000 customers, and our goal by next week is to have issued refunds for hotels and transfers for all customers who have requested refunds and whose credit and debit card information is still valid.
“We are following up individually with the small percentage of customers we are not able to refund due to out of date card information. We are urging any customers who have recently changed their bank cards to please notify us to help make the refund process as quick as possible.”