The Lost Resorts; AS 13TH TRAVEL FIRM THIS YEAR GOES BUST, HERE'S WHAT TO DO IF YOUR HOLIDAY PLANS END IN TEARS
Byline: NIGEL THOMPSON
I WISH I could say the failure of Flight Options will be the last travel company to collapse this year. But, honestly, I can't.
Though, hopefully, this is the last one to go bust slap-bang in the middle of the school summer holidays.
What a lousy year 2010 has been for British travellers. Ash from the Icelandic volcano and striking BA cabin staff have caused widespread disruption and 13 travel firms have collapsed - talk about unlucky.
There was some good news this week when strikes at BAA airports were averted.
And most of Flight Options' 60,000 customers with advance bookings will eventually get their money back under the Atol scheme.
Those due to fly out on holiday before 6pm last night were able to travel under special arrangements designed to minimise confusion and protect passengers.
And the Civil Aviation Authority will also make sure all 13,000 travellers overseas will get home.
The travel industry will, as usual, rally round to help with offers and deals to find alternative trips for those thousands of disappointed Flight Options' customers who have seen their summer plans wrecked.
But now the fear is smaller travel firms will be unable to pay the bills this autumn that they have built up during the peak summer holiday period.
The situation is made worse because the coalition's stringent spending cuts and the still-uncertain economic outlook are clearly putting off holidaymakers from heading abroad. However, my main concern is for any Flight Options customers abroad right now.
They may face being asked to stump up directly to the hotel for their accommodation, even though they've paid for a package holiday already - a justified complaint I've had in the past from many Mirror readers.
Well, here's a thought.
Perhaps the governments of tourist countries - let's use Spain as an example - that have happily taken British holidaymakers' money for decades could guarantee hotel payments so stranded people don't have to fork out on the spot?
That guaranteed money could eventually be recovered and paid back under, say, customers' own travel insurance, or Atol or Abta schemes. But in the meantime Brits stuck abroad would not have to effectively fork out twice.
In many instances loyal British holidaymakers have been the backbone of many tourist economies across the Mediterranean - returning to resorts year in, year out and spending hefty sums of their hardearned cash in shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
Frankly, I wonder whether our European hosts sometimes see us as little more than walking euros? Returning to Spain, and to put things in perspective, even though numbers of visitors from the UK are markedly down because of the recession, 11 million Brits still went to the sunny Costas last year.
Just a little recognition of that would be nice, thanks.
ADVICE: When making any claim for loss of travel do be very persistent and remember, don't get emotional in your correspondence, just stick to the facts.
INFO: Flight Options customers who are currently abroad should contact the CAA for more information on 0044 161 444 5811.
Those with advance bookings requiring general advice about refunds under the Atol scheme go to the CAA website (www.caa.co.uk) or call 0844 571 7262.
TRIP OFF.. OPERATORS THAT FAILED IN 2010
Flight Options (Kiss Flights) Sun4U
Wigmore Holidays and Travel (Aspects of Tunisia)
Adventura (Pure Escapes)
Flight Bureau (Think Delta, Think Emirates, Think Flights)
Business Travel Services
Source: CAA (Trading names shown in brackets)
How am I covered if a holiday firm I've booked with goes bust? …