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Coronavirus: Claiming For Your Cancelled Ski Trip

Some PlanetSKI readers are facing an uphill battle to get their money back for ski holidays that aren’t happening or were brought to an end when ski resorts closed.  Others say the service providers are doing well in difficult circumstances.

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Government coronavirus advice

Government coronavirus advice

Many holidaymakers are still waiting to hear how tour operators, suppliers and travel insurance companies will deal with their cases.

There’s frustration and uncertainty.

“We have just been told that we are not entitled to any money back, even though we were not able to have a holiday.”

“Company is refusing to pay our party of 18 any of the £12k we paid them for our trip last week – despite them closing the resort/chalet etc.”

“The holiday provider has refused to refund ski pass costs and ski hire despite not getting a single day on the slopes.”

These are just a few of the complaints to reach us in the past few weeks.

There have been some good news stories too.

“We got a full refund a couple of days later.”

We have also had messages from readers that airlines, ski schools, tour operators and many more have been quick to refund or offer services for next winter.

Ski tour operators – and the whole travel industry – are facing huge financial and logistical challenges.

Many businesses simply do not have the cash to repay thousands of holidaymakers.

Several may not survive to see next winter.

Others, who have committed to giving full refunds or alternative holidays, are struggling with a huge backlog, leaving customers anxious.

Insurers are expecting some 400,000 claims for cancellation and disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the consumer association, Which?

What is clear is that there is no uniformity of approach.

Skiers and snowboarders are finding that they will not automatically be given a full refund.

They may not even get the offer of a like-for-like holiday next season or a credit note.

Their only recourse is to claim on their travel insurance – if, that is,  they have a policy with sufficient cover.

If their trip was due to take place after 17th March, when the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office advised against all but essential travel, it’s more straightforward.

In these circumstances, anyone who booked a package holiday is legally entitled to a full refund if they don’t want any of the alternatives offered.

For the rest, insurance policies should pay out where the FCO has advised against travel for any costs that are not refunded.

Here at PlanetSKI we urge people to be patient and to understand the predicament many businesses are in.

We have already booked our accommodation for next winter in the Aosta Valley in Italy and urge people to defer where possible to support the industry – and, most importantly, have something to look forward to.

PACKAGE HOLIDAY

Val Thorens, France

Val Thorens, France

One PlanetSKI reader, Jevan, told us he was ‘shocked and disgusted’ to discover he was not being offered any money back for a chalet holiday in Val Thorens, France.

The group had originally booked to go to Italy with Inghams but the holiday was cancelled when the Italian resorts became the first in Europe to close.

Inghams refunded them in full within days.

“Six of us, three couples, booked a week before we flew out after our Italian ski holiday was cancelled,” Jevan told us.

“We booked a chalet in Val Thorens to fly out Saturday morning 14th March.

“We specifically asked them on the Friday before we departed if everything was OK and our holiday would go ahead and they said it would be no problem.

“We arrived in Val Thorens around 3 pm; after transfers, we proceeded to get lift passes and equipment hire ready for the following day’s skiing.

“As we sat down to evening dinner around 7pm we were told that all bars and restaurants were closing as from midnight and that the lifts would not be operating the next day so no holiday was to be had.”

The six were put on an emergency flight back to the UK on Monday morning.

Two weeks later, they received an email from Interactive Resorts, with whom they’d booked the Ski Beat holiday:

Sorry it has taken a while update you regarding your ski holiday. Ski Beat have now asked us to pass on the below:

We regret that the latter portion of your holiday to France was affected by the Covid-19 related closures instilled by the government. 

Please be advised that any relating loss of costs for the partial curtailment of your holiday must be pursued through your insurance company. As per our agreed Terms and Conditions, it is the responsibility of the customer to ensure that they travel with adequate insurance. Should your insurers request documentation confirming your holiday costs and details of its curtailment please do contact us and we would be delighted to provide this for you. 

We thank you in advance for your understanding and wish you and yours well during this difficult period.”

 Jevan says he’s stunned by the suggestion that they’d lost only the end of the holiday.

“They say the ‘latter’ part of our holiday when we never had any holiday at all. No apology, not even an attempt to offer an alternative holiday as other companies have.

“We just want to know who has had our money for the days we lost….. ”

The trip cost the six of them £4,550.

Jevan is in the process of trying to claim back on his insurance.  So far the insurance company has suggested that the specific circumstances are not covered by his policy.

We have asked Ski Beat for a comment but have been told the company is too busy to respond to the complaint.

“They have a huge task at hand to be recompensed for holidays that have been lost, and to recompense clients and reschedule holidays,” a PR representative for Ski Beat told us.

“That is the company’s priority and as you can imagine it is hugely time-consuming under very difficult global circumstances.”

Ski Beat, along with many others, has a ‘Force Majeure’ clause in its Booking Conditions.

This says the company may not pay out where events take place that are beyond its control and could not have been foreseen or avoided.

The conditions state:

  • Very rarely, we may be forced, due to force majeure …… to change or terminate your holiday after departure but before the scheduled end of your time away. This is extremely unlikely, but if this situation does occur, we regret we will be unable to make any refunds (unless we obtain any refunds from our suppliers), pay you any compensation or meet any costs or expenses you incur as a result.

Elsewhere in the package holiday market, the UK’s biggest ski tour operator, Crystal Ski, has agreed to give refunds if there is no other choice.

However, it is encouraging customers to commit to travelling with Crystal next winter.

Crystal Ski Holidays - photo Crystal

Crystal Ski Holidays – photo Crystal

“Where possible we are helping Crystal Ski customers rebook their holiday for the next ski season,” Crystal said in a statement to PlanetSKI.

“If customers aren’t able to find a suitable alternative, we are offering full refunds. We’d like to apologise that due to the large volume of affected customers, there may be a delay in customers receiving their refund.

“For any customers whose holidays were unfortunately curtailed, we are offering pro-rata refunds for the days lost.

“We’d like to thank Crystal Ski Holidays customers for their understanding and patience.”

Hotelplan, which includes the ski brands Inghams, Ski Total, and Esprit Ski, says it is dealing with the situation on a case-by-case basis.

Inghams

Inghams

“We are extremely sorry that we had to suspend all our ski holidays at the end of this winter due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Since then we have been doing everything we can to support those customers whose holidays have been affected, and we continue to work round the clock to bring home the last of our guests and our team who remain overseas,” the company told PlanetSKI.

“In light of the truly unprecedented situation we are now faced with, we have been working closely with ABTA, ATOL and the relevant government bodies to ensure that we are fully up to date with evolving industry guidelines.

“In line with their advice, we have been reviewing each holiday on a case-by-case basis and proactively contacting customers with a range of flexible options.

“We would like to express our gratitude to those customers who have chosen to postpone their holiday until the 2020/21 season or have taken a credit voucher for a future holiday with us.

“However, we recognise that in some instances a postponement may not be a viable option. For the customers who have requested a refund, we apologise for the delays experienced and kindly ask for their patience and forbearance while we work through each affected booking.”

The financial hit all ski companies are taking – but especially the smaller ones whose pockets are not deep – should not be under-estimated.

“We are all facing potentially catastrophic losses. I fear not all companies will survive,” one source in the industry told us.

Another sent us this response:

“Maybe if people understood how many businesses won’t be here next year, they might push their insurance for a refund a bit harder, rather than just being pushed back onto the providers,” the person said.

“I run an accommodation provider and if we refund everyone we are bust and 4 full time members of staff lose their jobs.

“We are in a terrible situation along with most companies here.

“It’s thousands of small businesses who are all on the brink of collapse.”

We’ll be looking at the impact on businesses in more depth on PlanetSKI shortly.

The Travel Association, ABTA, said this week that the industry was ‘on the brink’ and warned of possible bankruptcies ahead.

ABTA wants the Package Travel Regulations to be changed to allow refunds to be paid within 4 months rather than 14 days.

It has written to the Prime Minister and other government ministers.

“The global pandemic has put enormous financial strain on tour operators and travel agents, with businesses seeing a collapse in sales while facing immediate repatriation costs and refund demands for cancelled holidays on a scale that is unmanageable in the short term,” ABTA’s Chief Executive, Mark Tanzer, said.

Mark Tanzer, CEO ABTA

Mark Tanzer, CEO of ABTA

“These businesses are themselves waiting for refunds from hotels and airlines and, without this money, they simply do not have the cash to provide refunds to customers within 14 days.

“Existing regulations are entirely unsuited to deal with this situation.  We want to avoid the scenario of normally successful travel businesses employing tens of thousands of people facing bankruptcy, resulting in holidaymakers having to wait many months for refunds through Government financial protection schemes.

“We are proposing some simple, temporary changes to regulations to buy more time for companies to keep trading, while ensuring customer rights are protected.

“Many European countries, including France, Belgium, Denmark and Italy, have already announced similar regulatory changes to preserve their travel industries and protect customers.”

INDEPENDENT TRAVELLER

So, what about those of you who booked the different elements of your ski trip separately?

We asked one PlanetSKI reader, who was due to go away at Easter with his family, for his experience.

John Hendrick and Alison Grist should have been travelling to Courchevel  in France with their son, Charlie.

Charlie Hendrick, Alison Grist & John Hendrick

Charlie, Alison & John

Eurotunnel crossing

Return ticket £171, booked in September and paid for 100% with Tesco Club Card vouchers.

Despite not having a Flexi ticket, Eurotunnel have offered vouchers for the price of the crossing for a booking made up to a year from now.  The actual departure date can be after this.

John’s verdict: 10/10

Overnight stop at Mercure Hotel in Lyon

Booked through booking.com with cancellation cover allowing the option to cancel within 24 hours of planned arrival.

Logged into account and cancelled booking. Easy.

John’s verdict: 10/10

Emovis Tag – toll payment

Took up Eurotunnel’s special offer so payment for tolls was automated through bank account direct debit.

“I was going to return tag for a refund but their website says it works out cheaper to keep it, rather than return and get a new one next year. “

John’s verdict: We’ll see, not sure on this one.

AXA Travel Insurance

Claim made 18th March.  Automated response saying someone would be in touch within 48 hours.  No response within 48 hours.

Followed up with an email a few days later.  Another automated response saying someone would be in touch within 15 days.  So far, nothing.

After 13 days emailed AXA again and got another automated response, assuring me someone would be in touch within 30 days.

No help at all.

John’s verdict: 0/10

Cimalpes – apartment

“I am awaiting final confirmation on this…. Suffice to say Cimalpes look like they’ll be turning the C19 saga into a lesson in really great customer service.”

John’s verdict: TBC – watch this space.

Update 21st April – John has now had a full refund from Cimalpes.  He is glowing in his praise for their response and says he will be using them again.  See the full details in today’s entry in our rolling Coronavirus blog: Coronavirus Impact On Skiing & Snowboarding Continues 

SKI HIRE

Intersport skis

Intersport skis & snowboards (Winter 2017-18 range)

One of our readers, Shelley, was concerned when she couldn’t get through to Intersport to find out about refunds on pre-booked equipment hire.

We contacted Intersport on her behalf.

They told us that anyone who had a booking from Friday 13th March onwards should get a full refund, even if they had managed to take their equipment out and ski for one or two days before all the resorts closed.

“We decided that it was more helpful for everyone to just be refunded, since there were clearly people who picked up their equipment on the Saturday and weren’t able to ski at all on Sunday,” said spokesman, Chris Moran.

Intersport has asked customers to help in the following ways:

  • anyone who had a booking starting on either Friday 13th, Saturday 14th or Sunday 15th (the weekend when everything was cancelled) – please go into your Intersport account and manually cancel the booking and we’ll refund you the full amount
  • for anyone who had a booking starting any time from Monday 16th March onwards, we have automatically cancelled and refunded your money

“The number of people who had already taken equipment out on the weekend of the 13/14/15th is huge, and our team has been manually going through and refunding everyone,” Chris Moran said.

“But our team is also (like everyone) working remotely, and we are talking about thousands of customers, so it is taking us some time.

“We’ve asked that all customers please be patient as we go through the refunds and we are hoping to have all refunds completed by the 15th April at the latest.

“If customers have any queries after this date, could they please message us through Facebook and please give the booking name and reference in the correspondence so we know which reservation we are talking about.”

AND FINALLY … A WORD ABOUT INSURANCE

Travellers need to be aware that your insurance will pay out only for losses that cannot be reclaimed from other parties, so you will usually need to exhaust all attempts to recover your money from your holiday suppliers first.

The Association of British Insurers is promising that its members will “consider all valid travel insurance claims quickly and fairly for costs not recoverable from elsewhere arising from cancellation, travel curtailment or disruption so that customers receive a fair outcome.”

UPDATE: Readers’ reaction from the PlanetSKI Facebook page

Theodore Deriziotis – Intersport at Courchevel 1650 was fantastic for my group. Staff were super helpful even on a highly stressful day (when closing was announced)- hope to see them next year. Great job

Ian Banks – Still waiting for our Crystal refund, but to be fair, they did say it was definitely coming but had such a large volume that it may take until the end of April, and not to chase it as it took people away from doing the refunds to answer queries. We’ll see what happens…

Hannah Avill – PlanetSKI.eu I think it is really unfair to name and shame some business here in such discriminatory light. I work for one small business in the alps and we had no idea things were going to close like they did. If we were to refund everyone then we would go out of business moving bookings to next year is possible but that is also tricky as still means we loose the income next year. It is a completely new situation for all involved and the smaller businesses without the same cash flow simply cannot provide what these customers are asking for. Insurance is there for a reason whether it will pay out or not we do not know. If we could we would refund everyone but it is just not possible for us if we want to be here next season and keep people in jobs.

Katherine Ann Sweeney – We had no issue with our ski hire. Ski passes refunded super quick by Grand Massif. Submitted a claim to our insurers for our accommodation and flights. Not even had an acknowledgement yet and it was submitted 20th March.

Charlotte Binky Rankin – Yep we had no joy and had to resort to the insurance they’ve currently got a a minimum of 3 week turn around to even respond to a claim so it’s just a waiting game

Nina Hedman – I dont know if any one else is dealing with Sunweb and their Corona Voucher

Rob Hannam – Nina Hedman been told we’re getting one even though it was initially a refund. I’m okay with that and looking at it from a perspective that a 2021 holiday is already paid for.

Nina Hedman – Rob Hannam glad it’s an option that works for you – for many of us it doesn’t and they dont want to engage despite a refund being in the T&Cs – fingers crossed they dont attempt to reap back some revenue by hiking up the prices next season now they have a captive audience

Alastair Herbison – Some have been brilliant. Rosael Sports up in Reberty. Sevabel refundlng lift passes in Three Valleys. Still chasing other stuff!!

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