Grounded by snow? You owe us ?1,600, Emirates tells holiday couple #Business @MondoPlayer [Video]

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A Scottish couple whose holiday to Dubai was cancelled due to heavy snow at Glasgow airport were told by their travel firm that they would be charged nearly £1,600 to stay at home. Derek and Lesley Donaldson, from Baillieston, had booked a five-night package to Dubai with Emirates...

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A Scottish couple whose holiday to Dubai was cancelled due to heavy snow at Glasgow airport were told by their travel firm that they would be charged nearly £1,600 to stay at home.

Derek and Lesley Donaldson, from Baillieston, had booked a five-night package to Dubai with Emirates Holidays, departing from Glasgow on 28 February. The trip was to celebrate Mrs Donaldson’s 50th birthday. They were due to fly non-stop to Dubai on Emirates flight 26 and stay in the Anantara resort.

The incoming aircraft reached Glasgow from Dubai, but within minutes of the Boeing 777 touching down, the airport stopped operations.

Mr Donaldson said: “We phoned Emirates several times and they had no information.” The outbound flight to Dubai was cancelled for three days in a row.

Emirates Holidays is the package-holiday arm of the airline. It promises “Personal attention, all the way”. 

As a member of the travel association ABTA, and a provider of package holidays, Emirates Holidays’ obligation is clear when a trip is thwarted by flight delays: it must offer the client the choice between a new package, or all their money back.

ABTA confirmed: “Customers on package holidays whose flights were cancelled were entitled to either rebook their holiday or get a full refund.

“This is in contrast to independent travellers who could rebook or obtain a refund on the cancelled flight, but were liable for any cancellation charges on subsequent services such as unused accommodation or car hire.”

But after failing to send the couple on their five-night package in the UAE, the firm told Mr and Mrs Donaldson they would lose nearly £1,600 as a result of the cancelled Emirates flight.

The letter from Emirates Holidays began: “We are very sorry to hear that you have had to cancel your travel plans.”

Attached was a cancellation invoice refunding only £669 of the £2.466 holiday cost. Instead of the full refund the couple should have received, they were offered less than 30 per cent of the total cost of the trip.

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To try to rescue something from their trip, the couple then contacted the hotel in Dubai. Thesa Castro, reservations manager for the Anantara, offered to waive the no-show penalty and hold the booking until April.

But they would have had to buy new flight tickets, which by then were priced at £1,200 return. Having lost £1,600, the couple decided they could not afford the extra cost.

The Independent contacted Emirates Holidays on the Donaldsons’ behalf, and pointed out the obligation to provide a full refund. The firm has now agreed to give the couple their money back. 

A spokesperson for Emirates Holidays said: “We take great pride in the services that we provide to our holidaymakers, and are currently undertaking a review of our terms and conditions in relation to Force Majeure to ensure they are fully compliant with all current regulations.”

The company has also reviewed previous cancellations where holidaymakers may have been given incomplete refunds.

The spokesperson said: “Since learning of Mr and Mrs Donaldson’s issue, Emirates Holidays has been urgently investigating historic bookings that were cancelled pre-travel due to Force Majeure adverse weather conditions.

“We have now contacted the very limited number of holidaymakers who were affected to offer them full refunds. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused and continue to be committed to providing an outstanding customer service.”

ABTA has urged anyone who believes their holiday company has denied them a full refund to contact the association. 

A spokesperson said: “If a customer feels that they have been treated unfairly by an ABTA member they should contact our customer support team for assistance, and if the company has not acted in accordance with our code of conduct and their own legal obligations, we will take appropriate action.”

The Emirates Group is one of the biggest and most successful travel enterprises in the world. In its most recent financial results, the company made a profit of AED10m (£2m) per day.