R. G. writes: As a birthday treat, my wife booked a short cruise on the Marco Polo, operated by Cruise & Maritime. The booking was made by phone with travel agent World Travel Lounge and she paid a £200 deposit.
When the paperwork arrived a few days later it became clear I needed a doctor’s certificate saying I was fit to travel, as I have Parkinson’s Disease. The need for this was not mentioned when the booking was made so we cancelled, but have been refused a refund.
The travel agent said there was a recording of the phone booking and that we agreed verbally to provide a medical certificate.
A reader was refused a refund for their Marco Polo cruise by travel agent World Travel Lounge
You were in a tricky position, not just because you had not expected to need a medical certificate, but because of the timing of events.
You were due to pay the balance of £418 in June, but you were expected to produce the doctor’s certificate in July, while the cruise did not start until late September.
This meant you could have handed over £418 in June, only to find in July your doctor refused to say you were fit to travel. That made paying the balance a gamble, so understandably you cancelled.
World Travel Lounge is an established travel agent based in Blackpool, Lancashire, but of course the terms and conditions for booking on the Marco Polo were laid down by the ship’s operator, Cruise & Maritime. Nonetheless, your point of contact was with the travel agent, not the cruise company, so I asked its boss David McDonald to comment.
World Travel Lounge, pictured, is an established travel agent based in Blackpool, Lancashire
He told me the cruise company’s terms and conditions mean deposits are not refundable. He said you could have delayed paying the £418 until after obtaining the doctor’s certificate – though this would have had no impact on reclaiming the deposit.
This left one big question unanswered. The letter you received requesting proof of fitness to travel was dated on the same day your wife made the phone booking.
But of course this does not prove the subject was mentioned when the booking was made. So, was the telephone booking recorded?
If so, it would be easy to clear up the whole complaint. At this point, World Travel Lounge introduced a new ingredient into the mix. Your wife had not simply picked up the phone and made a booking, I was told.
McDonald explained: ‘The customer had various phone calls and visits to our shops about the holiday.’
Muddying the waters even further, he added: ‘The customer had friends calling Cruise & Maritime direct on their behalf, enquiring about the holiday.’
Notes made by the travel agency staff say the health requirements were explained. But there is no recording as calls are only recorded at random.
Diplomatically, McDonald decided: ‘Although the customer is unable to prove she was not given the information, neither ourselves nor Cruise & Maritime are able to provide evidence that she was.’
As a gesture of goodwill, your £200 deposit has been refunded in full.
That’s a long taxi with easyJet
R. B. writes: Can you help me get £190 from easyJet?
My wife and I are in our seventies and find this stressful. We booked to fly from Edinburgh to Gatwick, but Gatwick was closed and the flight was diverted to Luton. We followed easyJet’s advice throughout, but now find the airline will not cover our taxi expenses from Luton to Gatwick.
You certainly had a nightmare journey. Your flight was about three hours late leaving Edinburgh and you were told coaches would be at Luton to take you on to Gatwick, where friends were waiting to pick you up.
But at Luton, your luggage went astray. Police eventually found the bags several hours after you landed.
At the reception desk, you found there were no coaches and were told to book a taxi, with easyJet reimbursing you later. But when you claimed the taxi fare, easyJet turned you down, saying ‘taxis were arranged by the airport till [sic] London Gatwick airport.’
I asked the airline to look into what you told me and easyJet insists it had its own cabs waiting. It told me: ‘On arrival at Luton, easyJet arranged pre-paid taxis to transfer passengers to London Gatwick. Mr B made his own travel arrangements.’
The good news is that easyJet will pick up the bill after all. By the time you read this the full £190 will have landed safely in your bank account.
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Bank refused to transfer my mother’s funeral cash
G. S. writes: When my mother died, I sold her premium bonds and transferred the money to her HSBC account so funds were in place for funeral expenses.
My sister and I went to HSBC in Darlington to show staff her death certificate and close the account. We also took proof of our identity – driving licence, passport and utility bill – and signed a form to transfer the funds.
A few days later, the money had not been transferred. It seems the premium bond proceeds had arrived, but HSBC said we would have to apply for a grant of probate unless we could prove where the money came from.
I have said it before and I shall say it again: banks seem unable to handle the death of a customer smoothly.
When they are grieving, families should be able to sort out finances with minimum fuss.
National Savings & Investments told you that all HSBC staff had to do was click on the credit in your mother’s account to see the money came from her premium bonds.
Not good enough. HSBC wanted it in writing from National Savings.
When it obliged, and your sister took the letter to HSBC, she found all the documents you had produced to prove your identity had disappeared from the bank’s systems.
You gave your sister copies, which she sent to HSBC’s bereavement department, but since then you have been going round in circles.
Bereavement staff say the branch does not reply to queries, and you found you could not phone the branch, nor did it reply to emails.
When I contacted HSBC head office, I sensed its frustration.
Officials said they had tried hard to improve support to customers during life-changing events such as bereavement.
You should face no further problems. The bank has apologised and offered £125 for the inconvenience.
‘Dormant’ accounts empty
Mrs R.C. writes: My husband died in May and I am sorting out his affairs. He had an account with Barclays that he had not used for years. I know there was money in it, but we moved address.
You and your husband approached Barclays a few years ago, but received a rather ambiguous reply saying his accounts had been closed ‘due to dormancy’.
This suggested there was money in his accounts, and you were invited to prove your identity and claim it.
But when you tried to do this, Barclays said it could not trace any such dormant account.
You gave me a copy of an old, unused cheque, showing your husband had at least one account – though of course it was not evidence there was any money left in it. I am afraid this is exactly how things have turned out.
After a lot of digging in old records, for which I have thanked the bank’s staff, they found evidence of two accounts.
One was closed in May 1995, and the only surviving record for the other shows it was closed before March 1994.