Airlines are short staffed and huge numbers of flights are being cancelled last minute from UK airports. Knowing this, most holidaymakers are able to plan holidays closer to home or reschedule to later in the year. But what about people with timeshare memberships in Spain and elsewhere who don’t have that flexibility?
159 flights were cancelled this past weekend at Gatwick Airport alone. EasyJet were the worst hit airline with 80 of their scheduled flights cancelled on Sunday. The budget travel firm blamed the ‘ongoing challenging operating environment.’
Experts predict it will take more than 3 days to clear the current backlog of 15,000 stranded people who are trapped abroad, unable to return to the UK. And that is only if no further problems arise.
Reminiscent of the 1987 movie ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ where Steve Martin’s character had to overcome incredible odds to complete his journey home for Christmas, Brits stuck abroad are desperately seeking alternative ways to return to the UK. One couple hired a car in Berlin to drive 850 miles to Staffordshire after the cancellation of their EasyJet flight. Two teachers travelled 12 hours via 3 separate buses to return from Croatia.
The UK government is blaming the airline industry, who are just as vigorously deflecting the blame back at the government. One thing is certain: with power outages at airports, European air traffic control delays, and severe staff shortages, the situation is looking bleak into this summer and beyond.
Changing the summer holiday landscape
Brits are quoted as saying they are fearful to book holidays abroad. The idea that they may have their annual holiday cancelled at the last minute while actually at the airport waiting to check in is too much uncertainty for many. Going abroad is not as simple as booking a holiday and jumping on a plane. People have to arrange transfers, pet care, car hire and the necessary time off work for that all important family holiday. Travel insurance covers some costs but not all. And people don’t have unlimited time they can take from work for their trips.
British hotels, camping and caravan sites, canal holidays and other holiday accommodation are options for those people who have not already committed to a holiday abroad, or who cancel out of uncertainty.
Those people who have regular, non-timeshare holidays booked are generally treated fairly by their travel firms receiving full refunds if they want or need to cancel.
Ironically, it is now possible for non members to book into timeshare resorts through sites like Booking.com, and get at least a partial refund if they are forced to cancel.
Timeshare owners lose out again
“The group most likely to suffer are timeshare owners,” says Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims. “As we saw during the pandemic, timeshare resorts will charge annual fees in full whether the clients are able to use their holidays or not.”
“The sad truth is that this once groundbreaking holiday system is too inflexible for the challenges of the modern traveller. As a timeshare owner you are expected to plan up to 2 years ahead in order to book your accommodation. Today’s holidaymaker expects more leeway than that. They are used to knowing when they have time off, and deciding to go next week to Portugal, or Florida or anywhere else they feel like. Or maybe people have their own business, and know that they will be able to get a holiday ‘sometime early summer’ but don’t know exactly when.
“Timeshare resorts tell prospective clients that they can exchange to different times and locations, but in reality those systems don’t work. There are expensive annual fees to be a member of an exchange system, and there are even more costs to actually make an exchange, or bank a week. You can’t bank a week at the last minute (for example if EasyJet cancels your flight when you reach the airport.)
“Add to that the fact that cash strapped resorts are unforgiving. Unlike regular hotels they can’t afford to refund the money that members must pay every year in order to use their accommodation. This has resulted in many members paying for a holiday they couldn’t take in both 2020 and 2021. Now those members stand a decent chance of having the same thing happen to them again in 2022. That’s three years paying for something you didn’t get.
“The timeshare industry’s stance is that this is an unusual set of events, and they are not to blame. But that is really the point. The world is an uncertain place, and when unforeseen events mean a holiday is cancelled, timeshare just isn’t flexible enough to accommodate people’s needs. The resort is guaranteed their money, but the customer is not guaranteed what they paid for.
“Modern holidaymakers expect more, in terms of flexibility, and customer satisfaction. I can’t think of many other holiday products or services that don’t currently refund in full when they are cancelled through no fault of the customer.”