Southsea couple missed daughter's wedding because of Covid and now face fight for thousands after Travelplanners went bust
WHEN retired couple Paul and June Reuter heard their daughter in New Zealand was getting married, they were over the moon.
They excitedly booked tickets for themselves, their other daughter, her husband and two grandchildren so they could all witness the special occasion and enjoy a family trip of a lifetime.
They spent a huge chunk of their life savings – £12,550 – in February 2020 at Travelplanners in Southsea, a travel agent they had used for numerous holidays for decades.
However, as the pandemic hit and countries closed their borders, the flights were cancelled and flight operator Jetset Flights eventually returned their cash to the travel agent in March this year – only for Travelplanners to subsequently go into liquidation, taking the Reuters’ hard earned cash with them.
Paul, a retired Unite the Union official from Edenbridge Road, said: ‘The worst part about it is Travelplanners put a sign up saying thank to their loyal customers but there has been no loyalty back. They didn't even bother to tell us they were going into liquidation.
‘As far as I am concerned, Covid has robbed us of the chance to see our daughter get married – and now it has robbed us of our cash. It is heart-breaking.'
Paul’s daughter Lauren, 32, a teacher, has been living in New Zealand for the past two years after her fiance Joe Moore landed an analyst job at New Zealand Football Association.
The wedding went ahead as planned, but as they are both from Portsmouth, it was only attended by six friends they had made in New Zealand.
Also missing out on the family reunion and trip of a lifetime was Paul’s other daughter Erin, 36, her husband Andrew Halbert, and their two children Fletcher, four and Margot, two.
Paul said: ‘We were all very upset, but most upsetting is the way Travelplanners went about things.’
Now the family do not have the cash to rebook, so they will not see each other even when restrictions ease.
Travelplanners, which had branches in Wilton Place Southsea and in The Precinct Waterlooville, went into liquidation on April 19 after 45 years in business.
Liquidators FRP Advisory Trading Limited are expected to be appointed within the next 14 days in order to sort out the firm’s affairs.
Partner Ned Ailyan said that Travelplanners still owned its Waterlooville office and associated flats when it went into liquidation, meaning there is some hope that people owed money will get some of it back.
However, the rules mean preferred creditors, such as the firm’s staff, HMRC, VAT, PAYE and pension payments, are a higher priority than customers.
He said: ‘Travelplanners are a genuine victim of the pandemic. It is unusual to see a company with a long history like Travelplanners go into liquidation, but so far this year I have dealt with six travel companies.
‘The industry has been unbelievably hard hit.’
As Paul paid on an MBNA credit card, he may have some protection from his credit card provider, and he is currently pursuing a claim with them too, however this may not be successful due to terms of the contract and may take months.
Paul, 69, said: ‘I really want to know what they have done with my money. I feel like I have been robbed.’
Jetset Flights confirmed it refunded £4587.10 to Travelplanners on March 1 this year – the full amount it had received in March 2020 minus an Airline Failure Protection fee of £12.40.
A spokesperson said: ‘Jetset is very sorry to learn that Mr and Mrs Reuter have not received a refund from Travelplanners.
‘The reservation held for the clients with Jetset was for a flight only transaction including two roundtrip flights ticketed to Auckland. Our understanding is that Travelplanners sold the flights to Mr & Mrs Reuter as part of a package booking. Mr and Mrs Reuter would have paid Travelplanners for their holiday and Travelplanners would have paid Jetset for the flight, taxes and Airline Failure Protection components only.
‘Jetset was not aware of Travelplanners financial situation at the time of the refund and we understand that Travelplanners reported insolvency on April 19, 2021 which was seven weeks after the refund was processed by Jetset to Travelplanners.
‘We hope that the clients are successful in their pursuit of the money.’
The News’ consumer champion Richard Thomson offered his advice for people booking holiday and flights.
He said: ‘People can protect themselves from holiday companies going bust if they take out adequate insurance cover, or pay by credit card directly to the holiday company or airline.
‘Most travel insurance covers insolvency, and paying by credit card ensures the right to a section 75 claim against the bank or card provider if the travel company folds.
‘Many travel agents also belong to ATOL, the Air Travel Organisers Licensing scheme, which will pay out if an airline goes under, and many of them also offer the Association of British Travel Agents ABTA bonded insurance policy. Check before you book.’