Holidaymakers' plans left in ruins as Villa Parade goes bust
Dozens of customers stranded abroad after company folds
Hundreds of Northern Ireland holidaymakers have had their summer breaks ruined after a travel company went bust.
Villa Parade Ltd ceased trading on May 14, leaving a number of UK people abroad and thwarting the plans of many others expecting to fly this summer.
The good news is that those who booked trips to Spain, Portugal and Florida through the English firm have been assured they will get their money back.
It is not known exactly how many would-be fliers from Northern Ireland have been affected by the firm's collapse but yesterday a representative from travel association ABTA confirmed "everyone will get their money back".
A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it would be unable to quantify the number of Northern Ireland holidaymakers affected until every claim for dashed travel plans had been lodged.
A spokesman for an insolvency firm dealing with the ill-fated company confirmed people from as far away as the US, Sweden and Germany had also been affected by the company's collapse.
A Belfast man who paid £5,000 for a holiday in July said he reckoned many hundreds of people from Northern Ireland must also have been left with their holiday plans in ruins.
He said he learned of the news through an email from crisis management at ATOL, the regulatory body of the CAA.
He said: "We booked a holiday including flights and a villa for a 10-day family holiday for five of us through the Villa Parade website in July and we received an email from the CAA." The man, who declined to be named, said he had booked his flight back in January, paying £3,000 for the accommodation through his credit card.
"I paid a deposit for £3,000 through my credit card and I am getting that back through the credit card, but because we don't have an ABTA certificate we may lose the balance of £2,000," he said. However, a spokesman from ABTA confirmed he would get his money back.
He said: "Anyone with an accommodation-only booking is protected by ABTA but anyone with both an accommodation and flight booking is protected by ATOL.
"Everyone will definitely get their money back and the one good thing about it, if there can be a good thing in this, is the time of the year it's occurred.
"There's plenty of time for people to rebook their summer holiday," he added.
The CAA said it had been working closely with the company since its collapse, but in the meantime it urged agents that any payment they've taken for an ATOL-protected booking with Villa Parade must be held on behalf of the trustees of the Air Travel Trust (ATT).
It said: "Agents must not refund consumers any monies unless explicitly directed to do so by the trustees of the ATT."
Information on making a claim to recoup the cost of the lost holidays is now available on the CAA website.
A number of independent Northern Ireland travel agents have been left picking up the pieces of the collapse.
Travel firm Villa Parade's Huddersfield-based parent company Air Parade Ltd also traded as Luxury Villa Escapes, Car Parade and Golf Parade and sold accommodation-only breaks as well as packages.
The company confirmed up to 70 customers were abroad when they learned the news and that on the day it ceased trading there were approximately 2,000 forward bookings.