A Co Down couple say they have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket after having to cut their dream holiday short due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Geoffrey and Joanne Parks, from Waringstown, claim they are getting nowhere in their battle to have their trip part-refunded after a 20-day 60th birthday holiday taking in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mauritius was ended nine days early.
The couple feel let down by their travel agent Trailfinders, which they maintain is responsible for refunding the part of the trip they were unable to take.
Geoffrey and Joanne have found themselves lost in emails, trying to get their money back.
"We left on March 8 and had completed the South African leg of our holiday and were confident that the refunds due may fund a trip in the future," Geoffrey explained.
"On March 17 we were contacted by South African immigration to advise us that they had closed their borders and if we travelled to Zimbabwe we would not be able to get home.
"Mauritius closed its borders on March 19. Our flight from Johannesburg on March 24 was cancelled, so we should be due a refund for that too. We were offered flights home leaving on March 20 at no extra charge, but this involved a 12-hour stopover in Johannesburg and at least as long in Dubai. Joanne had radiotherapy for breast cancer in 2018, which damaged her lungs and compromised her immunity, and I have COPD, so we couldn't risk all that time in airports.
"We finally paid extra and made it home on March 24. We booked the entire trip through a travel agency, so we felt confident of fair treatment, but we could not have been more wrong.
"At first Trailfinders claimed that it was our insurance company's responsibility to reimburse us. However, like many others we found we did not have cover for a global pandemic. Their reluctance to offer a refund is all the more galling since I know that our Mauritius hotel is paying 100% refunds, but that goes to the booking company, not directly to us."
Trailfinders said it was sorry to learn of the disruption but had offered a route home at no extra cost and was not aware of any underlying health issues.
"Trailfinders was able to assist Mr and Mrs Parks in getting home at a small cost, which they agreed to pay. They were also advised to contact the British Embassy in South Africa to register for repatriation," it added.
"When a holiday has been curtailed, it is right for clients to firstly contact their travel insurers, given the booking was 100% non-refundable from before the day of departure. Their holiday was curtailed due to the government and border restrictions that came into place worldwide. (It was) not a failure on behalf of Trailfinders, our suppliers or the clients. By recommending this course of action, we are not looking to deflect any responsibility. However, it's exactly these types of events where travel insurance can offer assistance in recouping any costs.
"Trailfinders will continue to support Mr and Mrs Parks' attempts to recover costs and we are now investigating possible refunds for them with our suppliers."