On 22nd July 2019, Linda Secular from Dorking travelled to Hurghada, Egypt on an all-inclusive TUI holiday with husband Paul, Amy, Mark, and Amy’s boyfriend Joe, but the family were left reeling by a series of mistakes due to the holiday provider’s incompetence.
After this, the holiday was a disaster. Linda and Amy both suffer with Ehler’s Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which affects all joints, causing pain and fatigue. Despite alerting TUI to this, the family were placed in a room half a mile away from the hotel restaurants. The family travelled with some friends, the Russells, one of which suffered a serious injury while on the hotel’s grounds when the lifeguard was not diligent and ignored the Seculars’ warnings of concern.
Both Linda’s son and husband became ill on the TUI property after food consumption, with Mark bed-bound for two days and Paul eating minimal food for an entire week. A letter was pushed under their door warning of an E-coli breakout in the region, and Linda recalls birds flying around the restaurant, children running behind food counters and undercooked, pink chicken served.
To make matters even worse, special assistance that had been pre-booked by Linda didn’t arrive at the airport for Joe, who is autistic and struggles with large crowds.
After having to endure such a distressing holiday, the family has instructed the legal experts Bott and Co to act on their behalf to secure compensation for them against TUI under The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018, Consumer Rights Act 2015, and Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air.
“We Had To Duck Under A Tape To Get Out Of Our Room”
Describing the hotel as a building site, Linda says that one day they were woken by loud banging and drilling. Staff assured them that the works would be complete by the end of that day, but frustrating this wasn’t the case. It is here that the problems started for Joe, whose sensory issues as a result of his autism, can be triggered by unexpected loud noises. The hotel then said that the noise would be over the next day and offered to move the family, but this would have unsettled Joe even further.
It wasn’t just Joe that was suffering; Paul is asthmatic, and the brick dust set him off coughing. Linda questions why the family had to be placed in rooms that weren’t complete when the sheer size of the complex meant that they could have been far away from the disruption. She says, “Joe was on the verge of an autistic meltdown, we all felt so upset.”
Eventually, they accepted a change of room, but this too wasn’t without problems. A manager had agreed to collect their luggage but was nowhere to be seen, resulting in Linda having to call reception four times to ask what was going on. Having made their first complaint at 9.20am, they weren’t actually moved until 2.45pm.
Plus, when the Seculars were being upheaved, their luggage was coated in dust, and the family had to duck under tape to get out of their room.
“It Was Traumatising To See Joe So Distressed”
Joe struggles with overwhelming noise and harsh lighting, which can both act as triggers for him. On 27th July, the hotel held a party, which the family chose not to attend as Joe was still feeling very unsettled. The party went on until the early hours of the morning, sending Joe’s anxieties over the edge. The lyrics from the songs were very unsuitable too, bringing into question the appropriateness of the party on a family resort.
Linda recalls seeing Joe deeply upset, flapping his hands, slapping his face and climbing under the covers to hide from the strobe lighting and “unbelievable noise” in an attempt to control his sensory issues. She says, “It was so traumatising seeing Joe, a young man who was on holiday with his girlfriend’s family, so distressed. The noise was making the doors and walls vibrate. It felt very humiliating and degrading for him.”
Joe was on the verge of an autistic meltdown, we all felt so upset.
One small mercy is that Linda’s occupation is working as a learning support assistant, so she is accustomed to helping people that are autistic. However, she believes that the holiday would have been even more traumatic if she hadn’t have known techniques to help to calm Joe.
Linda’s And Amy’s Ehler’s Danlos Flares Up
Linda stresses that she and her daughter found the holiday to be far from restful too. As a result of her trials with Ehler’s Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that means it is hard to walk or stand for long periods of time, Linda has had ten surgeries throughout her life, and struggles with sleep. Of course, any kind of sleep on the holiday was made insufferable by the relentless noise, and both Linda and Amy returned home exhausted; the opposite of what they hoped from a supposedly luxurious trip away.
The location of their room was also far from ideal; up a hill and half a mile from the restaurants. Linda said that they could have phoned reception for a buggy, but at times it took 20 or even 30 minutes to arrive. She remembers, “The staff weren’t exactly forthcoming with help, so we just gave up asking. Making my daughter walk half a mile when she was struggling is unacceptable.”
The family were up against rude staff constantly, and whenever they wanted to voice concerns, Linda says that they were asked “English?” before the staff walked away from them. “I was made to feel like I was complaining about nothing, when our concerns were very valid. It was sad to see Joe in the state that he was in; he felt degraded that we had seen him in such a distressed state. None of it was his fault.”
A Disastrous Boat Trip
One day, in a bid to raise their spirits, the family chose to go on a TUI-organised boat trip. Linda says that the instructions were so bad, and the guide himself seemed confused about the order of the day, running behind schedule. The excursion had been advertised as a restful day at a beautiful beach, but actually it was anything but.
Linda says, “The guide was absolutely unbelievable. He was so rude, saying to us, ‘Next time, listen.’ They didn’t provide any food at all or even drinks until 3.15pm, and it was an all-inclusive holiday.”
Warned Not To Consume Fruit Or Ice
As if the holiday hadn’t been disastrous enough, the family then received a note under their door stating that there had been a spate of E-coli in the region, warning to avoid consuming fruit and ice at the all-inclusive meal service. Linda says, “It’s ironic, the word ‘luxury’ is actually in the hotel’s name, but there was absolutely nothing luxurious about this hotel. It is even advertised as a ‘platinum’ hotel on TUI’s website. But birds were flying around the restaurant, and the staff just let children run behind the food counters and ride on scooters.”
Unfortunately, as the hygiene standards at the hotel were sub-standard, both Paul and son Mark fell ill with stomach bugs, which hindered the whole family’s enjoyment even more. Mark was ill for two days, bedridden and unable to consume food, whereas Paul was ill for a whole week, unable to tolerate much more than small morsels of food and water.
The lack of attentiveness from staff across the whole hotel was glaringly obvious, not just from restaurant staff. Linda said that they witnessed a child pulling the grates off the pool filter and throwing ice cream into the pool, while a lifeguard just sat back and watched. When they asked the lifeguard to intervene, he simply ignored them. By comparison, Linda’s son Mark jumped into the water wearing a ring and was asked to get out.
The loose grates around the grounds had serious consequences, as their friend Terri Russell’s granddaughter Leah had her foot cut open by the loose grates on the ground. After this, another child threw the grates at her head, while the lifeguard watched on.
Also around the pool area, Linda’s friend Terri sadly witnessed an older lady fall over and break both of her hips. Linda says that staff just picked her up without any care and placed her onto a flat back distribution truck: “She was seriously injured and they were trying to claim she just had cramp.” One of the animation team told her to get up, but Linda, who is first-aid trained, realised the grave danger of this and told the lady not to try to stand.
Special Assistance Doesn’t Arrive At The Airport
Linda had clearly instructed TUI to provide special assistance for Joe at the airport in Egypt to help smooth out the process, as he struggles with large crowds. However, this never turned up.
This lack of care breaches the duties placed upon tour operators in the Regulation EC1107/2006 which states that, “In order to give disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility opportunities for air travel comparable to those of other citizens, assistance to meet their particular needs should be provided at the airport as well as on board aircraft, by employing the necessary staff and equipment. In the interests of social inclusion, the persons concerned should receive this assistance without additional charge.”
Offered an insulting £400 in TUI vouchers
After raising many complaints throughout their two week holiday, Linda was angry that TUI tried to appease them with the offer of £400 in TUI vouchers or £360 cash. She says, “How on earth do they think that’s acceptable? We went through hell and the holiday cost us nearly £7,000 – it was rubbish! What they were offering wouldn’t even cover the cost of one of us.”
Mark was ill for two days, bedridden and unable to consume food, whereas Paul was ill for a whole week, unable to tolerate much more than small morsels of food and water.
Since returning home, the Seculars have been completely ignored by TUI when trying to lodge their complaints; all evidence sent demonstrating the awful trip hasn’t been acknowledged, despite TUI admitting that there were issues when offering the money.
A Lasting Negative Impact
The Seculars and Joe have already booked their 2020 holiday, but this time they have opted to book a private villa, as they have been so put off by their TUI ordeal. They believe they will be able to control social occasions and factors such as noise levels for Joe if they are more secluded.
“In total we were a party of 11, all loyal TUI customers, and they showed us no care at all. We would never book a holiday with TUI again. They aren’t interested. Our complaints weren’t silly, they were very valid.”
David Bott, Senior Partner at Bott and Co says, “The Seculars endured an unimaginable ordeal at the hands of TUI, who acted irresponsibly and without care. We will do everything we can to help them secure compensation under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018, Consumer Rights Act 2015 and Regulation 1107/2006, due to their loss of enjoyment and disappointment.”