John Wilkin, 59, was on a holiday of a lifetime at the Pestana Cayo Coco beach resort with his partner Yvette in September 2016 when he was struck down with severe sickness caused by gastroenteritis seven days into the trip. This was caused by poor hygiene standards at the resort.
John instructed Bott and Co to act on his behalf after Thomas Cook shrugged off his complaints and said he must have ‘overindulged on shrimp’, despite John only eating this once at the start of the two-week break.
Chasing The Caribbean Sunset
Having been to Cuba before, John was keen to go back with Yvette and they began looking online. With over £2,000 to spend, the couple searched for an online travel agent that offered Thomas Cook holidays.
John said: “We chose the Thomas Cook package in particular because they are a well-known household name and so we felt comfortable in that the resorts they offer would be of a high standard.
Throughout our stay, there were planes constantly flying overhead spraying pesticides in a form of insect repellent which was not pleasant or our idea of a relaxing holiday
We came across the five-star Pestana Cayo Coco beach resort, described by Thomas Cook as ‘offering a taste of Cuba unlike anywhere else in the Caribbean’. After checking the availability, we went straight ahead and booked a 14-night stay, with flights from and returning to Manchester Airport.”
Rubbish Views And Pesticide Planes
“On first sighting of the hotel, we felt a massive anti-climax and disappointment. At the time of booking, we were led to believe that all rooms had a sea view but when we got to our room, this wasn’t the case. We’d travelled half way around the world to be overlooking a rubbish tip!”
After speaking to the Thomas Cook representative straight away to explain it wasn’t adequate, their only option was to pay £120 to change room. With the rubbish view behind them, there were plenty more surprises in store for the couple.
“It was clear to me that the hotel was in maintenance stage. Half of it was closed off while building work was being carried out, none of which was mentioned to us by Thomas Cook.
Having been to Cuba myself previously, this was a totally different experience and Yvette was shocked.
I was so relieved to be home but the sickness continued for three further weeks. My continued symptoms made working very uncomfortable. I had to take time off and was placed on a ‘return to work scheme.
Throughout our stay, there were planes constantly flying overhead spraying pesticides in a form of insect repellent which was not pleasant or our idea of a relaxing holiday.”
A Taste Of Cuba Unlike Anywhere Else In The Caribbean
At the time of booking, John and Yvette were blown away by the choice of food establishments at the hotel, including a buffet restaurant, four themed restaurants and four bars.
“The buffet restaurant was a disgrace. We had no desire to experiment because the standards were worrying and half the time, we didn’t have any appetite whatsoever for what was on offer.
Food was left uncovered, some items were served still raw or lukewarm in parts and food hygiene was lacking. It was often reheated and the same utensils were used to serve different varieties of food without being cleaned.”
Taking A Turn For The Worse
On the morning of the 28th September, the couple were heading out of the hotel grounds on a Discover Cuba excursion when John started to feel unwell.
“We put it down to sunstroke, despite me wearing a big hat every day since arriving and keeping in the shade. The day was a struggle but I wanted to make the most of it and appreciate life.
As soon as we got back from the excursion I headed straight to bed. My body didn’t feel right at all and there was a sudden need to expel everything.
I tried drinking water but it just wouldn’t go down. There was a doctor’s surgery on site so luckily we were able to get hold of a motorised golf buggy to take us to the doctors, having to stop at least once while I was sick.
While we waited to see if flights were still operating, it felt like the longest flight of my life. I thought if I don’t get home this is where I’ll die
The doctor took one look at me and sent me back up to my room; where I stayed for the remainder of the holiday. Doctors sat with me for up to five hours a day and the rest of the time Yvette had to look after me. She had to bath me and clean up after me; it wasn’t a great experience for her either.”
A Hurricane Closing In And Desperate To Get Home
Hurricane Matthew was on its way in and John and Yvette were desperate to get home. Their departure day came and after spending nine days in their room, the couple made their way to reception.
“People from our hotel and the island were being evacuated because of the hurricane. It took us two hours to get to the reception from our room because I was in such a bad way. When we got to the desk, I sat there and it was the first time the
Thomas Cook representative had seen me and the shock on their face said it all. They tried to give me chamomile tea which I couldn’t hold down.
While we waited to see if flights were still operating, it felt like the longest flight of my life. I thought if I don’t get home this is where I’ll die. Luckily we were able to get a flight out but as I was still very ill, the journey was particularly unpleasant.”
Back In The UK Sickness Symptoms Continue For Three Weeks
As soon as they were home, John went to see his doctor who told him that he was suffering a severe case of food poisoning.
“I was so relieved to be home but the sickness continued for three further weeks. My continued symptoms made working very uncomfortable. I had to take time off and was placed on a ‘return to work scheme’. Once I got back in the driving seat, I kept having the sudden urge to go to the toilet whilst driving. As I had suffered accidents while driving, I had to use Yvette’s TENA pads which made me feel very embarrassed.
Two-Stone Weight Loss But Thomas Cook Didn’t Care
John contacted Thomas Cook to inform them he had contracted food poisoning and explaining how it affected their holiday but they never apologised.
“I took great offence to their response and so I made the decision to instruct Bott and Co to act on my behalf. In total my symptoms lasted for four weeks and I had lost around two stone in weight, I was determined to hold Thomas Cook accountable.”
People don’t realise the consequences that food poisoning can have on an individual. In this case, not only was John’s holiday affected but his working life was affected and his partner had to look after him
The tour operator sent a letter to John suggesting he had ‘overindulged in shrimp’.
“I only ate a small amount of shrimp one evening at the start of the holiday. The illness completely ruined my holiday and I was not able to relax with my partner in the way that I had hoped. I also had to take time off work and it was very humiliating when I returned constantly needing to go to the toilet.”
Bott and Co were able to recover £4,500 in compensation for John and Yvette, after taking the case all the way to trial.
Andrew Peters, Legal Manager at Bott and Co said: “We fight for the rights of consumers on a daily basis and we are delighted we have been able to secure compensation following John’s awful holiday illness experience.
If people on all-inclusive package holiday become ill abroad, by law they are protected by The Package Holiday Regulations 1992, and the tour operator may be liable for all the services they provided such as flights, accommodation and car hire.
However, many people are still not aware that they can claim for compensation under these regulations. Clients, like John, often approach us after their complaint has been ignored by the tour operators who don’t want to accept responsibility.
People don’t realise the consequences that food poisoning can have on an individual. In this case, not only was John’s holiday affected but his working life was affected and his partner had to look after him.”