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Cruise line takes about £6k from old couple and ABTA write we "cannot force Members

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People should know about this.

My wife Lily had her valid passport damaged by Fred Olsen’s who state in their letter, “Ian confirmed that, should the passport scan successfully you would be cleared to travel. Regrettably, the passport did not scan and therefore not able to travel on this occasion” and the passport office write This will not refuse you boarding any airline”, Fred Olsen’s write Thomas Cook “refused you travel, which is obviously out of our hands” and ABTA write we “cannot force Members to offer specific levels of compensation, or indeed any compensation at all”. This was a package booked with Fred Olsen on a Fred Olsen ship.

This incident occurred as follows:-

We presented ourselves at the Fred Olsen check in desk at Gatwick South Terminal. The only company name on the check in desk was Fred Olsen, so those working on the desks must have been your staff. Several desks were open but there was a long queue. My wife Lily, who is elderly and quite fragile, gave her 23 month old passport to the check-in attendant who followed procedure by first examining the passport quite thoroughly, spending some time on the page which had the photograph on it (biodata page). The check-in attendant then ran the biodata page of the passport through the scanner very roughly and as a result damaged that part of the page. While she was examining the passport prior to scanning, she said nothing regarding its condition, although if there had been significant damage the attendant must have noticed.

When the attendant was in the process of rubbing the passport very roughly against the reader, I made the comment, “Can’t you see it doesn’t seem to read” as I feared that she was damaging the passport. She then looked at the passport again and said the passport was damaged and went off very quickly to find someone to discuss the problem with. She eventually returned and asked if the passport had been damaged prior to us attending the airport, Lily said she had noticed a very minor nick less than an eighth of an inch long, which still can be seen on the passport, after we had flown into Washington DC three months earlier. We had been to Boston and Dubai since then without any problems and she had not noticed any change in the passport’s condition since October last year. Another Fred Olsen representative then looked at the passport, after the check in attendant had damaged it, and said that Lily could not have been able to enter the USA or Dubai with the passport in that condition. However, the representative was observing damage which had actually been perpetrated by the check-in clerk.

Lily was extremely upset and was by now crying. The check-in attendant went off again. We had to stand for about two hours as no seats were available. All the passengers had now gone. There were about ten Fred Olsen staff around us constantly during this time, which made us feel uneasy. The check-in attendant, this time, came back with the check-in manager who was very intimidating and she said to me, that I also could not fly because Lily’s passport would not scan, and that the passport had been damaged before we came to the airport. I said my passport was completely valid and undamaged, so why could I not travel? She ignored my question and mentioned that there was CCTV, I was happy about that as it could be proven that the passport had been damaged by the check-in clerk, but at that moment Lily seemed really distressed and I was very concerned about her health and the lasting damage this could cause her. The check in manager then demanded that we should leave the airport. To save Lily more anguish we did leave.

There could not have been significant damage to the passport before we handed the passport to the check-in attendant as it would not be practically psychologically possible, as her training would have ensured she had developed a habit in following the procedure, and noticed any damage before she ran the passport through the scanner (which she had to do to find out that the passport did not scan), so the passport could not have had significant damage prior to scanning.

The travel insurance company say that they do not cover this.

Fred Olsen has refused to refund us any monies including the money we pre-paid for the excursions which Fred Olsen could easily resell. They have refused to offer us any other form of compensation and now say it is nothing to do with them, even though they are the only organisation we have entered into a contract with, with respect to this holiday. ABTA say they “cannot force Members to offer specific levels of compensation, or indeed any compensation at all”.

What can we do?

Edited by Grenegres

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Sorry to heard what happened. You could ask Citizens Advice about other legal avenues you could take.  

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All you can do is go through the company formal complaints procedure then move to legal solutions through small claims procedure.


However you would have to prove they damaged the passport and it appears your only proof is 'it wasn't damaged until it was handed to a member of staff'.

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How awful.  Go to your local television station and the national newspapers with your story.  Firms hate bad publicity.  Please let us know what happens.

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If you are thinking about contacting the press try emailing Simon Calder at s@hols.tv

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I have told Fred Olsen that I would go to the media, but they have said it "is obliviously out of our hands" and nothing more.

I have tried all media, papers etc., but they are not interested (maybe they are worried that they may lose advertising).

Simon Calder has written back saying I should go to a solicitor. This I have now done, but I may need to get out a loan to pay for it. Any more ideas?

Thanks for your good wishes.

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Small claims fee for your claim would be £410.


Do you have house insurance with legal advice line?

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