Swine flu: Tour operators take action

Swine flu: Tour operators take action

Tour operators have cancelled flights and started rebooking customers due to the swine flu epidemic.

Thomson and First Choice have already cancelled all outbound flights to Mexico operating to Cancun and Cozumel until May 8. Both the TUI-owned companies and Thomas Cook are also offering to assist customers' return to the UK.

A Journeys Latin America spokeswoman said the operator has four customers in Mexico's Riviera Maya, while about another 50 are booked to travel to the country in the next two to three weeks.

She said the four customers in Mexico have been given the option of staying elsewhere or returning home, while those travelling in the next 30 days are being offered the option of postponing their holidays, taking a holiday elsewhere or a full refund.

Bales Worldwide has fewer than 10 customers booked to travel in the next month and all had cancelled their trips and received full refunds, said managing director Mandy Nickerson.

Although operators and agents appeared to be coping with the crisis, there is concern about the cost implications and the mid to long-term impact of the outbreak on bookings.

"We have to give full refunds [to customers] and it is frustrating as the airline won't give us full refunds," said Nickerson. Instead, the operator had to pay a charge of £100 for each flight ticket cancelled - although airlines have offered to postpone the flights or replace them with flights to other destinations.

The Journeys Latin America spokeswoman said: "Times are tough as it is, although because it is low season in Mexico, it is difficult to quantify how much this will affect the industry."

Association of Independent Tour Operators chairman Derek Moore said: "Any travellers will have to take FCO advice and, if they're travelling on their own, they'll have to sort themselves out; while a tour operator will look after them."

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