Noel Josephides' Regular Column

Noel Josephides' Regular Column

I was at Reading County Court on Monday. We were being sued by two clients because their luggage had been lost by Airworld/Flying Colours on the way to Lemnos.

When the luggage did not turn up the usual enquiries were made and the usual sympathy given. Insurance had not been arranged by us so there was little we could do about handing out money on account at once.

We've also stopped our reps from distributing their own belongings. The woman's luggage turned up after five days and the husband collected his on the last day of their two-week holiday, on their return to Gatwick.

They claimed their holiday was ruined and wanted compensation for loss of enjoyment because the husband, having packed his contact lenses and travellers cheques in his suitcase, claimed he could not read (his books, and in particular Tolstoy's War and Peace were in the suitcase) and neither could he windsurf, water ski and scuba dive (his mask was also in the suitcase).

He was also claiming another £175 for new contact lenses because our rep had told him to give his luggage up for lost after ten days.

There was no claim for new clothes as they had bought basics (about £135 worth) but there was a claim for the holiday time spent washing the clothes.

There is a growing trend of claims against operators for lost luggage - the airlines all hide behind the Warsaw Convention and the fact that the EC accepted the Convention within package tour law.

Airworld/Flying Colours finally gave £50 as an ex-gratia payment but declined to come along with me to the court.

So, there I was having to defend a claim which I felt had nothing to do with me or Sunvil's ability to run itself efficiently.

Airworld/Flying Colours kindly sent me a copy of the relevant section of the Carriage by Air Act and highlighted the various bits I should mention.

But really, I felt it was the airline which should be wasting the day and not me. I said this politely to the judge at the start who smiled in sympathy but pointed out what I knew - that Sunvil was the principal.

She also told me not to waste my time on the Warsaw Convention. She considered it stood for nothing and would award what she felt was fair - all airlines note!

The client was Holiday Which? trained, with a string of qualifications after his name and a string of newspaper cuttings to help his claim. He was surprised to see me turn up without lawyers.

I argued that he had shown a remarkable lack of intelligence in packing his contact lenses inside his luggage (we tell clients not to do this in our holiday instructions); that he had spent his holiday taking notes and not trying to enjoy his two-week break; that you don't need more than hand luggage to enjoy a two-week Greek island holiday; and that he could have bought or borrowed books locally and did not need glasses to be able to snorkel, water-ski and windsurf.

I won. The judge told him to take the £50 he had already been offered.

He was shocked - perhaps it takes more than Holiday Which? training.


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