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The trade is dealing with ‘unprecedented’ levels of holidaymakers wanting to cancel and amend holidays to Tunisia following the terrorist attack.
Thirty of the 38 tourists killed at the Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel in Port El Kantaoui on June 26 were British, and all were clients of Thomson and First Choice.
Thomson is dealing only with calls relating to July and August bookings, owing to the ‘unprecedented volume of calls’. Thomas Cook has increased the number of staff in its contact centre to deal with calls.
Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, said one operator reported 80% of customers taking up the offer of free cancellations within four days.
He feared the market to Tunisia, which accounts for 400,000 UK passengers a year, had disappeared and would not return for years, until security improved.
In the short term, operators have increased capacity elsewhere. Thomson has added flights to the Balearic Islands, mainland Spain and Cyprus, while Thomas Cook has extra capacity in Portugal, Bulgaria, Turkey and Spain.
But customers on companies’ Facebook pages complained of having to pay to switch destinations.
A Thomas Cook spokesman said: “Tunisia is known as one of the cheapest destinations in our programme, so we have increased capacity to Bulgaria, which has a comparable price point.
“We have not increased our prices on holidays, but prices differ according to the destination.”
A Thomson spokeswoman said: “We appreciate our customers’ understanding that a number of other popular holiday destinations are more expensive.”
This week Thomson was offering refunds until July 9 and Thomas Cook until July 12. After that, customers can amend their holidays free of charge until October 31.
As a mark of respect, Thomson suspended marketing activity and removed price messages from its agency windows last week.
Jet2holidays thanked the trade for its help during the tragedy in a message in this week’s Travel Weekly.
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