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Family wins 18-month battle against Bishop's Stortford travel agent over ticket debacle

A family's £10,000 battle against a Bishop's Stortford travel agent has ended with a court victory and full settlement.

Rob and Liz Ryan pursued their case against TUI for 18 months after a dream holiday turned into a nightmare for their family.

They turned to the company's Market Square team to book the trip, which was two years in the planning, to avoid any hiccups.

Henham.Liz and Rob Ryan with daughter Rebecca. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (19999422)
Henham.Liz and Rob Ryan with daughter Rebecca. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (19999422)

Liz's dad, Bishop's Stortford pensioner Bill Page, longed to celebrate his 75th birthday with childhood friend John, who lives in South Africa.

After her mother Chris passed away in 2014, Liz decided to accompany her father and make it a once-in-a-lifetime trip by including engineer son Lewis, 22, 20-year-old daughter Amy, who was studying to be a teacher at university in Nottingham, and 15-year-old Rebecca, who attends Birchwood High School.

Coordinating flights for the trip to Johannesburg departing on Good Friday (March 30) last year was critical as Bill decided to treat himself to a business class seat with BA while the rest of the family were flying with Qatar Airlines, via Doha, to meet him in Johannesburg.

But as their paperwork was processed at Heathrow, Liz and Rob were horrified to be told that at the time South Africa did not admit minors like Rebecca without their full birth certificate in addition to their passport. They must also be accompanied by both parents to make the trip without further documentation.

Liz was adamant that TUI never passed on this crucial information which meant the family had to split up or risk leaving Bill stranded on his own.

Amy and Lewis boarded the flight to rendezvous with their grandfather while Liz and Rob waited with Rebecca after a desperate telephone call to brother Nick to retrieve a key from their neighbours, climb into the loft of their Henham home, find Rebecca's birth certificate and bring it to Heathrow.

By the time he arrived, the only realistic option was to use their emergency credit card to buy the last three seats on Bill's BA flight at a cost of almost £3,000.

There was a further blow to come. Because they were marked as a "no show" on departure, their return flights were cancelled and they needed to pay a further £4,000 for tickets to get home on the original date or fund a further week in South Africa and take later flights for a nominal fee.

Despite their case being highlighted in the BBC's Rip Off Britain consumer affairs programme, TUI refused to clear the debt the family incurred until last week when their case was heard in the small claims court in Cambridge.

Liz said: "I am delighted to say we were successful and the judge ruled TUI had breached their duty of care in not providing adequate information about the travel requirements when travelling to South Africa with a child under 18 years of age. We were awarded the full costs of the additional flights we had to purchase at £9,761, plus £745 court costs.

"We are delighted that we can now put the past 18 months of stress and worry behind us and remember the holiday in a positive light."

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