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The Sun’s Corona Crew rescued our £27k for cancelled dream holiday and helped 100s of readers with lockdown issues

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WHEN their dream holiday to Florida was scuppered by Covid-19, the Batchelors were down £27,000 – and struggling to get a refund.

But just 24 hours after The Sun stepped in today, the family were celebrating after ALL their money was repaid.

⚠ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

Duncan McGlynn

Morna and James Batchelor were owed £26,600 after their dream trip to Florida was cancelled[/caption]

The Mega Agency

James booked the two-week holiday to Disney World Orlando and Universal Studios to celebrate wife Morna’s 65th birthday[/caption]

We launched the Corona Crew on Wednesday — a panel of experts that can help with consumer issues caused by the pandemic.

And we were flooded with hundreds of messages from readers desperate to get their money back for cancelled flights and holidays.

James Batchelor, 67, told us how he and his family were owed £26,600 after their trip to Florida was cancelled.

Delighted James said: “We turned to The Sun in absolute desperation.

“We’d been trying to get our money back for nearly two months and the Corona Crew did it in a day. Thank you.

‘WORRIED SICK’

“We’ve been worried sick. My wife and I are pensioners and it took us years to save up that money.”

James booked the two-week holiday to Disney World Orlando and Universal Studios to celebrate wife Morna’s 65th birthday.

Daughter Nichola was also going on the trip to mark her 40th, along with her son Kieren, 22.

James, of Kirkcaldy, Fife, booked the package — including a top hotel, 14-day passes to both theme parks, upper-class seats on Virgin Atlantic and private transfers — at a local branch of Barrhead Travel.

The bill came to £27,000 but the family had a £400 credit voucher following a mix-up on a previous holiday.

The Batchelors were due to fly on April 25, a month after lockdown began, but were only told the day before their departure that the holiday had been cancelled.

Reassurance on your pensions

HOW the Covid-19 stock market crash has affected pensions and investments is a real worry for many Corona Crew callers.

The Sun’s Mr Money Dan Jones, pictured, said: “We were able to reassure them that share prices are climbing again and are way off the lows of March.

“Some big companies such as Apple and Amazon, which UK funds invest in, have hit all-time highs since then.

“The worst thing to do is panic and withdraw money when funds have fallen.”

James said: “Despite being loyal customers for 15 years, our dream holiday was cancelled by email. The message said someone would be in touch within 28 days.

“We never heard any more from anyone at Barrhead Travel, despite emailing and calling.

“We were becoming very worried and when we saw the Corona Crew in The Sun we sent an email on Wednesday evening.


If you have a problem caused by the pandemic email us at Coronacrew
@thesun.co.uk


“I couldn’t believe it when, less than 24 hours later, Barrhead Travel called us to say they were giving us all our money back.

“The people of the Corona Crew are amazing.”

Sun Travel Editor Lisa Minot — one of our 12 Corona Crew experts — contacted Scottish firm Barrhead on behalf of the family and it paid up straight away.

Duncan McGlynn

The Batchelors were only told the day before their departure that the holiday had been cancelled[/caption]

Duncan McGlynn

The Batchelors received a full refund just 24 hours after The Sun stepped in[/caption]

Lisa said: “As a reputable company, as soon as they became aware that the family were still waiting for their money, Barrhead did the decent thing and paid up straight away.”

A company spokesman told the Corona Crew today: “We’re really grateful to Mr Batchelor and his family for their patience while they were waiting to hear from our team.

“We know how disappointing it was to have their special-occasion holiday cancelled and we’re really sorry that they were waiting longer than expected to hear from us.

“We have tens of thousands of customers affected by the disruption that Covid-19 has caused throughout the world, which is why it is taking us longer than it usually would to personally reach all of our customers.”

The Corona Crew also got a full refund for reader Christine Tutt, 70, who was sat in a plane on the tarmac about to take off for Turkey when it was announced over the Tannoy that the trip was cancelled.

For three months she had been trying to get travel firm Opodo to return the £600 she had paid for the one-week break in Antalya.

Assistance on benefits claims

A BARMAID who had worked in the same pub for 14 years was shocked to learn during lockdown that her ex-boss had never put her on PAYE.

As a result, she could not be furloughed and has had no pay since March.

While her new boss is trying to sort out the problem, she contacted the Corona Crew.

Our benefits expert, Anna Stevenson, pictured, of Turn2Us, helped her make a claim for state help even though she has a job.

She told the Corona Crew: “It was impossible to get through to them. It’s been a nightmare.

“I know I’m not the only one in this situation but it’s appalling I haven’t been able to get through to them.”

But within a day of Christine emailing the Crew for help, Sun Online Consumer champion Tara Evans had secured a full refund.

Christine, of Epsom, Surrey, said: “I can’t thank you enough for getting the money back.”

An Opodo spokesman said it had refunded 80 per of holidaymakers and added: “We are so pleased to have been able to help in resolving this issue speedily.”

Pensioner Peter Cattanach, 81, has received £510 back from easyJet thanks to the Corona Crew.

He and wife Carol, 71, had been due to travel to Faro, Portugal, today for a two-week break, which was cancelled due to Covid.

Darren Fletcher – The Sun

The Corona Crew also got a full refund for reader Christine Tutt after her trip to Turkey was cancelled[/caption]

EasyJet offered to refund the cost of their outbound flight but refused to pay for the homeward leg “because the return flight would be running on July 4”.

Peter, of Chorley, Lancs, said: “I assumed the whole thing was cancelled.

“Suddenly this bombshell came that they had put me on a flight back on the day after my holiday was due to finish. We were so stressed.”

When Tara stepped in, easyJet apologised for the error and refunded them for both flights.

Peter said: “It’s amazing what the power of The Sun can do.

“It just shows you that the little man, with the right help, can come out on top.”

Tonight, easyJet said: “We apologise for any confusion this may have caused.”

Support to keep small firms afloat

ONE boss of a small construction company was only able to claim £1,200 for three months of being unable to work.

He turned to Gina Broadhurst, pictured, our expert on limited companies.

She told him how he could get support from the Discretionary Grant Fund and the Enterprise Nation & Salesforce Grant, which could keep him afloat until business picks up.

‘I was looking at a future with no hope of light at end’

RASHID Siddiqui was devastated when the income from his small oil and gas engineering company dried up overnight because of lockdown.

As a limited company, his firm fell outside the Government’s coronavirus support for employees and the self-employed.

Rashid Siddiqui turned to the Corona Crew’s experts after the income from his small oil and gas engineering company dried up

So he became one of many small business owners to turn to the Corona Crew’s experts for help.

Rashid, 32, and wife Najla Asari, 31, live in Camden, North London, with son Yusuf, three, and another child on the way.

Rashid said: “There’s no government support for small companies so I’ve been using up all of my savings, which will last me until July 31 – but I don’t know where I’ll be after that.

“My industry is in turmoil. Everything I was working on has been cancelled.”

Unsure of how to support his growing family, Rashid turned to the Corona Crew.

Our expert, campaigner Gina Broadhurst, of charity ForgottenLtd, told Rashid he could apply for a discretionary grant fund from his local council.

Delighted Rashid said: “I thought I was the only one fighting this battle but talking to Gina showed me there were others out there like me.

“I didn’t know about the grant before she told me.

“I was looking at a future with no hope of light at the end but now this grant has given me another hope to fight this battle.”

Grants for the self-employed

BEN had been told he was not eligible for the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme because in 2017 he had been employed.

Our small business expert, Andy Chamberlain, pictured, says Ben should not have been excluded from the scheme and advised him on how to try again for a grant by July 13.

He also gave Ben help in how to claim Universal Credit and a Bounce Back loan.

Fighting debt collectors after Spanish hospital bill

CAROLE Hind and husband Ron have spent lockdown being pursued by debt collectors for £1,090 over a disputed foreign hospital bill.

On holiday in Majorca last year, Ron, 82, was left gasping for breath when he suffered a chest infection.

© 2020 Richard Walker/ ImageNorth

Carole Hind and husband Ron rang the Corona Crew for help after they were pursued by debt collectors for £1,090 over a disputed foreign hospital bill [/caption]

Carole, 74, pleaded with their Spanish doctor not to send him to a private hospital, as their travel insurance would not cover the bill.

But Ron was still taken to a private health centre.

Carole insisted he be put in a state hospital, where his three-day stay was covered by their insurance.

Since then the couple have been chased by a debt collection firm over £1,090 for the short stay in the private centre – where he was not treated – plus the price of an ambulance.

Carole, from Scarborough, North Yorks, said: “Ron didn’t receive any treatment at the private hospital, so when I saw they were chasing me for £1,090 I thought ‘I’m going to fight this all the way’.”


If you have a problem caused by the pandemic email us at Coronacrew
@thesun.co.uk


So she rang the Corona Crew for help.

Our debt expert, Daniel Bagley, told Carole how to dispute the charge and to contact her insurance company for help.

Delighted Carole said: “The response from the Corona Crew was very helpful. Daniel gave me some good advice and sent me some more information later on.”

A spokesman from the debt collectors said: “We have given Carole until July 17 to come back to tell us what she plans to do.”

Advice on furlough and redundancy

SUNEMPLOYMENT editor Jane Hamilton took many calls from readers who are shielding because of their health but are being pressured by their bosses to return to work.

Jane, pictured, said: “This is dangerous and absolutely against everything the ­Government is advising.

“We also advised readers worried about being made redundant after furlough on what redundancy pay they are entitled to and the protocol firms need to follow.”

How to claim a refund for cancelled hols

By Lisa Minot, Travel Editor

HUNDREDS of Sun readers are among the 1.3million holidaymakers to have had trips cancelled by TUI.

Here, Travel Editor Lisa Minot sets out her tips for anyone trying to get a refund from the travel firm.

AFP or licensors

Around 1.3million holidaymakers have had trips cancelled by TUI[/caption]

TUI currently has 1,100 staff working from home, processing refunds for bookings made through travel agents.

Unfortunately, they are not making it easy for customers who want a refund, but this is the process for those who booked direct with TUI online:

Within 21 days of the departure date of your holiday, you should receive a refund credit voucher. This is not a cash refund.

If the refund is for a package holiday, this voucher comes with an added 20 per cent incentive to use to book another holiday at some point in the future.

TUI is desperately hoping customers will support it by rebooking rather than asking for a refund. But many people want to get their cash back.

If this is the case – and ONLY if you paid using a credit card – once you get your refund credit voucher you can then go to TUI’s website and fill in an online form to ask for a cash refund.

CASH REFUND

Expect the money to go on to the card number you provide within 28 days.

But it is taking much longer for TUI to process holidays paid by debit card or through a travel agent, as these have to be done manually.

For many customers it will take at least two or three months from the departure date of your holiday to get a cash refund.

If you booked through an independent travel agent, you may be able to get back into stores and ask directly for a refund.

If you booked with a TUI travel agent, the number to call is 0203 451 2688, then select the retail option to speak to a member of its team.


The current wait is around 15 minutes and lines are open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

Press 1 for “retail” and then 5 for “anything else”.

When we tested it, the phone was answered within four minutes.


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