A travel giant has come under fire after it emerged it would only fly one of its routes from Aberdeen when it returns in October.
Earlier this month, TUI cancelled all seven of its routes out of the Granite City – Majorca, Tenerife, Ibiza and Reus in Spain, as well as Rhodes, Corfu and Turkey – for the next three months as a result of lockdown.
At the time, the travel operator insisted it would reinstate flights from the city on October 4 – but passengers flying to Dalaman in Turkey four days later have since had their journeys cancelled.
TUI has since confirmed it will only reinstate its winter programme when it resumes flights.
That means passengers will only be able to fly to Tenerife twice a week, with all other destinations scrapped.
One woman, who was booked on the Dalaman flight, received an email from TUI earlier this week informing her it had been cancelled – just days after the company took payment of more than £3,000 for the trip.
Her family now face a fight to get the money back.
She said: “We hadn’t been able to get through to TUI at all and we were getting more and more concerned the flight would be cancelled.
“However, they then said we had to pay the remaining balance for the holiday so we had no choice but to give them the money, because the cancellation charge would have been £1,600 which we would never have got back.
“To pay them and then find out a couple of days later the holiday was being cancelled was terrible. I understand they need to try and save the business but don’t take people’s money.
“Someone in the company must have known the flight was not going to go.
“It’s a shocking way to treat people.”
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Customers booked on the service were given the option of being transferred onto a different package holiday, or receiving a “refund credit” to put towards future holidays.
They have also been told full refunds will now be available for cancelled holidays.
However, the firm has now confirmed it will only be restarting its winter programme.
A spokeswoman said: “We plan to resume flights from Aberdeen from October 4, 2020. We’re only flying to Tenerife from Aberdeen from this date which is why the customer’s flight was cancelled.
“Customers will be entitled to a refund.”
Roger Hunt, interim managing director at Aberdeen International Airport said: “We are in constant dialogue with our airline partners to ensure that we support them with their restart plans, and after a number of really challenging months, and with lockdown beginning to show signs of easing, it is reassuring to see a number of routes restarting and frequencies increasing from our terminal.
“As the traffic slowly builds we have also increased our focus on maintaining public safety and that of our staff through the introduction of a series of enhanced safety measures. Bringing back business safely remains a key priority.
“The uncertainty for the airlines and passengers introduced by quarantine has unfortunately contributed to the decision by TUI not to re-commence flights for Summer 2020 from Aberdeen International Airport. However it is pleasing that we can continue to offer passengers flights to Alicante, Malaga and Faro this year with Ryanair.
“We remain committed to working closely with our airline partners on the introduction of sustainable summer sun routes for Summer 2021 and beyond.”
Scottish Conservative north-east MSP Liam Kerr said: “I completely sympathise with the customer – it’s totally unacceptable for TUI to treat people in this way.
“But this has also emerged through the mixed messages Nicola Sturgeon has been giving to travel companies and hardworking people in the north-east who deserve a break.
“One minute they are told they can fly to destinations, the next they are told they can’t.
“This isn’t an issue of people getting the privilege of a luxurious holiday – it’s about giving people who’ve endured months of lockdown a desperately needed rest and change of scenery.
“The uncertainty from Sturgeon and her SNP Government is also having a detrimental effect on Aberdeen airport.
“It’s vital we get Aberdeen moving again and in line with the rest of the UK – something the airport is also repeatedly calling for.
“Time is running out – Scotland is already on an earlier summer rota than the rest of the UK, and people planning a break for their family need this uncertainty cleared up now.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While we appreciate that people will have made plans for holidays it is important that we take measures which can help prevent transmission of coronavirus and protect public health.
“As the First Minister has made clear, we will continue to take decisions based on the latest scientific advice to protect communities in Scotland and our economy, and we are continuously keeping the list of country exemptions from the quarantine requirements under review.
“This means where there is clear evidence to do so, we will add or remove countries from the quarantine exemption list to protect against the risk of imported cases of the virus.
“We are working closely with AGS Airports to help them rebuild Aberdeen’s route network. The pandemic has had a very significant impact on the aviation sector and it will take time to restore the level of connectivity and passenger numbers we had in 2019. We have a strong track record helping airports improve Scotland’s connectivity with the rest of the world and that will continue in earnest”