A disabled tourist has criticised a holiday company’s “discriminatory” policy after it tried to charge him nearly £150 for a return taxi journey from an airport because its coach was unable to take his wheelchair.
Thomson had told Conrad Tokarczyk that a coach that would transfer him from the airport in Tenerife to his package holiday resort was accessible to his wheelchair.
But three days before his departure from the UK in July, Thomson told him the situation had changed and the coach was not accessible after all, so he would have to travel instead by adapted taxi, and pay an extra £72 each way.
On his return to the UK, he spent hours using Thomson’s premium rate complaints line, trying to resolve the problem.
The company eventually agreed to pay for just one of the two taxi journeys, but when he said he had contacted legal firm Unity Law – which specialises in disability discrimination cases – Thomson finally agreed to pay for both taxi fares.
Despite the u-turn, Thomson insisted it had made an exception in paying for his taxi and that the policy would stay in place.
Thomson’s chief executive, David Burling, insisted in a letter to Tokarczyk that his company did not discriminate against any of its customers, and there would be no change to the policy.
Tokarczyk, from Middlesex, said: “I found Thomson made the entire process exhausting, probably to discourage people from challenging them. I had to send numerous emails.
“I feel obliged to act on behalf of those who may be elderly or those who simply don’t have the stamina for such a long, drawn-out process.
“I don’t see why a disabled person should have to pay extra because Thomson cannot accommodate an essential mobility aid.”
A Thomson spokesman said the company was “sorry” to hear of the problems Tokarczyk had had with his transfer, and he confirmed that Thomson did charge disabled passengers in such situations and had been intending to charge him for the two taxi journeys.
But he added: “We do not discriminate against any people, not matter what they are.”
He added, in a statement: “Unfortunately, on this occasion, the transfer coach was unable to accommodate Mr Tokarczyk’s wheelchair.
“Thomson covered the costs of private transfers for Mr Tokarczyk and offered a voucher towards a future holiday [£20] as a gesture of goodwill.
“Thomson takes its responsibilities with regards to our customers’ welfare seriously and we’d like to reassure customers that issues of this type are very rare.”
He insisted that Thomson’s Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM) policy on “in resort transfers for disabled passengers” was “in line with industry standards and legislation governing overseas operations”.
He said the PRM policy had been “recently reviewed and applies to all Thomson package holidays”.
5 December 2013