Before Booking a Villa…

A Cautionary Tale: Booking.com

The first story in today’s episode of Rip Off Britain Holidays (currently available on BBC iPlayer) is a warning to anyone contemplating booking through an OTA (Online Travel Agent). In this particular instance it was Booking.com, but you should be aware that similar problems could arise with HomeAway, Expedia or TripAdvisor which all operate in a similar capacity.

The Benson’s Madeira Villa-Booking Experience

John Benson and Christine search online

In January 2018, John Benson and his sister Christine found a villa on the island of Madeira for a very special family holiday to mark landmark birthdays and a diamond anniversary. They selected a roomy beachside villa with a pool and lovely gardens to accommodate three generations of their family together. The rental was £8,000 for two weeks, booked online and confirmed by Booking.com.

Their problems started a month later when the villa owner contacted them to say that as the villa had been double-booked, their booking was being cancelled. By this time the family had already spent a further £2,600 on non-refundable flights.

Although Booking.com said it would find them an alternative villa of equivalent or better size and standard, over a period of weeks the offerings were nowhere near comparable with the original.

Eventually after persuading a customer service agent to re-examine their case file, the family was sent an email with links to a choice of suitable villas. Booking.com pledged that any price difference would be the responsibility of the owner of the first villa.

Favourite by far was a villa listed at £18,638 for the same fortnight. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but read on…) Because this was far in excess of the original rental paid, the Bensons double-checked the Booking.com offer carefully. Finding the same villa advertised elsewhere for the same dates at £11,000 – coupled with Booking.com’s price match guarantee – gave them further reassurance that the shortfall would be a more acceptable £3,000, rather than the full £10,000+.

Further problems arose when Booking.com thought the Bensons had booked a villa they had not been offered, because they could not find the villa via their own email links. They instructed John to cancel which would release the dates – enabling them to check on their live system.

This in turn caused the owner of the second villa to charge an eye-watering 70% cancellation fee of €14,700 – for a booking that had only been in place for a matter of hours. Even after having the circumstances explained, this villa owner inexplicably refused a refund.

Appealing to Booking.com also had no effect… The response highlighted their terms and conditions stating that they are a platform linking travellers and suppliers. Their fine print stresses that your contract is with the advertiser – allowing property owners to set their own conditions and cancellation charges.

A Happy Ending – Thanks to Rip Off Britain?

Neither set of villa owners nor Booking.com come out of this account well. At the very least I would expect the first villa owner to use their local knowledge to offer assistance with finding alternative accommodation – especially as Booking.com deem them responsible for topping up the shortfall.

As the Bensons emphasise throughout the programme, they kept expecting that once matters were explained to the parties concerned, all would be well. It is mind-boggling that the situation escalated to the degree it did.

Following the involvement of BBC’s Rip Off Britain, Booking.com looked into the Benson family’s case again. Happily they have finally been reimbursed for both their villa cancellation charges and flights, in addition to being given a welcome £3,380 contribution towards another holiday.

How To Avoid This Happening To You

The key message here is that if something goes wrong, booking with one of the large holiday companies may not offer you the help, support and protection that you are expecting.

We have a checklist of suggestions to work through before booking accommodation online, created for our FAQs page. Chief of these is to book directly with the owner, after doing some research to check that the owner is both bona fide and trustworthy. You should be able to gauge this from online reviews and feedback.

The lack of concern over cancelling the Benson’s booking raises suspicions that in the scenario above, rather than finding themselves double-booked as they claimed, the first villa owner may have used this as an excuse in order to take another booking – possibly offering a longer stay, smaller group or higher rental. If this were the case, you may be able to track down other instances of unethical behaviour…

In the days of social media and online reviews, dissatisfied guests will soon find an outlet to vent their feelings. Make sure you check before booking, rather than once it is too late. Returning guests are always a good sign. (And remember to read the owners’ responses to any criticisms, as these can be enlightening.)

Oh and don’t forget to book your holiday insurance when you book your accommodation, rather than just before you travel.

Our Checklist

 1 Can you pay by secure card portal?  PayPal is not recommended You can pay us with Mastercard or Visa.

 2 Is there a contact landline number?  +44 (0) 1923 853113.

 3 Right-click on an image > search Google for image. Make sure there are no rogue listings. 

 4 If you’ve found the property on a listing site, Google the property name, location, tagline and images to search for an owner’s website – indicating time and effort invested in their business. Booking directly will be at the best rates too. Check the domain registration.  Nikki registered pissouribay.com in 2006. You can track our website development via the WayBackMachine.

 5 Is the owner active on social media?  We’re on , , , and where we post regularly and have guest feedback.

 6 Is the owner knowledgeable about the local area?  Feel free to ask questions.

 7 Read guest comments and directly-posted reviews on and .  We have a guestbook dating from our opening in 2006 to the present, and recently started collecting online reviews. (As it is possible for non-guests to post, also check owner’s responses.)

 8 Are bookings shown on the availability calendar?  Hover over booked dates on our calendar and you will see the initials of the lead guest.

Alarm Bells:
Scammers lift copy and photos from legitimate sites, then put their listings at the top of searches by paying Google, Bing and Yahoo. Look for the giveaway Ad label next to search results. Check review sites for mentions of the website you’re planning to book through in case there are any warnings.

Be careful if the only payment option is bank transfer, and avoid anywhere asking for payment by Western Union.

Be suspicious if the price is too good to be true, especially if you’re offered discounts to pay in one go.

Beware if there is no availability calendar. Scammers will take bookings for any dates.

Cyprus-specific: Before booking a company-owned villa, check their financial status

easyJet Summer 2019 Flight Releases

easyJet summer flights 2019

easyJet to PFO map

Thursdays 20 and 27 September

If you plan to visit Cyprus next summer, the next two Thursdays are significant dates for easyJet customers. With flights from regional airports around the UK including Luton, Gatwick, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh, an average aircraft age of only 6 years, and family-friendly policies such as free carriage of car and booster seats, and their low-cost ‘hands free’ option if you are happy to travel light, this airline is a popular choice for flights around Europe.

easyJet ‘Hands Free’

New easyJet Hands Free 5

This allows you to check in hand luggage for a flat £5 fee at the airport. There are advantages for both the airline and traveller…

Travellers can take toiletries and liquids in larger sizes than 100 ml without the faff of putting everything into zip lock bags. It also saves you lugging hand luggage through security and departures. And you can still take a small under-the-seat laptop or handbag on board. If you haven’t brought a bag, you will be provided with a small plastic bag at the bag drop for your valuables and essentials. You will be called to board after the ‘Speedy Boarders’ with your luggage tagged as ‘Priority’ to come off the carousel first.

For easyJet it eases the congestion in the cabin overhead lockers, and adds another small ‘extra’ charge to your booking.

Sounds like a win-win!

More details: http://bit.ly/2wsCPUM

The early bird catches the worm!

To take advantage of the best rates, check out Availability Calendar and Contact Us to ask if we can reserve your preferred dates. Once agreed, we promise hold them for 24 hours which will allow you to book your flights.

Then set your alarm for Thursday morning and hop onto the easyJet website… early risers get the best flight deals! Good luck!

Arriving over PissouriOur photo shows an easyJet Airbus A320 turning over Pissouri on its flight path to Paphos.

Tip: to see a great aerial view of Pissouri, choose seats on the right-hand side of the plane.

Warning for Ryanair Passengers

Warning for Ryanair Passengers

Don’t get caught out by their latest sneaky change – from 13 June you will only be able to check-in free of charge 2 days before your flight. Make sure you set yourself a reminder as it’s something that could easily get overlooked in your packing frenzy.

It’s all explained in this screen grab from MoneySavingExpert:

MSE-Ryanair-check-in

 

Tips on Avoiding Holiday Villa Scammers

Rip Off Britain Holidays presenters

Rip Off Britain – Holidays

The latest episode of this BBC consumer advice programme has some timely advice to help you avoid the pitfalls of falling victim to scammers when booking a holiday villa online.

There are two scenarios to look out for… either the villa doesn’t exist (because holiday villa scammers have stolen photos and details of another property), or you are not making a reservation with the real owner (because it’s incredibly easy for scammers to create their own advert by copying and pasting a genuine one, substituting their contact details). These problems can arise whether you are booking through a well-known listing site or a regional one, regardless of any ‘book with confidence guarantees’ they may offer.

Advice Featured in the Programme:

1) Check the website registration… how long has it been in existence?
2) Make sure you have a landline phone number… and not just email.
3) Be suspicious if there is too much availability in peak season.
4) If it’s a bargain, it’s probably too good to be true.

To Which We Would Add:

5) Can you pay by card? Holiday villa scammers prefer bank transfers.
6) Search for the property on other sites. Check whether the owner information is consistent. Search for the property name. R-click on images > Search Google for image. Also look for particular phrases used in the description.
7) Is the owner active on social media? This is a great indicator that they are genuine, as holiday villa scammers are highly unlikely to go this far. In particular look for regular posts, good local knowledge, and guest feedback.

Book directlyWhy Book Directly?

It’s a very good sign if the owner has their own website, as it shows they’re prepared to invest time and effort in creating one. It’s even better if the website has plenty of regularly-updated local information. And an A* goes to owners who’ve also embraced social media.

You may not be aware, but there have been major changes in the villa rental market since the advent of airbnb, and takeovers of UK listing sites such as Owners Direct and Holiday Lettings by US giants HomeAway and Expedia/TripAdvisor. Online Travel Agents require in-house communication to allow them to take an increasingly hefty commission under the guise of payment protection. They are also keen on instant booking which doesn’t give owners a chance to check that their property is a good fit for potential guests. You can read more of the frustrations about Owners Direct on the TrustPilot review site.

In an attempt to retake control, owners are rebelling in droves, setting up their own websites, listing on smaller sites, and taking to social media. By avoiding the large listing sites and booking directly, owners can offer better rates, as they’re not paying for a listing, or losing income via commission and for payment processing.

Finding an Owner’s Website

Even if you start your search on a listing site, resist the temptation to press the ‘instant book’ button when you find a property you like. It’s worth spending a little time searching to see if you can book directly. Start with the villa name and location, try image and text searches (as described above) and look under the owner’s name. And don’t be afraid to use the contact details to ask questions about the property and area.

See our FAQs page for more advice about how to be confident that you are booking directly with the genuine property owner.

Happy hunting!

Programme: Rip Off Britain – Holidays (series 6, episode 5) – currently on BBC iPlayer

#villascam #holidayvilla #bookdirect #ripoffbritain #holidayvillascammers

EasyJet’s Late Summer Flights Released Today

Arriving over Pissouri

We still have a choice of dates in October if you’re looking to holiday next year in sunny Cyprus. For easyJet flights at the best price we recommend booking today. I’m on standby to respond quickly to enquiries. 😎 🇨🇾

Our photo shows an easyJet Airbus A320 turning over Pissouri on its flight path to Paphos. Tip: to see a great aerial view of Pissouri choose seats on the right-hand side of the plane.

#easyjet #october #cyprusholiday #cheapflights

New: Travel Light With easyJet Hands Free

New easyJet Hands Free luggage

How It Works

easyJet have introduced a new luggage option that they’re calling ‘Hands Free‘. This allows you to check in hand luggage for a flat £4 fee at the airport. There are advantages for both the airline and traveller with this…

Travellers can take toiletries and liquids in larger sizes than 100 ml without the faff of putting everything into zip lock bags. It also saves you lugging hand luggage through security and departures. And you can still take a small under-the-seat laptop or handbag on board. If you haven’t brought a bag, you will be provided with a small plastic bag at the bag drop for your valuables and essentials. You will be called to board after the ‘Speedy Boarders’ with your luggage tagged as ‘Priority’ to come off the carousel first.

For easyJet it eases the congestion in the cabin overhead lockers, and adds another small ‘extra’ charge to your booking.

Sounds like a win-win!

More details: http://bit.ly/2wsCPUM

#easyJet #easyJethandsfree #handsfree #travel #travellight #traveltip

 

Ryanair Announce a New Dublin-Paphos Route

Ryanair - new 2018 Dublin-Paphos route

The planned schedule will run twice weekly throughout next summer from April 2018. Book online from September.

Paphos September 2017 – late deals
Dimitra Apatsidou of Ryanair has said that in order to celebrate the new route, the company would be releasing seats on sale to other destinations from Paphos from just €26.99 for travel in September, which are available for booking until midnight on Thursday August 31.

Welcome to Cyprus!

Post: Nikki at pissouribay.com
More info: ryanair.com

#ryanair #ryanairpaphos #ryanairdublin #ryanaircyprus #cyprusflights