The Flemish ombudsman has called on the public to think carefully before booking a holiday in the New Year, because of the continued risk of cancellation.
“I understand that people are looking for something to look forward to, as are we are all, but it is not difficult to predict that you may not be able to go on holiday,” said Bart Weekers.
“I have been dealing with complaints for a whole year now. People who want their money back, who have comments. We have run out of patience with those complaints,” he said.
The first wave of cancellations came in the spring, when the Covid-19 pandemic first reached Europe. People then found their holiday bookings cancelled across the board.
But when the summer came, previous experience and the shifting rules in other countries about whose nationals could enter and who could not did not dampen people’s enthusiasm for taking off on holiday again, with predictable results.
Only now are the effects of that mass movement of people starting to turn downwards, and another mass migration is on the horizon.
Meanwhile the ombudsman service is still working on the backlog of complaints from spring and summer.
“It’s just a flood, people are looking in all sorts of ways to, for example, get a refund for their cancelled flight,” said Weekers.
Some travel companies, he said, are starting to offer an insurance policy for customers whose holiday is not able to go ahead, but those offers need to be studied carefully.
“I want to see the fine print of those policies, but the situation will only become clear in March, when we find out what they are worth.”
In the meantime, the service is buried under holiday complaints as well as all of the other issues the office is usually concerned with.
“We are inundated with other complaints in very important areas. Think twice about that trip when you are booking today,” he said.